UL vs ETL listings

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  #1  
Old 10-27-14, 08:27 AM
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UL vs ETL listings

Iím looking for a brief explanation sighting the differences between a UL listed or recognized item (yes I know that listed and recognized are two different terms in the UL environment) vs an ETL listed item. But without a specific manufacturer or brand giving those differences, such as Iíve found in Google search (example: UL, CSA, ETL and CE: Whats the Difference?). For the sake of this post assume this is generally for electrical items.

Background info. A recent bulletin was circulated in our organization (weíre a retail vest and apron home improvement store, albeit a small chain in direct competition with the Big Blue and Big Orange). Iím refuting the statement that says ETL is the same as UL and will list a product to UL standards. Recently some products have dropped the UL label in lieu of the ETL label (due to cost and speed of getting label). Some customers have questioned the ETL label and want assurance that itís the same as UL.

If my recollection is correct, UL generally establishes the standard (although it may be based on NRTL specs). Companies wishing to get a UL label must meet UL standards in both product and/or manufacturing.

ETL on the other hand will test a product based on NRTL specs but do not necessarily make the standard. They cannot legally meet a UL standard.

Itís also my understanding that UL is extremely protective of its label and will actively pursue any attempt to indicate that a product meets UL standards or another listing does so.
 
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Old 10-27-14, 09:04 AM
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From my experience as a facility/lab safety officer* (collateral duty to my engineering position), the OSHA rules specify listed by any NRTL.

ETL (Intertek), UL, and CSA are all recognized as NRTLs by OSHA. There are a few others too. CE does not count as a listing mark.

There is a difference between UL acting as a standards body and UL as a test lab (NRTL). The UL standards are published (available for a fee) so ETL can test an item to the standards and list it under their own authority.



*in fact just got an email this morning regarding use of power strips. NRTL listings were included in the brief.
 
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Old 10-27-14, 09:46 AM
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There is a difference between UL acting as a standards body and UL as a test lab (NRTL). The UL standards are published (available for a fee) so ETL can test an item to the standards and list it under their own authority.
I think the key words here are "listing it under their own authority", but not as a UL equivalent.

I don't mind telling a customer that a ETL item is safe and has been tested. My objection is to tell the customer it's the same as an UL listed item.
 

Last edited by Gunguy45; 10-27-14 at 09:49 PM. Reason: Changed my to mind...I think thats what was meant?
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Old 10-27-14, 11:29 AM
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Under the law (OSHA) and code (NEC) it is the same as ETL is a recognized NRTL under 29 CFR 1910.

Remember this all dates back to the 1890s: homeowner wants to install that newfangled 'lectricity to try out those Edison lights that don't use no gas (and the abandoned gas lines become the first electrical conduit, but I digress). His fire insurance company drops him as the underwriters feel he is a major risk. In fact that's the exact term used in early revisions of the National Electric Code to describe installations: "risks."

Finally the insurance companies all come together to establish a standard (the NEC) to deem electrical installations acceptable. In some areas they established the electrical inspection authority (e.g. NY Board of Fire Underwriters). They also established a laboratory under their own auspices (Underwriters' Labs) and had the lab test equipment for suitability in an underwritten installation.

UL had a leg up by being the first in the business, and by developing and publishing standards for suitability. That doesn't mean ETL is sub-par. In fact competition is a good thing, why should one authority be the sole arbiter of electrical product safety.

What should be more concerning to you is how much junk out there is being imported without any listing.
 
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Old 10-27-14, 11:43 AM
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EEs: great history, thanks. I just had a device get tested to both CSA and UL specs by MET labs. Its now a listed product to various specs, but carries the MET mark for US and Canada. Yes, some customers do get confused by all this.
 
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Old 10-27-14, 01:11 PM
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Sparks,

Interesting info and history. Did not know that UL is an out growth of the insurance companies. Makes sense. Many people think that UL is the gold standard. But me thinks they are getting a bit tarnished as of late. Personal experience tells me they are very expensive. But I think the big problem is their delivery of the approval. In today's market quick to market is everything and if ETL can do better all the more power to them.
 
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Old 10-27-14, 07:28 PM
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Personal experience tells me they are very expensive. But I think the big problem is their delivery of the approval. In today's market quick to market is everything and if ETL can do better all the more power to them.
You are right, getting a U.L. Listing is both time consuming and expensive. That is exactly why some manufacturers have had their own testing labs U.L. Listed so they can do their own testing to U.L. standards under their own time constraints and still display the U.L. label on their products.
 
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Old 10-28-14, 04:23 AM
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Wait! If your lab is UL listed , then your product can be UL labeled? (assuming everything passes)
 
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Old 10-28-14, 08:17 AM
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Wait! If your lab is UL listed , then your product can be UL labeled? (assuming everything passes)
The so-called "Mark" is owned by the lab doing the testing. The mark is what is actually placed on the product.

The lab may or may not be the agency writing the "spec". So, MET, TUV, CSA, UL, or ETL may test towards a UL spec, but the manufacturer will place the testing lab Mark on the product.
 
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Old 10-28-14, 09:33 AM
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Wait! If your lab is UL listed , then your product can be UL labeled? (assuming everything passes)
Yep, fast track design and manufacturing requires competitive manufacturers to have their labs listed, but the requirements are very stringent and listing requires regular inspections by U.L. on an ongoing basis to keep the listing. Remember Federal Pacific Electric? Their testing labs were listed by U.L., but when it was found that they had falsified test data on some industrial circuit breakers, those breakers were recalled and U.L. pulled the listing on the lab. Once the listing was gone, all the FPE breakers that had been U.L. Listed through testing at that lab essentially lost their U.L. Listing leaving the company basically out of business.
 
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