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Old 16th January 2007, 01:23 PM   #1
pjpoes is offline pjpoes  United States
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Default UL ratings and the stuff we make

I'm sorry to continue to harp on this, but given that I was unaware of this, I thought I would give you the final word from Underwriters Labratories once and for all. I decided to make it a new thread to get away from the idea of upgraded power cords, and get to the route issue. The items we make, regardless of the component ratings, are not UL listed. In the event of a problem, such as a fire, that can be sourced to the items we make, an insurance company will not cover the damages if they decide it was due to our own negligance in producing the item. To make matters worse, if you will, many of the products we buy do not have to be UL rated, suprisingly, and so many companies offer products that are not. Most cottage business companies do not offer UL rated products, this includes amplifiers, power cords, power distrobution, etc. This is especially disturbing given how many of these small companies have begun offering battery operated products which battery chargers, and the known risk of batteries exploding or catching on fire.

The implication of this set of statements from UL, and I paraphrased, if you want the exact words I can post them, are that we either can consider it just as safe to make whatever we want however we want using any rated products we want, or we can stop this passionate hobby all together for fear of insurance coverage. Again, according to UL themselves, any DIY electronic project we make, regardless of the rating of the components, is not UL listed and will not hold up to insurance coverage. This will not change my view, I will continue to make electronics myself and take the risk I now know I have. Another thing to keep in mind, but may have been more obvious is that any product brought into the US from an outside distributor would not have seeked UL approval, and so is also not covered. In my case, this means both my chinese built CD player and Tube amp are not UL rated and thus potentially dangerous to me financially in the event of a fire.

Having said all that, there is something to be said for the peace of mind that a UL rated product gives us. Going back to my early point in a previous posting, using a cheap unrated and untested electrical plug has definate inherent dangers that say a Hubble or Marinco plug would not have. Same goes for wire, but I still would make the point that Teflon, for instance, with a stated voltage and current rating, would not pose a major risk being used for wall current instead of speaker wire. We know that teflon can handle a great deal of heat without issue, and frequently is used in higher voltage lines. Vinyl on the other hand could pose a risk, though a minor one given that many amplifiers can peak at an output greater than you would normally see from a wall outlet. None the less its a very real risk that a UL rating would aleve. That doesn't take away the risk that UL is unwilling to cover, that of my own ineptitude when constructing say a power cord.

For those who really are interested further in the number of actual manufacturers selling unrated products in the United States, and I would assume legaly, I have begun putting together a small list, for my own curiosity. Again, this is something I never would have thought of being an issue. I can deal with a problem because of my own problems in putting together say an amplifier or power cord. However, I would be very upset if I ever had a fire from a product I purchased and was unable to be compensated because of a lack of UL rating.
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Old 16th January 2007, 11:26 PM   #2
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For a product to be truely UL rated, all components used must be RL rated(UL for components like cords etc) and then the whole completed finish product evaluated before UL rating can be approved. I know some companies cheat by claiming that their product is UL rated, but infact it is only the componets are RL/UL rated.
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Old 17th January 2007, 02:58 PM   #3
pjpoes is offline pjpoes  United States
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Yes, this is the case, and thank you for reiterating what I have said. I would only add that they also need continual annual review by UL in order to keep the UL status. I was also told that the UL rating of all the components is conditional based on use, and that all individual components like power cable or capacitors have a condition that specifies that the final product be UL tested, or the UL rating is voided.

I must say I'm suprised that more haven't read this and commented. I mean, based on my last topic and postings, its clear that people had the idea, which I shared, that if we made something using UL rated parts, it would be UL rated and that it would be covered by insurance in the event of a problem. To be honost, I had never given that risk much though, and never thought about the issue of importing products through gray market means as being a problem. I have now found out that is not the case. As I said, it won't change how I will practice this hobby, but I am more aware of the risks now.
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Old 17th January 2007, 03:02 PM   #4
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At the end of the day, using UL parts throughout in no way guarantees the construction quality, which could be poorly soldered or badly insulated etc by the builder. So it's unfair to expect using UL rated parts automatically makes the end product UL spec.

