UL vs ETL vs CE: Which Of These Certifications Is Most Important?

Quality has always been one of the most important parts of product manufacturing. Whatever it is you’re trying to make, it’s important to ensure that you have the right eye on quality and product reliability, so your users and customers can get enough bang for their buck. 

The UL, ETL, and CE certifications have emerged as some of the most reputable product quality certifications around. In this article, we’ll look into what they are and how they stack up with each other. 

What Are UL, ETL, & CE Certifications?

To start with, you can’t have a UL vs CE certification or compare all three certifications without actually understanding what they are. So, let’s take a look at what they offer and how they came to be.

Understanding UL Certification

UL is most likely one of the most prominent product certifications in the world at the moment. 

The certification isn’t just one that’s gotten – you need to earn this from Underwriters Laboratories – a safety and compliance company based out of Illinois in the United States. UL’s job is to check products – as well as the facilities and processes that are involved in making them – to ensure that they abide by proper standards. 

The UL certification is especially revered, and this is because of its broadened scope. Some critical aspects of the certification here include: 

All Products Are Tested

For a product to be certified, it needs to go through testing. And the UL tests for certifications are among the most durable and reliable. 

Standards For Product Safety 

The primary focus of the UL certification is to ensure that all products are safe. So, evaluators look at their potential risks, as well as other possible safety concerns that need to be addressed.

The One Major Tag 

Every product that passes the UL test is immediately issued a tag that shows this. And as you can imagine, a lot of people try to look for it.

One Successful Test Isn’t Enough 

You might not know this, but manufacturers need to ensure follow-up inspections and tests on their products to ensure that they remain UL-certified. This ensures that products remain compliant as time passes.

An Introduction To ETL Certification

The ETL certification works like UL in the sense that it also provides a stamp that a product is solid and in compliance with set standards. The standard is given by the Electrical Testing Laboratories – a company that used to be called “Edison Testing Laboratories.” 

Taking Photos Of The Product

Evaluators will have to conduct physical examinations of the product and take pictures of it to ensure that they have a proper view of what it is and how it looks. 

Looking At The Product Description

Remember those product descriptions you see when purchasing goods online? Well, these descriptions are actually examined by the evaluators as well to make sure that they give accurate details of what the products are and how they work.

Facility Examinations

The location where the product is made is assessed, so evaluators can vouch for the fact that it is truly up to code. 

As soon as the product is approved, a mark is given to let everyone know that the product is truly ETL-certified and that users can make use of the product without fear or concern. In most cases, you will find that products that get this certification will also comply with standards set by major organizations like the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

CE Marking: What Does It Mean?

With the CE mark or certification, we have something that might not be popular in the United States but remains highly coveted across the world. If you’re releasing your product in Europe and you want to get that acclaim, then the CE mark is one that you should consider. 

The “CE” name is an acronym, and it stands for “Conformité Européenne.” If you translate that to English, you have “European Conformity.” Essentially, this mark is given to top products that pass the conformity standards that have been set by the European Union for products that are to be launched within its borders.

Over the years, the CE certification has become an especially prominent one. As Europe becomes a major consumer market, ensuring that products are CE-certified has become especially important for many product manufacturers. That said, the certification has some unique characteristics that easily stand out in the UL vs CE listing

The Legal Requirement

Unlike most other certification standards, CE is backed by law. This means that if you intend to sell your product within the European Economic Area, you will need the CE marking.

Products Covered By This Marking 

You can use the CE marking across a broad range of products. This covers just about anything from machines, electrical equipment, medical devices, and so much more. 

The Complicated Certification Process

In some cases, you might also notice that you would need to involve third parties to get a product CE-certified. These third parties will need to be designated by a member state of the EU to ensure that your product is properly in compliance with the laws. 

Easy Access Across The EU 

You see, the beauty of the CE mark is that a product that bears it will pretty much be able to move across the EU without any restrictions. So, all countries within the EU respect this mark. 

UL vs ETL vs CE: Which Of These Certifications Is Better? 

Now that we understand the different certifications and how they work, let’s do a deeper dive into how they compare and what you might need to know. It’s easy to ask, “What is the CE vs UL certification” or “What is the difference between ETL listed and UL listed?” 

Overall, let’s provide the following comparison between them:  

The Differences in Testing Methods 

Easily the most important factor to be considered when looking at the UL vs CE testing or differentiating between ETL and UL is their general testing methodology. A lot of manufacturers tend to consider this especially when they have really tight schedules to keep. So, which of these is easier to work around in general? 

Testing Methods For UL Certification

Evaluators Test For Electrical Safety 

To begin with, it is important to ensure that any product looking to pass UL evaluations will need to show high levels of electrical safety. Evaluators look to ensure compliance with electrical safety standards, and they also add tests to verify things like grounding, insulation resistance, and more.

They Test For Fire Compatibility 

Flammability is another area that gets a lot of attention when it comes to EL testing. Evaluators assess that the materials used in making the product are flammable, and that it resists things like flame spreading and ignition. 

Can It Work Well? 

A major part of EL testing is performance analysis. Products are tested to ensure that they function well and can perform up to code. And if there are specific performance criteria, then the products need to be tested on that front too.  

