What Does UL Mean on Appliance Cords?

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The UL mark on an appliance cord indicates it meets certain standards.
The UL mark on an appliance cord indicates it meets certain standards.

Underwriters Laboratories, best known as UL, is a worldwide independent safety-testing agency with a primary focus on product safety. Because so many manufacturers value the work of UL, the UL mark is ubiquitous -- you see it on a multitude of items throughout your home and place of business. Appliance cords are just one example of the many types of products UL tests for safety.

  1. Mission

    • UL began as the Underwriter's Electrical Bureau in 1894. Manufacturers and consumers alike generally consider UL to be the authority in product safety testing. On its website, UL lists several points to its mission. The organization strives to apply safety science and engineering, achieve progress in safety science, support the manufacture and use of safe products and help people prevent loss of life and property.

    Power Cords

    • The UL mark on an appliance cord means the organization has tested representative samples of the cord for potential safety hazards and certified the cord as safe for that particular equipment. One consideration is that a cord must have a certain gauge to effectively and safely supply power to an appliance of a certain wattage at a specific distance. Notice how short and thick a microwave cord is compared with a lamp cord, for example. Look for the UL mark on extension cords as well.

    Other Products

    • UL evaluates thousands of products in addition to appliance cords, including the appliances themselves. Some of the items UL tests and certifies include electric and gas cooking equipment, dishwashers, clothes washers and dryers, air conditioners and dehumidifiers. The organization also evaluates personal computers, vacuum cleaners, portable electric tools, smoke alarms, hair dryers and curling irons. Not all the products UL tests are electric or battery-powered; UL evaluates the safety of ladders, fire extinguishers and pools.

    Counterfeit UL Marks

    • A small number of electrical products with fraudulent UL marks make it onto the market, according to the UL website. Several tips from UL can help you avoid buying one of these items. Don't buy packaged electrical products if the box doesn't show the brand, product name and UL mark. You might see items like this at deep-discount stores, for example. The UL mark should be on both the box and the product. An unusually cheap price may indicate substandard materials that UL would not certify as safe. In North America, a legitimate UL mark is in a circle along with the word "listed" underneath in capital letters.

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