Why UL and ETL Electrical Certifications are Important

electrical certifications

And what does it mean if what I buy is not certified?

Electricity, when controlled, is a marvelous thing. In fact, modern civilization requires it! But when electricity escapes its conduit, it becomes destructive. It can cause fire, injuries, and even death. 

The U.S. Fire Administration says there are about 24,000 electrical fires a year. Common causes include:

  • Faulty outlets
  • Outdated appliances
  • Faults in appliance cords
  • Running cords under rugs
  • Removing the grounding plug from a cord for use in a two-prong outlet
  • Overloading a light fixture with a lamp that exceeds its capacity
  • Misuse of extension cords by plugging in appliances like space heaters
  • Placing space heaters near combustible surfaces
  • Outdated wiring—plugging too many things into a circuit

That's why electrical certifications are vitally important. Whether it's a humble extension cord or a major appliance, here in the U.S., it should be UL, ETL, or CSA listed

When a product bears one of the distinctive logos below, or the testing agency is listed in the product specifications, you know it has been thoroughly tested and deemed safe—when used as directed.

electrical certifications

The latest, enhanced UL marks use this:

UL new logo electrical certifications

The art below shows the progress into a typical enhanced mark showing whatever specific standard it meets:

UL certifications

Marks can be labels or can be die-stamped, silk-screened, or molded into the product.

It should be noted that certifications from European or other countries are NOT acceptable in North America—just like North American certifications are not accepted elsewhere. That's because standards vary from country to country.

Is certification required?

There is no general law in the U.S. that requires certification. However, companies who make quality electrical products will voluntarily seek certification. This proves their products meet the relevant, accepted safety standards that have been carefully developed over the years by recognized safety and professional organizations.

It's also a way for manufacturers to show they care about the quality and safety of their products. And that they care about you, the end user. That's because going through all the steps required to meet electrical certifications are not cheap. Plus, it takes time. And, on a practical note, certification can help protect them against liability lawsuits, thus lowering insurance costs.

Retailers may require certifications before they will sell them in their stores or ecommerce sites. And, depending on the product, local building codes may require certification as well.

So, you, as a savvy, conscientious shopper who cares about safety and performance, should require it too. That means checking labels and reading the fine print.

How to spot untested products

Uncertified products are often cheaper. That's because they haven't paid for product testing. They are also hoping you won't notice the lack of a tag.

The Quebec government offers these helpful hints:

  • Item costs less than other similar products
  • Spelling errors on the package or product name
  • Poor quality packaging 

Cableorganizer.com offers some additional tips:

  • The use of words like approved or pending in place of classified or listed
  • Lack of appropriate product documentation, including instructions for use, manuals, safety warnings, and information on proper care and maintenance
  • Products whose packaging lacks a toll-free customer service number, company address, website, or other corporate contact information
  • Avoid buying at deep-discount stores, flea markets, street vendors, etc.

UL, ETL, and CSA—what's the backstory?

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. That fair was the first public exhibition featuring widespread use of AC electricity! So, understandably, there was a lot of concern. While on site, Merrill met with other insurance underwriters. It became clear there was a need for a national electrical testing lab that all insurance underwriters could approve and support.

Today, UL creates standards as well as does testing to a wide variety of standards created by others as well as themselves.

ETL, now known as ETL/Intertek, was founded by Thomas Edison just 2 years after UL. He established his Lamp Testing Bureau (later renamed Electrical Testing Laboratories or ETL) to test his light bulbs. In 2000, a number of innovative testing companies from around the world were acquired and merged to become Intertek.

ETL tests to many standards, including those developed by UL.

CSA, the Canadian Standards Association, also known as the CSA Group, was established in 1919. It is the official agency for Canada. It develops standards as well as conducts tests.

It, like UL and ETL, is globally recognized and is accredited by U.S.'s OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Organization) as a Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory.

All product safety certification programs include the same testing, listing, labeling, and follow-up inspection services. So, whether it bears an ETL, UL, or another testing agency's label, that product has undergone the same rigorous process for the specific standard or standards involved.

Have Certified Appliance Accessories power cords and range/stove elements been tested?


Certified Appliance Accessories products meet the required safety certifications and have been successfully UL tested. Only our 10 ft. cords do not meet their standards. That's solely because UL won't certify any 10 ft. cords, regardless of manufacturer or brand. Therefore, if you require a 10 ft. cord, be cautious.

So, if you are looking for dryer cords, range cords, power supply and extension cords for appliancesreplacement surface burner elements, or oven bake elements, you can trust Certified Appliance Accessories to deliver as promised. 

You can purchase Certified products online at Lowe's, Walmart, Amazon, and other ecommerce sites.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational and educational purposes only. Certified Appliance Accessories is not liable or responsible for any damages resulting from or related to your use of this information.