Testing The Product’s Strength 

Mechanical and structural integrity are two areas that differentiate the Intertek vs UL testing methods. For UL testing, evaluators look into the integrity of the product, and they focus on ensuring that products are strong enough to resist impact and last for long.

Risk Tolerance Tests

UL markings require a risk assessment. This helps to identify possible dangers of the product and to address them head on. The risks cover things like electrical risks, mechanical hazards, and much more. 

How ETL Tests Work 

As part of the UL vs ETL certification, we should also look into how the latter is tested and the needs that have to be met to ensure compatibility. 

When it comes to ETL tests, the following are especially highlighted:

Testing For Overall Performance 

Above all else, ETL tests require proper performance. Evaluators look into the general functionality of the product, as well as its ability to meet these needs based on set standards. 

Compatibility With Magnets

It is also important to look into the product and its performance in electromagnetic environments. The goal here is to ensure that the product doesn’t interfere with any other related devices when they work nearby. 

Considering The Environment

ETL tests have also been known to highlight environmental compatibility. This is another major difference in the ETL listed vs UL debate. This test subjects products to different environmental conditions, checking how they perform and their impacts on nature.

Compatibility With Fire & Flame 

Finally, ETL tests also focus on flammability. This is a major part of product safety, and the ETL tests ensure proper compliance. 

No Testing Methods For CE Marking 

Finally, we also need to examine the CE certification vs UL and ETL based on their testing methodologies. Considering that ETL and UL vs CE listing are very distinct, here are some important steps on the journey of getting the latter. 

Generally, there aren’t much in terms of independent tests for CE tests. The standard is recognized around the world, but the fact that there are no tests required to get it can seem a bit counterproductive. 

There is a common practice among many product manufacturers to simply make their products and slap the CE mark on them by downloading it on the internet. 

This is one of the major reasons why many American standards organizations and agencies don’t necessarily reckon with the CE mark – a lot of claims tend to be fake, and for most manufacturers, getting the CE mark might not necessarily mean that you’re good to go and can sell your product in the United States.  

If you’re in the United States, this is one important thing to note. Products with the UL and ETL mark are seen as being of higher quality than those with CE markings. 

Where Are They Accepted? 

Next, we compare the three standards based on the regions where they are accepted. Here, you have a pretty straightforward answer. 

For UL certification, there is more prominence placed on it within North America – particularly, within the United States and Canada

The ETL certification holds water mostly in North America as well. However, a major difference between UL and ETL is that this one has a bit of a broader global appeal. 

CE markings tend to stand on their own, focusing more on the European Union and countries within the EEA. And as we said, the fact that they can be manipulated means that American manufacturers and standards organizations don’t necessarily reckon with them. 

Accepted Industry Standards

Next, we need to look into the specific industries where the ETL vs UL certification, as well as CE markings, tend to be more notable. To be fair, all three standards are highly regarded – however, depending on the industry where you operate, you might want to focus more on one than the other. 

For UL certifications, the focus is on providing the right evaluations for electrical and electronic products – as well as industrial tools and appliances. This is the same with ETL, although a major distinction in the ETL vs UL listed comparison is that the former can also work for HVAC tools and LED lighting.

As for CE, the focus expands even more, covering things like consumer products, medical devices, construction tools, and more. 

So, Which Certification Is Better?

As we explained, the focus is mostly on ETL and UL certifications – especially if you’re creating products that will be used in the United States. Both certifications involve extensive testing methods, unlike the CE marking which tends to be a bit more prone to manipulation. 

So, if you’re a product developer or looking to purchase something, try to focus on getting both UL and ETL – or, at the very least, one of them. This way, you can at least be sure that you’re getting the right stuff. 

UL vs ETL vs CE: Key Factors For Choosing Between The Certifications 

So we have the blueprint for differentiating between these certifications and standards. Now, if you’re a product manufacturer, how do you make a choice between the three? 

Start By Understanding Your Target Market

Before anything else, you need to know where you’d like to launch your product and how it’s going to be deployed. As we explained, UL and ETL certifications work better for North American countries. But, if you want to launch your product in Europe, then the CE mark is what you want to get. 

What It Your Product Itself

We’ve also outlined the different industries where these standards tend to be held in high regard. You can easily decide which certification to pursue based on the industry where your product will play. 

How Long Until You Get Clearance? 

The different certifications tend to also come with varying timelines. This is why you need to get proper timelines from the certification bodies to make sure that you’re well within your anticipated rollout period. 

What Will The Certifications Cost?

At the same time, you need to make sure that you have the budget to pay for these certifications. As you would imagine, costs tend to vary across the board. So, consider which certification will be easier to get based on how much you have. 

Now, remember – the cost is only a function of how easy it is to get these certifications. So, if one of the certifications is cheaper but won’t meet your needs, then it might not be worth it.


Certification is one of the most important parts of releasing any product – including lighting. At NSE LED Cloud, we can help to provide better clarity on the right standards to get based on the products you’re trying to sell. 

Reach out to us, and we’ll be more than happy to help you.

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