Have you ever felt that vague sense of reassurance when seeing a logo or seal of approval on a product? Have you ever stopped to think about what kind of information these seals represent? Not sure if your brand needs these certifications?
If you’re not sure if the product you’re manufacturing needs this seal and why, you’re not alone. When it comes to UL certification, it’s worth it to stop and understand what those seals mean and how they can benefit you.
Certifying products within your business can get expensive, fast. However, one thing that’s never worth skimping on is safety. Your customers’ and workforce’s safety is the most important thing to ensure brand loyalty. Safety and reliability can be the difference between long-term success and catastrophic failure.
UL markers are most commonly seen on industrial equipment and home appliances. These include furnaces, fuses, electrical panels, circuit breakers, smoke and CO2 alarms, fire extinguishers, sprinklers, glass, and thousands of other products.
Not all products and components on the market have to be listed, but there’s certainly an incentive to do so. Here, we’ll learn some of the reasons UL certification is important for both consumers and businesses. We’ll also learn the difference between UL Listed and UL Recognized. With this, you can determine which one is right for you.
What is UL Certification and Why is it Important?
UL stands for Underwriter Laboratories, a third-party certification company that’s been around for over a century. UL was founded in 1894 in Chicago. They certify products with the aim to make the world a safer place for both workers and consumers. Besides testing, they set industry standards to follow when innovating new products. Last year alone, about 14 billion products with the UL seal entered the global marketplace.
In a nutshell, UL is a safety organization that sets industry-wide standards on new products. They continually check these products to ensure they’re up to these standards. UL testing makes sure that wire sizes are correct or devices can handle the amount of current they claim to be able to. They also ensure that products are constructed correctly for the highest safety.
A common misconception is that UL tests every product themselves. This isn’t always the case. Instead, UL authorizes a manufacturer to test the product themselves using the UL stamp. They then follow up on a regular basis to make sure that they are testing their products and following proper guidelines. This is one of many reasons that UL certification is attractive to businesses.
However familiar you might be with the recognizable UL stamp on machinery, it’s not as simple as it may appear. There’s no such thing as a general UL approval. Instead, it’s broken down into several tiers. These three tiers are UL listed, UL recognized, and UL classified.
While all three are relatively similar to one another, there are some important distinctions. In order to figure out what’s best for your business, or to be more informed as a consumer of UL products, it’s good to know the basic differences.
Here we’ll go over the two most basic distinctions you need to know about: UL recognized vs UL listed.
What Does It Mean to Be UL Recognized?
The biggest difference between UL recognition and UL certified or classified is that it does not apply a seal of approval to end products.
UL Recognition service is less consumer-facing and focuses more on machinery and parts that make other products. In other words, it certifies that a component within a larger mechanism meets UL standards.
UL Recognition is most often seen in factories, in the form of power supplies or circuit boards that are used to power other machinery. UL Recognition ensures the safety and efficiency of machinery used by workers. It also empowers companies to strive for more sustainable practices.
Because UL Recognized focuses on components, UL ensures that the equipment is properly housed. This may require additional installation precautions to protect the product from chemicals or liquids in the manufacturing process.
UL Recognized stamps are generally easier to attain than UL Listed. This is because manufacturers can pick and choose which components are certified within a larger system. UL recognition is also not as rigid in its industry standards and is, therefore, easier for a business to attain as a result.
UL Recognized certification can be applied to any component part, or even to barrier materials. If you want to get the UL logo on your stand-alone products, you must get a UL Listed seal of approval.
What Does It Mean to Be UL Listed?
You’ve probably heard the term UL Listed many times before. Even if you haven’t, you are very likely to recognize the seal. Even if you weren’t sure what it meant before now, the UL Listed symbol is featured on a wide swath of consumer goods today.
So what does UL Listed mean and how does it differ from UL Recognized? How does it benefit your business? The main difference isn’t in the certification itself. Rather, in what kind of product is being certified and what impression that has on the consumer.
As we learned above, UL recognition is for components and UL Listed is for stand-alone products. While they both ensure a set of industry standards, they are used for different products and in different capacities. This is why UL Listed is so much more recognizable to most people because it ensures the safety of consumer-ready products that then go to market.
