Ever noticed those odd symbols on a light bulb, a light fixture, or the spec sheets indicating it’s CE or ETL listed? Ever wonder what those listings really mean? These listings and certifications indicate whether or not a product has met certain regulations. They can also tell you where a light bulb or fixture can be used, such as indoor versus outdoor and dry, damp, or wet locations.

What is UL?

The Underwriters Laboratories (UL) is a Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL) recognized by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) that test products for established, self-published safety standards. UL is the most well-known listing and is used all over the globe. A product can be UL Listed or Recognized. UL Listed is the most common UL certification and means samples of the product have been tested and determined to meet the necessary safety standards. UL Recognized indicates parts of a product that are designed to be part of a whole have been tested and approved for that particular use. For example, UL wet location bulbs have been tested to withstand not only high humidity, but also direct contact with water so they can be used outside without requiring an enclosed fixture.

What is ETL?

Back in 1896, Thomas Edison founded the Lamp Testing Bureau to test the safety of light bulbs. Now named Electrical Testing Laboratories (ETL), they cover more than just light bulbs and are one of the fastest growing safety certifications servicing the U.S. and Canada. ETL doesn’t publish their own safety standards. Instead, they tests products to the standards published by other NRTLs like UL. This means products are held to the same standards as UL and is also recognized by OSHA.

What is CSA?

The CSA International, formerly called the Canadian Standards Association, is an NRTL that primarily serves the U.S. and Canada. This listing tests products based on standards set by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), UL, and NSF and is widely regarded as a suitable substitute to UL and ETL listings.

What is CE?

CE is the abbreviation of “Conformité Européene” which is French for European Conformity. The CE mark is required for certain products before they can be sold within the European Economic Area (EEA) which includes all European Union countries as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway. These countries responsible for banning products and will issue fines for non-compliance. If you plan to sell or buy lighting fixtures or electrical components within Europe, look for the CE mark first, but you’ll have to be sure it’s the right CE logo. There is a very similar logo where the “CE” stands for “China Export” and just means the product was manufactured in China.