056. Idea – What are ANSI and UL Ratings


Chris: 00:30

Welcome to EECO Asks Why. Today, we’re going to be digging into the top of the ANSI and UL ratings. What’s the difference in them? Why does it matter? So today we have with us, Mr. Jonathan Fuller. Welcome Jonathan. 

Jonathan: 00:41

Hey, thank you. 

Chris: 00:42

Hope you’re doing good today, buddy. 

Jonathan: 00:44

Not too bad. How about you? 

Chris: 00:46

Doing good. ANSI and UL let’s maybe start with our listeners to just give them an explanation of what ANSI is the American National Standards Institute. So can you walk them through what that ANSI really represents and does? 

Jonathan: 01:00

Yeah sure. ANSI, like you said, American National Standards Institute. It’s an association, a nonprofit association, that’s been around since the early 19 hundreds. And they’re more directed towards, like longevity and how things work and making sure that they’re built to a certain standard so that they’re going to be there and perform the way they’re supposed to for a long period of time.

Chris: 01:23

Okay. And you said they were in the early 19 hundreds is when this association came to be? 

Jonathan: 01:29

Yeah. 

Chris: 01:29

I got you. So lots of times I think of ANSI, I think of the standards, right? What people have to build stuff too. So is that correct in my thinking?

Jonathan: 01:38

Right. So the ANSI standards are there and it’s a set of standards that manufacturers need to have their equipment made to those standards to meet the ANSI standards, for that specific type of equipment. 

Chris: 01:52

I got you. And then we’re talking strictly United States manufacturing with this ANSI standards, correct?

Jonathan: 01:59

Yes. I mean they have global competitiveness, but it’s usually based just here in the United States. 

Chris: 02:06

Okay. Very good. Very good. Now let’s move to the UL, the Underwriters Laboratories. Can you walk through that for us?

Jonathan: 02:14

Yep. UL is also a nonprofit association. It was founded late 18 hundreds, 1894, I believe. And so the Underwriter’s Lab is more geared towards safety and standards and things like that as far as like insurance safety and things like fire and other kinds of electro, mechanical or electric shock safety. 

Their standards are geared towards safety whereas ANSI standards were more geared towards making sure that something was built to a certain standard to perform the way it was meant to. 

Chris: 02:48

Okay. Cause I’m thinking like safety, reliability. Would that be a couple of good descriptions?

Jonathan: 02:54

Yes. 

Chris: 02:55

All right. I have experienced with UL back when eco actually did motor services. We would have the UL representative come into the shop and they would have to measure different sizes and different tolerances and things like that. But it’s always around for a UL motor containing like the exit if the motor failed for instance, we’re trying to contain the flame and anything, any fumes, things like that. So those tolerance fits, those rabbit fits, where endbells come together or the junction box, things like that they would really dig deep and a very tight spec. And they would cross check, basically everything that we did. But I always thought of it is really enhancing a safety program. So …

Jonathan: 03:43

Yeah, exactly. There’s a pretty cool, thing that I went through when I used to help manufacture and design switch gear for their arc-resistant arc flash gear, where they would actually hold cotton sheets up about two inches away from a piece of equipment and they would blow the equipment up.

And they would test to see if there was any kind of char marks on those cotton sheets that were held up about two inches away. Then it would fail the UL test. So that was kinda cool. And brings back to your point all about safety and containing the arc blast in that regard. 

Chris: 04:18

Well, they both have ratings, right? You have an ANSI rating. You have a UL rating. So maybe let’s talk our listeners through what are those ratings and what do they mean? 

Jonathan: 04:28

As far as, in my regard, I’m more familiar with kind of switch gears, switch boards, things like that. So there’s going to be some UL ratings that apply to a piece of gear, as well as like you mentioned, the ANSI writings are gonna apply to it as also. In my instance, I’m thinking like, we can talk about like circuit breaker. So there’s a UL489 design and test theory for circuit breakers, as well as an ANSI C 37 design. So they both talk about the safety of the breaker, as well as their ability to perform a certain amount of operations and things like that.

So the ANSI side is more the design and operation whereas the UL side of it is more geared towards the safety and making sure that it performs in a safe manner for protection of people. But they’re both ratings that apply to a circuit breaker. 

Chris: 05:22

Okay. Both the UL and the ANSI apply to circuit breakers is what you’re saying here. Okay. 

Jonathan: 05:27

Yes. And they have a lot of the same tests that they do as far as things like dielectric or calibration temperature endurant short circuit. Both UL and ANSI standards require those kinds of tests done on a circuit breaker. 

Chris: 05:41

Got you. Now you’ve centered in on circuit breakers. So do ANSI ratings go beyond that or UL ratings go beyond just circuit breakers in electrical distribution equipment? 

Jonathan: 05:54

Yeah, absolutely. You’re going to have UL ratings for, like a piece of switchgear as well as ANSI ratings for a piece of switch gear as well. But it kinda starts at that circuit breaker because at the end of the day, a piece of switch gears just a big gray box with lots of circuit breakers in it. That’s a very simplified, overlook of it. But, the circuit breaker is the central part of that switch gear. 

Chris: 06:16

Yeah, I’ll protect you when our partners from Eaton come hunt you down after that comment. But it’s all good, man. So when you’re talking about ANSI and UL, we’ve talked about their differences a little bit. Are there any similarities between the two, when you talk about their ratings? 