Far more testing is involved in UL Listed certification. The UL Listed seal means that the product has been tested by UL to nationally recognized safety and sustainability standards. Additionally, it has been found to be free from a reasonably foreseeable risk of fire, electric shock in a Division 2 environment. Division 2 environment refers to an area where ignitable concentrations are used.
In other words, a UL Listed approval ensures the safety and longevity of many household items under normal wear and tear with everyday use. This benefits both the consumer and the business that manufactures the product. This is because of UL’s safety reputation and the inherent accountability of your brand when using the UL Listed logo.
How Does CE Differ from UL Certifications?
Even if you aren’t familiar with UL, you might have seen other similar logo seals in other countries. For example, CE is a similar organization in the EU that sets standards for common electronics. CE stands for Comformité Européenne which is French for “European Conformity”. CE is similar to UL, the main difference being the country in which it is manufactured and sold.
Much like UL, CE gives companies an advantage by being able to sell anywhere within the EU, while also being able to market the CE logo in much the same way. For these reasons, many companies opt to get CE certified to expand their marketing capacities.
Why Get UL Certified or Buy UL Products?
Why is UL certification and recognition attractive for businesses? UL has spent over a century building up a reputation and instilling a sense of trust. When a consumer sees the UL stamp of approval on a product, they will likely feel better about purchasing it.
For example, if someone is shopping for a new circuit breaker or contactor, UL certification might sway their decision.
If two identical products or services are side-by-side and one is UL certified and one isn’t, which one would you likely choose? It’s been shown that the UL mark can be a powerful marketing tool for businesses, and so many of them strive to get their products approved. The UL logo gives the consumer peace of mind, and the business a public seal of approval.
When we pull back and look past the marketing aspect, it’s widely understood that machinery is the lifeblood of any business. Taking steps to protect this investment and the people that use it is essential to the long-term success of a company. Many industries have even started to design new products around UL’s safety standards.
UL Certification for Peace of Mind
UL Certification allows a company to innovate its safety standards and align themselves with industry-wide best practices. Being UL certified illustrates a businesses’ dedication to consumer safety, as well as the quality of their products.
Another important caveat of UL certification is for insurance purposes and customer security. In fact, UL was founded by William Henry Merrill, Jr. while he was working at the 1890 Chicago World’s Fair to asses fire risks. While he was there, he presented his idea to insurance underwriters to form an electrical testing laboratory. The Western Insurance Union and the Chicago Underwriters Association decided to fund his idea, and formed what would become Underwriters Laboratory. Why is this important? If, say, an inspector determines a fire was caused by a circuit breaker that was not UL certified, an insurance company can choose to deny the claim. For this reason alone, many consumers opt for certified products, not just for large appliances but for small ones as well as laptop and cell phone chargers. UL certification adds a layer of protection and accountability for accidents, as well.
There’s undeniably a certain prestige of having the UL logo on your machinery or end product. The UL seal is an easy way to fast-track your products and your business to the top of any conscious consumer’s list.
Lastly, because UL is a third-party service, consumers of your products can be confident that the UL seal is not a superficial sales ploy. Instead, it’s a true indication of an item’s safety and longevity. It protects your brand’s reputation by having an established certification company standing behind what you sell.
UL certification is something that affects us in our everyday lives, often to a great degree, without most of us really knowing it. UL has been around for 125 years ensuring the safety and accountability of electrical products in everyday American life.
Just because a product is not UL recognized and tested doesn’t mean it’s going to spontaneously combust. It simply means that its performance and safety haven’t been tested independently and verified to meet those safety standards.
So, don’t immediately assume your products aren’t safe just because it doesn’t have a UL certification. It’s never a bad idea, however, to seek out UL certification when designing into new electronics and appliances.
Even if it might cost a bit more for your business or take extra testing time, UL gives a consumer the peace of mind and a brand a big marketing boost. In the long run, third-party certifications from a trusted source will only help your business. UL Certifications have the ability to add accountability and enhance your brand’s reputation over time.
Hopefully, now you feel a bit more familiar with that little UL logo and have a better idea of what it means and why it’s important for you and your business. When manufacturers are UL certified is shows their continued commitment to safety and quality.
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