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Do I Need UL Certification for My Product?

Industry Trends
  • April 13 2023
  • Kathy Anderson
Do I Need UL Certification for My Product

And What are the Benefits if I Do?

Bringing to market a new product often involves a lot of testing. As a manufacturer, one question you may be asking yourself is whether your product needs UL certification—or any kind of certification for that matter.

Although not all products are required to meet UL standards, devices such as electric appliances, fire alarms, medical devices, personal protective equipment, and batteries must. Plus, retailers and commercial building and electrical codes want to see proof of meeting UL standards. That’s because it helps protect you and the retailer in case of liability lawsuits.

Consequently, if you are manufacturing a product that meets certain standards anyway, there’s no reason not to seek UL certification. Furthermore, the UL logo is highly recognizable from a consumer standpoint. It serves as a visible assurance that the product meets US (and usually Canadian) safety standards when used according to manufacturer instructions.

If you manufacture electrical and electronic equipment and need some quick guidance, here’s a great guide published by the US Department of Commerce, National Institute of Standards and Technology. Find your product type in the table of contents and click on it. It will jump down to the listing and provide links to the appropriate standards.

Does UL Need to Perform the Required Tests to Meet UL Standards?

No! Absolutely not! The confusion arises because UL wears many hats. It is a:

There is also the UL Research Institutes, a not-for-profit. It conducts independent research, analyzes safety data, meets with experts worldwide, and encourages communities of safety.

So, UL is not the only testing lab manufacturers can use to test to UL standards.

OSHA maintains a list of NRTLs or Nationally Recognized Testing Labs. Not every lab is authorized to conduct every kind of standards test out there—and there are many kinds in addition to UL.

Two of the best NRTLs that test to UL standards are:

It should be noted that standards from European or other countries are not acceptable in North America—just like North American standards are not accepted elsewhere. So, if you plan to market globally, make sure you get the correct certifications for various parts of the world. ETL/Intertek and UL Solutions can help you do this. You can read more about ETL here.

The Story Behind UL, America’s Oldest Testing Lab

UL is short for Underwriters Laboratories. The idea behind UL was born when William Henry Merrill, Jr., an electrical inspector, was sent from the Boston Board of Fire Underwriters to assess fire risks associated with the construction of the 1893 Chicago Columbian Exposition/World’s Fair. It was the first public exhibition featuring widespread use of AC electricity.

By The Field Museum Library – Agricultural Building at Night,
By The Field Museum Library – Agricultural Building at Night,
General Interior - Electricity Building
Courtesy UL

While on site, Merrill met with other insurance underwriters. Consequently, it became clear there was a need for a national electrical testing lab that all insurance underwriters could approve and support.

Consequently, in 1894, two groups, the Chicago Underwriters Association and the Western Insurance Union, provided the startup funding to create the Underwriters Electrical Bureau. The fledgling testing bureau incorporated in 1901—with Merrill at the helm—as Underwriters Laboratories (UL).

So, as you can see, UL originally started out as a testing lab.

But it wasn’t long before they started developing actual standards. Currently, there are over 1,500 of them! UL also has an online repository of a number of standards as well as ones that can be purchased. This is important as a product should be developed from the get-go to meet applicable standards—no matter which NRTL company does the ultimate testing.

Let’s take a closer look at the certification/testing side of UL.

What is UL Certification? What is the Difference Between UL Listed, UL Enhanced, UL Classified, ULC Listed, and UL Recognized?

Certification is the successful outcome of obtaining a UL Mark. UL safety Marks appear globally on over 22 billion products each year. The Mark can be found on appliances, smart devices, furniture, home construction material, and fire and carbon monoxide detectors. This means the marked product “has been certified to meet scientific safety, quality, or security standards.”

Once products pass the applicable UL standards and are UL certified, manufacturers are given the authority to test their own products and apply the UL Mark themselves. However, all UL certified products must be a part of UL’s Follow-Up Services Program of factory inspections to ensure continued product compliance.

Note in the examples below that Marks with the C meet Canadian standards. The C and the US together meet both US and Canada ones. The plain mark is for US. There is another variation with EU at the bottom. That one means it can be used in all three markets.