Jonathan: 06:34

Yeah. In a lot of their testings and things like that, they require the same kind of test. UL, for instance, will say like the temperature has to have a certain amount of temperature rise at lawn and load terminals, they say 50 degrees C for UL489, whereas ANSI says 55 degrees C. So they have a lot of the same standards, it’s just that number, like instance the temperature number or like their overload or endurance, the amount of operations are gonna differ a little bit, but they’d both have those standards built in.

Chris: 07:05

Okay. Gotcha. Gotcha. So those standards you’ve been referencing there, are there any minimum standards that we should be aware of when we’re trying to source our electrical distribution equipment? 

Jonathan: 07:17

Well, I mean, you’re always gonna want to have, you all writing, especially if it’s here in the United States. You’re always going to want to have that you all rating for your equipment, to make sure that it’s up to code and safe. For instance, with your equipment, you’re going to want to make sure that you’ve got that UL 489 rating as well as that ANSI rating of the C 37. 

Chris: 07:39

Okay. And what about the, 508?

Jonathan: 07:43

With UL 508, that’s more towards like panels, industrial control panels and panel shops are going to have kind of that UL 508 rating to make sure that they’re bringing it up to the correct version. There’s also a UL 1066 rating, that has to do with low voltage wires and circuit breakers. So those are just some of the different standards that you can find in. There’s a large list of all those kinds of standards that you can find out there on the internet. 

Chris: 08:12

Okay. So can you get switch gear or electrical distribution equipment without an ANSI or without a UL rating? 

Jonathan: 08:22

So you can’t get it without an ANSI rating that I’m aware of because that’s a standard that the equipment needs to be built to be able to be called switch gear or switchboard. As far as getting it without a UL rating, you can technically get it without a UL rating. I know a lot of manufacturers won’t allow it to ship out their door. Any reputable manufacturer, they’re not gonna let it go out the factory door without it being UL listed because that’s a liability.

Now, as soon as you get it installed, you’re going to have someone from UL come out and verify and inspect that piece of equipment. Once they have verified and inspected it and you’ve got that UL stamp, it’s up to the customer to either maintain that or modify the gear if they want to.

But one thing was like the UL labels on a piece of equipment. Everything inside that piece of equipment has to be UL listed to be able to qualify that entire piece of switch gear as UL listed. If there’s any kind of component that’s installed, it’s not UL listed, then that voids the entire UL listing on the whole piece of gear.

So switch gear manufacturers have to be very diligent in making sure that all of the components that they’re sourcing for that gear are UL listed?

Chris: 09:34

Right. Now you’ve mentioned, so once the owner gets the equipment, it’s UL rated, it’s got the ANSI rating. Can we do anything as owners of electrical distribution equipment to take that rating away, with doing work on it or things like that?

Jonathan: 09:53

Yeah, absolutely. So if you’ve got, a piece of gear and it’s been UL listed and you go in and you make modifications to it or install a new meters or contactors, or any kind of thing in there, that’s technically not UL listed anymore until it’s come back out and inspected. And so if you install a meter, for example, that’s not UL listed, then you’re not going to be able to get that gear recertified as UL.

Chris: 10:19

Right. You’ve worked around switch gear, motor control for quite a while. What mistakes, do you have any experiences that you could call back on that maybe would help our listeners learn, or avoid any mistakes when it comes to applying ANSI and UL ratings in their equipment? 

Jonathan: 10:36

Yeah. we’ve had some customers that wrote into their specs. They made sure that they wanted a certain one certain meter or one certain relay installed in that piece of gear. And we couldn’t install it for him because that would void the UL listing. So we ended up having to refuse to do that for them and they had to go and install it in the field. But then we’ve also had customers say, “Oh, I didn’t realize that, so-and-so device, wasn’t UL listed? Thanks for letting us know. We don’t want that. Here’s a substitute that we want now instead.” 

So that UL listing is, and the ANSI listing, they’re very important. When it comes to things like insurance and stuff like that manufacturers and plants are required to have for their facility. So if a piece of gear is not you all listed, that can have issues with their insurance company. 

Chris: 11:26

Okay. So you’re getting to a point of why is it important? I was trying to get there. EECO Asks Why, we always got to get to this question. So why is it important to have a basic understanding of the ratings? Is the insurance the big why here, or outside of safety obviously that’s the number one why, but just curious on what is the main driver? Why should our listeners care about these ratings? 

Jonathan: 11:50

Yeah, absolutely. Safety, obviously everybody’s safety is the number one priority. But another big one again is that insurance. You’re required to have insurance at your facility and, if something were to happen, that’s what the insurance is there for to make sure that you are taken care of. So if you’ve got some equipment that’s not UL listed and things like that, the insurance company might try and point to that and you could have some issues down the line. 

Chris: 12:14

Gotcha. Gotcha. Thank you, Jonathan. I think, you really helped us here today with ANSI and UL ratings, why they’re important, the differences between them, the similarities. I think you really help our listeners understand when it comes to their electrical distribution equipment, having the right ratings in this all about safety for one, we want to keep our people safe in the plant, our heroes that we talk about all the time. Uh, and just making sure that you have the, the right rated equipment will ensure reliability and that equipment is going to run, you know, for the run life that’s desired. So really appreciate your time today, Jonathan. 

Jonathan: 12:52

Thanks for having me.