However, if you can demonstrate that your item is constructed to high standards, maybe with an insurance inspection, then all should be fine.
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Old 18th January 2007, 05:16 PM   #5
pjpoes is offline pjpoes  United States
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the last part of your statement is incorrect according to the insurance claims adjuster I talked to. He told me that with regard to built end products like amplifiers, cd players, etc they must go through the UL testing system to satisfy the insurance company. As for power cables, power stripts, and home wirering, since all homes can't go through a UL rating, the requirements are all UL rated equipment that is then checked through and signed off by an electrician. For anyone who has ever added a line or done their own home wirering at all, and didn't have it checked by an electrician, and isn't one themselves, then technically it will void our your insurance in the event of a fire caused by it.
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Old 18th January 2007, 05:37 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally posted by pjpoes
the last part of your statement is incorrect
But you just said basically the same thing as me
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Old 19th January 2007, 12:20 AM   #7
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well I'm sorry, I think maybe I misunderstand what you were saying. I thought what you said is that its possible an insurance company would be willing to still cover you if the build quality of your end product was good and maybe inspected by the insurance company.

What I was saying is that is incorrect, an insurance company will not look at your work, they don't consider themselves experts on such matters. Essentially they rely on the UL for guidance on end products. I asked again to make sure of something I was saying, and found its more restrictive than even I said. The only exception to the UL rating requirement for insurance is with regard to building wirering. However, even home made extension cords and distribution blocks are not a coverable item. According to the insurance guy, even if its built by an electrician. It's only acceptable for hard wired applications, if its not hard wired, it must be UL approved as an end product. The example he gave me was in the case of a fire or on the job accident as a result of an extension cord made by one of the working electricians on the job, insurance companies have natorisouly been unwilling to pay off such a claim, even in the case of workers comp, if its the negligence of the company. When he told me that I said, but wait if someone is hurt on the job, even if its his own fault, workers compensation has to pay out. He agreed but said in the event of large settlements or law suits, the company would be responsible, not the insurance.
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Old 19th January 2007, 12:58 AM   #8
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The way I see it .Is if one is so paranoid about what a insurance company may or may not cover. Then maybe DIY electronics is not ones cup of tea. Especially if one has doubts about ones ability to construct a project with safe construction precautions and practices.
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Old 19th January 2007, 01:21 AM   #9
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I would not think for even second of releasing any product that was NOT UL or CE or CSA approved. I go for CSA approval here in canada, and go through 'Intela',as they are able to provide accredited testing, which covers me or any given device in the same manner as CSA approval. Their price for doing the work is also the best, by far. It becomes "intela' approved, which is a CSA checkmark, which is a UL checkmark. This is the cheapest way to get to UL approval on small lot manufuacturing.

Also, investigate out board power supplies, in terms of legal coverage. A strange one, but a good work-around. Unpowered items are exempt, in Canada, from needing approval. Buy CSA approved or UL approved wall warts, and you are done. No RF, etc. Nothing. Skips by the whole gauntlet of legalities. Wether or not one bears ethical responsibility, is a whole other kettle of fish.


CSA approval, depending on the given manufaucturing level and type, tends to..I repeat..'tends' to convert directly to a UL approval, as CSA is usually, 99%+ of the time, more stringent in every way than UL. (at least it used to be)

I fully expect anyone seeking electrical approval for a given piece of gear or set of items, to investigate thoroughly the standards required in their part of the world.
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Old 20th January 2007, 03:24 PM   #10
pjpoes is offline pjpoes  United States
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Quote:
Originally posted by XEAGLEKEEPER
The way I see it .Is if one is so paranoid about what a insurance company may or may not cover. Then maybe DIY electronics is not ones cup of tea. Especially if one has doubts about ones ability to construct a project with safe construction precautions and practices.
I think you have misunderstood me. I am not so concerned myself, though I did point out that I was unaware of this issue. I have full confidence in my ability to make a safe product. This was spurred by the fact that I was told not to make a power cord because the cable would lack UL approval and my insurance company would not cover me in the event of a fire. In looking into this issue I found that, UL approved wire or not, I'm still not covered, so whats it matter. I'm confident the wire would handle the ac use. I think a lot of people on these forums are confused into thinking that their projects are in some way UL approved because they used UL approved parts, and also that in the even of a fire, they would be just as covered as if they had bought something premade. I also added that even some things we buy are not UL approved, far more than we realize, I have now found out.
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