Also note that other companies that test for UL standards use different looking marks. The Marks below can only be used on products successfully tested by UL Labs.

UL Listed

UL Listed
Courtesy UL

This is the Mark most consumers are most familiar with. Today, it appears on fire extinguishers, heaters, furnaces, electrical panels, and thousands of other products.

Enhanced UL Certified

UL Certified

Courtesy UL

The Enhanced UL Certification Mark is used on many innovative products such as smoke alarms, pre-lit holiday decorations, and hoverboards that meet the latest safety requirements.

UL Classified

UL Classified

Courtesy UL

This Mark is used on products evaluated for a “specific hazard or for performance under specific conditions.”

ULC Listed

ULC Listed

Courtesy UL

You’ll see this mark on products like building materials as well as fire protection and suppression products.

UL Recognized

UL Recognized
Courtesy UL

This Mark is used on “components that are part of a larger, UL Certified product or system.” It is not seen on an end product and so tends to be unfamiliar to end users.

A Marketing Caveat

Please note that UL never uses the phrase “UL approved.” In fact, it is disallowed in their marketing guidelines. If you choose to use UL for testing, you MUST follow their branding guidelines.

Other UL Marks and Programs

UL has a number of other programs and Marks including:

  • UL Environmental and Public Health
  • Water Quality
  • Gas-Fired Equipment
  • Marine
  • Plumbing
  • Security & Security and Signaling
  • Field Evaluation Product

For more information about UL’s Enhanced and Smart UL Certification Marks and Badges, read this helpful PDF.

How Do I Submit a Product? How Much Will UL Certification Cost?

UL maintains a robust FAQ section. It certainly answers questions including those above. It even has a section on “Submitting New or Innovative Products.”

As for costs, a manufacturer can submit a “Request for Quote.” It will include “project pricing and standard assumptions for UL services.” Be prepared—testing is not inexpensive.

The process can take time, so don’t expect a quick turnaround—it can easily take 6 months or more. And that’s assuming no modifications need to be made to your product for it to earn a UL Mark.

Once your product receives UL certification, there will be periodic factory inspections. If you fail, you’ll need to fix the problem immediately. You’ll also need to abide by their marketing guidelines in order to properly use their Mark. Finally, should you modify your product, you may need to undergo testing all over again.

UL and Brand Integrity

Counterfeiting of products is widespread. So are the accompanying UL Marks. Therefore, in addition to testing, UL proactively surveys the market. They accept online tips. Plus they network with “law enforcement, UL customers, intellectual property protection associations and governmental entities to conduct intelligence-led investigations.”

How bad of a problem is counterfeiting? “In 2019, 3.8 million products were seized globally. All bore counterfeit UL Marks.”

Top counterfeit products include power supplies, appliance wiring materials, IT components, and semiconductor devices. Top counterfeit online listings include light bulbs, power adapters, power supplies, and lamps.

UL also conducts market surveillance in conjunction with a retailer or brand. And they sponsor international conferences and co-host with INTERPOL the International IP Crime Investigators College.

For more information about counterfeiting, read UL’s 2019 brochure. As a manufacturer, you’ll find it quite eye-opening.

Why Should You Choose UL Labs to Do Your UL Certification Standards Testing?

There are a number of reasons. The ones listed below just scratch the surface.  

  • UL programs are well-established, fully staffed, and they maintain offices around the world
  • UL has pretty much seen it all and can easily guide manufacturers to the kinds of tests required
  • They offer bundled services including consultations, testing, and certifications for all target markets—with only one product submission
  • They are a leader in safety science and standards development
  • UL leads and participates in initiatives to protect consumers and manufacturers against counterfeits
  • They are an independent provider with a long, trusted history and are backed by a not for profit
  • They maintain an online database of UL-certified products and components
  • The UL Mark is one of the most recognized, accepted, and trusted certification marks
  • It imparts consumer confidence in any product that bears it

But remember, you don’t HAVE to use UL Labs. You can use any authorized NRTL qualified to test for the applicable UL standard.

Here at Petra, we pride ourselves on the solid relationships we build with our vendor partners. Although we can’t help you through the UL certification process, we can help in other ways. To find out all we can do for you and your products, visit