In the US, Product Listing by a Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory provides a wealth of information about the correct and safe use of a product. How do we find that information and make good use of it?
In part 1 of this blog, we explored some of the benefits and mechanics of product Listing. Once we determine that a product Listing is an essential attribute of any electrical equipment that we might want to specify, purchase, or use, the next step is to determine the specifics of the Listing that applies to our application.
This is critical. For example, luminaires Listed for use in Stage and Studio applications are specifically prohibited for residential use! How do we find these rules and raise our electrical IQ on product Listings?
Navigating the UL database: Finding your Category Control Number
As the primary SDO (Standards Development Organization) for electrical equipment in the US, Underwriters Laboratories (UL) has plenty of tools to help us. The first tool we need to be aware of is the CCN, or Category Control Number of the type of product we are dealing with. To help us, UL provides a comprehensive list of all the CCN’s of every product type. It’s a bit bewildering in its scope, and it can be found here.
This page presents us with a search engine that will narrow our view to a more manageable size. Let’s say we are looking into stage equipment, which is common in the entertainment industry. We enter “stage” in the Keyword search:
This produces a list of CCN’s that contain “stage:”
Let’s say we are interested in Stage and Studio Luminaires. We can see in the “Link to File” columns, that they are covered by CCN “IFDZ”. To learn more, we can open that link to get to the Guide Information on IFDZ:
Now we know a whole lot of things from the Guide Information about products Listed under CCN IFDZ:
- How they should be used and not used, covered under “Use”
- What the required markings are for the product under “Luminaire Installation Markings”
- How the product must be identified by name under “Product Identity”
- The basic standard to which the product was evaluated, namely UL 1573 “Stage and Studio Luminaires and Connector Strips”
Finding specific products Listed by UL
To continue, let’s say we want to identify a specific product to see if it’s listed under IFDZ. This UL Online Certifications database template will help us.
We can enter the manufacturer’s name and the CCN, IFDZ:
In this case, a list of products from that manufacturer Listed under IFDZ is produced:
If we had left the manufacturer field blank, and simply entered IFDZ in the CCN field, we would have gotten a list of every manufacturer that produces IFDZ products, and we could have determined their precise model numbers or names.
So, we can see that the UL Online Certifications Directory gives us a valuable tool for determining the specific details of a product Listing, as well as details of manufacturers and model numbers that hold that product Listing.
Finding specific products Listed by other organizations
The UL tool is comprehensive when it comes to discovering details about product standards and their requirements, and it’s excellent for retrieving details on products that have been Listed by UL. But remember those other 18 accredited NRTL’s? They also list products to UL standards. When another NRTL provides the Listing, the CCN approach is not used, and the UL Online Certifications Directory has more limited use. For example, ETC has products Listed by both UL and Intertek/ETL.
However, some of those other NRTL’s also have certification directories that work in much the same way as the UL Directory, such as this one from Intertek/ETL.
The lack of CCN references in non-UL directories means that one has to rely on the basic standard that a product is Listed to as a correlation to the requirements in the UL Guide Information. Recall that our earlier example called out UL1573 as the basic standard used to evaluate Stage and Studio Luminaires and Connector Strips. If we perform the same search on “stage” in the Intertek/ETL Directory, the UL1573 standard will be listed instead of a CCN.
So…where to start?
The best approach is to learn about the requirements of the product Listing from the UL Directory and CCN Guide Information, and then proceed to the directory of the Listing NRTL (UL, ETL or another NRTL) to learn about the product listings of a specific manufacturer.
It’s important to remember that hearing “The Product is Listed” does not provide enough information to determine if the product is being used under the terms of its Listing. Armed with the tools discussed here, you can make that determination! Be an informed skeptic—it’s amazing what you will find!
In Part 3 of this blog, we’ll examine the difference between “UL Listed” and “UL Recognized”. Stay tuned!