What is CSA Listed and When Do Electrical Products Need CSA vs UL Certification?
Despite common belief, you can judge a book by its cover.
At least, you can judge the label of an electrical control product!
If you’re in the market for one, it’s important to verify that any you purchase features a stamp of approval from an industry-recognized certifying body.
Yet, which labels should you look out for? You may have heard of the UL Mark, but what about a product that’s CSA listed? What do the two mean and which apply to your case?
Today, we’re taking a look at each label in greater detail to help you discern the difference moving forward.
Ready to learn more? Let’s go!
What is the UL Mark?
Standing for Underwriters Laboratories, UL is an organization based in Norfolk, Illinois. Dating all the way back to 1894, it’s one of the longest-standing certifying bodies in the world, identified as a Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL) by OSHA.
Only a few years earlier, electrical distribution systems leaped onto the scene. They brought utility power to homes, businesses, and manufacturers alike, though the components were new and still required vigorous testing. Thus, the UL was born.
UL personnel began by testing fire extinguishers and fire doors, segueing over time into warehouse inspections, which the organization still performs.
It operated as a non-profit until 2012, when it became for-profit but kept its agenda and business structure. With facilities in 46 countries and services in 104 countries, it’s a worldwide entity.
The UL issues certificates of security for myriad products, across a wide range of industries. To do so, UL personnel put representative samples of the products through various testing procedures and rigorous processes to make sure they’re up to the task.
Nuances with UL Requirements
Note that not all electrical products must feature the UL mark. For instance, you may use galvanized screws in your project without fear of reproach if they aren’t labeled. Yet, if you install a back-up battery in your fire alarm control panel, you’re required to locate the battery’s UL mark first.
Though the UL Mark holds a great degree of credence and is mandatory across many industrial applications, the certification only applies to the United States.
Though there are many certifying bodies that test against international standards, including the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), the UL isn’t one of them. As such, if you find a product that carries the UL mark or UL logo, this indicates that a third-party verified this product to meet U.S. standards, but none outside of the country.
For best results, shop only from a verified and reputable supplier, whether at a brick-and-mortar store or online. It’s become a common practice for schemers to affix cheap electrical components, such as wire, with a phony UL mark in an effort to scam buyers.
Varieties of UL Marks
There are many different kinds of UL Marks, and understanding what each one means can help you decipher your options. Let’s review the most common examples.
UL Listed Mark
The product passed the UL’s overarching Standards of Safety. After this mark, you’ll find identifying information or a control number that can help you look up the specific part in the UL database.
Personnel tested this product in the United States but not to U.S. standards. Rather, they analyzed it against Canadian standards for safety and performance. Organizational personnel determine this rating through a partnership between the UL and CSA known as a Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA).
Personnel tested this product in the United States and it passed both U.S.-based standards and Canadian standards for safety and performance.
UL Component Marks
In addition to the marks listed above, the UL also has a sub-category of labels known as UL Recognized (UR) marks. Certifying personnel often use this mark when testing smaller-scale components included in a larger control panel system.
Though this mark is available, its use is discretionary and the UL as a whole doesn’t require that these components feature the identification. Note that when a component features a UR mark, it doesn’t always mean the larger system is UL-certified.
If the UR mark meets Canadian standards, it’s listed as C/UR. Those that meet U.S.-based standards will read as “UR” only. If one meets both U.S. and Canadian requirements, the label reads “C/UR/US.”
If you need to look up more information about a certain part, you can often reference the Control Category Number (CCN) included after the mark itself. One example of a CCN is NKCR8.E3391.
This references the category titled Auxiliary Devices Certified for Canada – Component. With this data in hand, users can access the Online Certifications Directory (OCD) on UL.com, type in the CCN and find the details they need, including:
- The specific product category
- Any restrictions associated with the part
- Associated catalog numbers
- Other similar components
In addition to the CSA standard, this CCN also applies to a UL standard found in UL508A Supplement SA, Table SA1.1 for control panels. If there are no notes present, the component is ready to use without restrictions. However, if there are special instructions, the user will find them in the referenced table.
Some of the most common UL product categories referenced in CCNs include:
- NKCR (No Suffix): Covers UL-listed products for the U.S. only
- NKCR7 (Suffix 7): Covers UL products certified for Canada to CSA standards
- NKCR2 (Suffix 2): Covers UR-recognized component products for the U.S.
- NKCR8 (Suffix 8): Covers UR-recognized component products certified for Canada to CSA standards
What Does it Mean to Be CSA Listed?
