UL vs. ETL: What’s the Difference and Why It Matters for LED Lighting

As a trained professional in recessed LED ceiling lights and their certifications, let me explain the differences between an ETL-listed and UL-listed LED lighting certification. I'm an expert in this field and can help you understand them. When comparing ETL vs. UL certification, it’s important to understand how the two differ and what they mean so you can choose the best recessed lighting tested by nationally recognized testing labs.

UL: Underwriters Laboratories


UL certification is a testament to a product's rigorous testing and adherence to specific safety standards. For LED lighting, this includes evaluating materials, construction, performance, and environmental sustainability. The certification process involves inspecting the production process, analyzing documentation, studying test methods, and inspecting the storage process of the produced or imported material.

What Does UL Listed Mean For Lighting?

A UL-listed product indicates that the manufacturer has invested the time and energy required to meet rigorous testing requirements and safety benchmarks. It assures that the product is high-quality and reliable. Thus, you can buy UL lighting with confidence, knowing that you’re choosing a safe product for your home or business.


Do LED Lights Need to be UL Listed?

UL or ETL listing is often a requirement for many lighting applications. In fact, some electricians may refuse to install lighting fixtures without these certifications, and inspectors may not allow them on jobs in the first place.

UL listing can affect your homeowners' insurance, too. Insurance companies may be less likely to look favorably on a fire caused by a non-UL labeled light fixture. For the safety of your home, you should only use lights that have earned UL or ETL certification.

The Dangers of Non-UL Canless Lights

Canless LED lights, otherwise known as downlights or LED wafer lights, may pose potential dangers due to their close proximity to ceiling insulation and other fire-hazardous dry materials in your ceiling.

Potential Electrical Dangers

Faults in the electrical system, short circuits, and even fires could result from non-UL canless lights.

Danger of Fire

Non-UL canless lights lack the necessary certification to ensure their materials and design do not overheat. This poses a greater fire risk, particularly in enclosed or insulated places where they are mounted.

Low-Quality Components

Lights that do not have the UL certification may be made of cheaper materials that are more likely to deteriorate quickly.

Non-compliance with Building Codes

Insurance companies and local building codes often mandate UL-certified products. Using lights that are not UL certified can result in noncompliance, which can impact insurance claims and property value.

Products without UL certification usually do not have full warranties or customer support, so if problems develop, buyers cannot get their money back.


ETL: Electrical Testing Laboratories



ETL, initially founded by Thomas Edison in 1896 as the Lamp Testing Bureau, is now operated by Intertek. ETL tests products against published safety standards from various organizations, including UL, ASME, and ASTM. The ETL mark is widely accepted across the U.S. and Canada as proof of product compliance with these standards. For LED lighting, ETL certification means that each product has undergone extensive testing and meets all safety, quality, and durability requirements for national standards in both countries.

The Dangers of Non-ETL Lighting

Non-ETL LED lights may not provide consistent illumination, color temperature, or lifespan, leading to frequent replacements and unexpected failures.

Reduced Energy Efficiency

They may not be as energy-efficient as certified products, leading to higher energy costs for your home or business.

Electrical Hazards

Non-ETL-certified ceiling lights may have faulty wiring or poor insulation, increasing the risk of electrical shocks and short circuits.

Fire Risk

Without ETL certification, recessed ceiling lights might be made from poor materials that can overheat or catch fire, especially if installed near insulation or other flammable materials.

Poor Quality Materials

These lights may use inferior materials that will melt and overheat due to improper thermal heat dissipation.

Failure to Adhere to Building Codes

Using non-ETL-certified lights can result in non-compliance, affecting insurance claims and property value.

ETL Certification vs. UL

The key distinctions between UL and ETL lie in their certification processes and brand recognition. UL's process is typically more extensive and covers a wider range of evaluations. However, both certifications signify compliance with stringent safety standards. 

What is the Difference Between UL and ETL Certification?

  • Recognition and Trust: UL has a longer history and higher brand recognition among consumers, which can be a significant factor in market acceptance.
  • Testing Process: Both organizations use similar testing methods and standards, but manufacturers often find ETL's testing process more streamlined and quicker.
  • Cost: ETL certification can be more cost-effective for manufacturers, potentially lowering overall consumer costs.

ETL vs UL Certified: Why Choose One Over the Other?

  • Manufacturer's Perspective: Choosing between UL and ETL often comes down to cost, turnaround time, and the specific requirements of the target market. ETL is frequently chosen for its cost-effectiveness and faster certification process.
  • Consumer's Perspective: For consumers, the presence of either mark (UL or ETL) assures that the product is safe and compliant. However, some consumers might prefer UL due to its longer-standing reputation.

The Importance of Certification for LED Lighting

UL and ETL certifications are not just labels, they are crucial in ensuring the safety and quality of LED products. While they may differ in their processes and market recognition, both provide valuable assurance to consumers and professionals, giving you the peace of mind that safety standards are met.

  • Safety Assurance: UL and ETL certifications indicate that LED products have been rigorously tested to prevent electrical hazards and other safety risks.
  • Insurance: Some insurance companies may require the use of certified products to provide coverage.
  • Quality Indicator: These certifications serve as a benchmark for product quality, encompassing performance and durability standards.
  • Regulatory compliance: UL and ETL certifications are not just about safety and quality; they are also about regulatory compliance. Many building codes and regulations require UL or ETL-listed products, making these certifications essential for widespread application and ensuring that your LED lighting choices are legal and compliant.
  • Consumer and Professional Confidence: Certified products provide peace of mind to end-users and industry professionals, ensuring that safety standards are met.

It's crucial to note that while certification is essential, it should be considered alongside other factors such as energy efficiency, color rendering index, and overall product quality when selecting LED lighting solutions. You can learn more about these in our Guide to LED Lighting Standards and Certifications

My Final Thoughts

Whether you choose UL or ETL-certified LED lighting, both certifications offer a high level of assurance regarding the product's safety, performance, and compliance. However, regardless of your choice, always prioritize certified products to ensure the safety and reliability of your LED lighting. NuWatt’s fire rated wafer lights are rigorously tested to meet or exceed standards like UL263, ASTM E119, and CAN ULC S101. Whether you’re looking for new lighting for your business or remodeling your kitchen, you can trust NuWatt to deliver safety and quality.