Saturday, February 6, 2010

"UL" Made Simple!

Many of our clients looked puzzled when we mention that
our lighting is UL.  So, let's set the record straight. 

Underwriters Laboratories® Inc. (UL), is an independent product safety certification organization.  UL does not “approve” products, rather a manufacturer of a UL-certified product must demonstrate compliance with the appropriate safety requirements, many of which are developed and updated yearly by UL.  A manufacturer must also demonstrate that it has a program in place to ensure that each copy of the product complies as well.  Some lighting manufacturers refer to their product as "built with UL parts", or having "UL components".  That's a good start of course - but their fixtures are not necessarily fabricated to UL specifications in a licensed UL shop.

So what's the difference?  Safety standards mandate that you not only use safer parts, but that you construct and configure lighting fixtures in a prescribed way.  For instance, floor lamps must be weighted to pass a "tilt test" and enclosed surface mount fixtures must withstand a "heat test".  Many European products have their own version of UL, however, their standards are different and do not comply with ours.  Some Chinese fixtures with a UL label may be questionable (See our 01/17 Blog).

All fixtures used for commercial, public spaces such as lobbies and hotel rooms must meet the most stringent UL standards.  This is particularly important for hard-wired fixtures; ceiling mounts and wall lights.  An example is the Park Lane Lobby.  Standards for residential lighting have become more strict in recent years as well.  One area to be more cautious about is "portable lighting"; plug in floor and table lamps, as they are often cheap imports that will ignore UL standards.  Look for a UL label on the socket or base.  On hard-wired fixtures it will be inside the canopy or backplate.

We work with a shop that has an "Open UL" license.  This allows us to rewire imported, one-of-a-kind, custom and antique fixtures so that they are compliant and safe.   It also makes sense to update an old table lamp with a UL grounded plug and heavier UL wire and socket.   In the event that there is an electrical fire and an insurance claim is made, one of the first things an adjuster will look for is the UL label. 

Would you buy a toaster that didn't have the UL label?   Keep in mind that lighting is not just a work of art - it has to function and be safe too!