The CSA acronym once stood for the Canadian Standards Association but is not a private testing body. As the name implies, this is a Canada-based group that offers certification for mechanical and electrical products, as well as any general product that carries a high amount of user risk. In 1992, OSHA officials accredited the CSA, deeming it an NRTL alongside the UL.
Unlike the UL Mark, a CSA-Listed designation holds value all around the world, not only in its country of origin. For a product to receive this prestigious label, it must also pass extensive tests that align with standards from the following certifying bodies:
- American National Standards Institute (ANSI)
- NSF International (Formerly the National Sanitation Foundation)
Varieties of CSA Marks
Like UL marks, there are also a few different CSA marks that you’ll find during your research. Let’s go over a few of the main ones.
General CSA Mark
Does your product have a simple CSA mark or logo on it? That’s the general format, which reveals that CSA personnel tested and approved the product according to Canadian standards.
After the CSA Mark, you’ll find a class number or file number to help you find more information about the product in the greater CSA database.
In some cases, you may find the CSA logo with “US” at the bottom. This means that CSA personnel in Canada tested the product via an agreement with the UL, making sure it met all American National Standards for security and performance. It is certified for use with the U.S.
These items are listed in accordance with the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Standard NFPA 70, and the National Electrical Code (NEC).
Other times, you may find the CSA mark with a “C” on one end and a “US” on the other. This means that CSA personnel tested the part in Canada via an agreement with the UL. It meets standards for use within both the U.S. and Canada.
CSA Component Marks
Does the CSA have its own methods for testing and labeling component marks akin to the UL’s UR mark? The short answer is “no.”
For a component to receive CSA approval, the manufacturer must list it in a table of “Non-Certified Components” included in the greater CSA panel file. If you have a question about an unlabeled one, you can contact the CSA. From there, personnel can look at the component and if they accept it, they’ll add it to the table.
For the past 15 years, the CSA and UL have discussed the UL accepting CSA-certified components, though this conversation is ongoing.
Which One Should I Choose?
When it comes to choosing between UL and CSA, it isn’t a matter of one certification being better or more important than the other. In fact, OSHA recognizes both as NRTLs.
In addition, both the UL and CSA test against industry-recognized standards, including the Canadian Electrical Code (CEC) and the National Electrical Code (NEC).
The takeaway? One isn’t more professional or reputable than the other. Rather, they differ in the jurisdiction they cover. While the different label acronyms relay those differences, there are many areas of overlap.
Take the UL mark versus the CSA/US mark, for instance. Both relay that the part in question is ready for use within the U.S. The only difference? The UL-labeled part received its testing in the U.S. while the CSA/US underwent testing in Canada.
Some U.S.-based electrical professionals believe that the “CSA/US” mark doesn’t carry as much esteem as one that’s “UL Listed.” This is because UL captured a majority of the U.S. market for years, though the CSA is now gaining steam.
The truth? Both the UL and CSA/US marks signify that the product meets U.S. standards. Thus, industry professionals can rest assured that their choice is a solid one.
Expanding Your Procurement Options
When writing product specifications or composing a Request for Quote (RFQ), it’s important to cast as wide of a net as possible. You want to make sure that you have access to a broad range of products so you can select the best one for your needs.
That said, if you limit the RFQ to products that are “UL Listed” only, you could miss out on a slew of options that are as powerful and appropriate for your project but feature the CSA mark instead. This limits the scope of your project, narrows the playing field and can play a direct role in the quality of your outcome.
To get around this issue, specify that all respondents propose products tested and certified by any NRTL laboratory. This meets OSHA guidelines as specified in Clause 1901.7.
Keep in mind that the CSA mark isn’t isolated to Canada. Though many consider this organization to be the main standards authority in the country, it isn’t the only one. To drive this point home, CSA changed the name of its certifying body in 1999 to become CSA International.
If you’re in the U.S., make sure your product specification reads “CSA/US.” This way, you’re asking for CSA listed products that meet U.S.-based standards. If it only holds the “CSA” label, that means it’s verified for use in Canada but hasn’t undergone U.S.-based standards testing.
Certified Electrical Control Products You Can Trust
When looking for the right parts for your electrical control system, you don’t have time to waste on inefficient, poor-quality or unsafe components. Rather, you need to rest assured that you’re working with industry-certified parts that have already undergone strict testing for security and performance.
This is where CSA listed and UL-verified parts shine. When you partner with a supplier that carries only recognized and approved components, you can eliminate the guesswork and get right into your project.
To start your online search, take a look at our online shop. From disconnect switches to cable ducts, we’re sure to have the part you need, with the level of quality you expect.
If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. Let’s build something great together!
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