Both UL and ETL Listed certifications are Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL) recognized by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). While UL may be more popular and recognizable, they may be more similar than what many think. It is important to understand the difference between the types of UL certifications so you can make an informed decision on which product to buy.
UL (aka Underwriters Laboratory) is a leading organization that both creates standards, and performs tests on products to ensure they meet those standards. There are 1500+ standards and testing procedures to certify a product. There is a vast variety of products in industries including recycling systems, renewable energies, sustainable products, food, and water products.
It is important to understand that UL Recognized products are not UL Listed. UL Recognized products are designed to meet all standards that are relevant to its particular end-use. They are generally easier and cheaper to attain than UL Listed because UL recognition is also not as rigid in its industry standards since it is just a component.
UL Listed means that the product has been tested by UL to nationally recognized safety and sustainability standards. The product has been found to be free from a reasonably foreseeable risk of fire and electric shock in an area where ignitable concentrations are used. Due to the additional testing done by UL, UL Listed certifications often cost much more than UL Recognized certification. This often leads to sellers opting for UL Recognized certification on products that would pass UL Listed to gain pricing competitiveness by offering a lower listed price to the consumers.
The Electrical Testing Laboratories (ETL), used to be the Lamp Testing Bureau where Thomas Edison started to test lightbulbs for safety in 1896. The company expanded to include testing for Standards for Safety for a wide variety of electronics components and products. ETL is currently a division of Intertek Testing Laboratories which is also an OSHA recognized NRTL. Unlike UL, ETL does not publish their own standards; instead, they test parts and components to the published standards of other NRTLs such as UL. Since ETL tests products to other’s standards, there is no technical difference between ETL Listed and UL Listed products. However, manufacturers often choose ETL certification because ETL is often cheaper than UL.
Overall, there is no technical difference between the safety of a UL Listed product and an ETL Listed product. Often manufactures would opt for the cheaper ETL Listed certification process over the UL Listed certification process. However, UL Listed has a higher brand recognition which can sometimes influence consumer's purchasing decisions. In markets where both MSRP and margins are low, many manufacturers and sellers will opt for UL Recognized certification to save a significant amount on certification costs. However, although some UL Recognized certified products may be produced on the same production line alongside UL Listed products, UL Recognized products are only certified on a component level and undergo less testing than UL Listed products.
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