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UL ratings of components

samwheat

Member
Messages
231
I've built about 14 amps for my use so far and everybody keeps telling me that I should sell them. After some thought and prayer I've decided to cater to local musicians. I have quite a collection of vintage tubes that I plan to sell to them along with using them in my builds.

But I'm still hesitant about doing this with the parts within. My dilemma is how are these amp manufacturer's getting away with using non-UL listed switches and fuses in their products. Take for instance a Carling 110 SPST switch used for power and standby. That switch is only UL rated for 250VDC yet many use them in builds with a higher HT line. Same thing for typical HT fuses which are rated up to 250VAC yet it is UL listed and rated for 32VDC yet Marshall uses them in their HT line. Even the fuseholder is not UL rated for 500VDC.

I even question the transformers I have which have been wound to "vintage" specs and not to what current codes require.

For you, as an amp builder, how do you get around this? How do the major manufacturers get around this? Don't they follow the Latest National Electric Code?

I'm interested in your experience and your take on this.
 

skipm45

Member
Messages
297
On my "day job" I've worked with UL to quallify products. My first hand experience here is that
a.) its difficult
b.) it's expensive
c.) it's time consuming

This is not an endorsement of "shade tree electronic products". Just stating what I think are probably the reasons why many boutique builders don't bother to certify.


Skip
www.skipzcircuits.com
 

SatelliteAmps

Member
Messages
6,186
The protection and value of a UL listing is not worth it to me, financially. The parts I use would all pass, but the cost of doing it for each amp is quite a bit. (Roughly $12-15,000 for each model, and you cannot change the amp without retesting. We currently have 12 amp models, so to get GC to consider our line of products would cost me $144,000 minimum before they would even look.). Most stores don't care. The big guys do. Guitar Center will only sell new amps with a UL certification. Vintage and used, they don't care.

For the record, there is no law saying anything has to be UL rated. It is a certification process to show (theoretically. They have been wrong in the past) that a device is safe in most normal operating circumstances, won't catch fire, and won't electrocute the operator of the device.

The other option is to get a CE certification. It's cheaper and is a European Union standard. It covers as much safety concerns as a UL listing. Neither one really offers the protection it once did though. If someone gets electrocuted, and they sue, no certification is going to save the builder.

For the record, everything I use in my amps would pass a UL or CE designation. Our power supplies are as safe as they can be. There is no skimping when it comes to protecting my customers. The only skimping is not wanting to make my customers pay for something that won't do anything for any of us.
 

uberpict

Member
Messages
500
I agree, having worked with UL some as well it's lot of hassle and unecessary unless there are regulations specifically requiring UL certification. NEC probably doesn't cover guitar amps, probably no local codes and most distributors would say, "huh, UL, wass that". Now if you want to export and sell to Europe you would have to have the CE label and follow the specifications on that, lot more rigid than US regulations.

As far as the component ratings, follow the manufacturers spec sheet and not the UL listings. UL has large safety factors on top of the manufacturer's safety factors from what I've seen. One product I was involved in the developmet of was an AC motor starter; it's tested at six times rated load per the UL specification. So a 10HP starter is tested at 60HP and has to pass to get certified. So that switch may be UL tested at 6x250VDC or 1500VDC to get rated at 250VDC. Which makes it fine for 500VDC.
 

uberpict

Member
Messages
500
For the record, there is no law saying anything has to be UL rated. It is a certification process to show (theoretically. They have been wrong in the past) that a device is safe in most normal operating circumstances, won't catch fire, and won't electrocute the operator of the device.
Not entirely true, NEC and local codes will require UL certification. Depends on the product. The motor starter I was involved in developing required UL certification per NEC and local codes which sometimes follow the NEC. Sometimes local codes are more stringent than UL or NEC. Some other products I've worked with required UL certification per local codes, combination safe locks have to have it.

The other option is to get a CE certification. It's cheaper and is a European Union standard. It covers as much safety concerns as a UL listing. Neither one really offers the protection it once did though. If someone gets electrocuted, and they sue, no certification is going to save the builder.
True, CE standards are usually less stringent than UL, NEC or NEMA from the limited exposure I've had to them. However, to export to Europe you absolutely must have the CE label or customs won't let it enter the country. Then, IIRC, to pass CE you have to meet Rohs standards which can shoot a lot of parts down. No lead, cadmium, hexavalent chromium which was a big thing with amplifiers and some components have been grandfathered in allowing them to pass.
 
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phsyconoodler

Member
Messages
4,315
14-$15,000 for one amp?
I get a local government recognized company to check my amps at roughly 175.00per hr plus travelling time,including hi-pot testing.Then the stickers are 3 bucks each.The more doumentation you can provide the easier it goes.They do as many amps as they can in that one hour.
Where do you get the 15,000 number from,and what do they do for that insane amount of money?
 

SatelliteAmps

Member
Messages
6,186
However, to export to Europe you absolutely must have the CE label or customs won't let it enter the country. Then, IIRC, to pass CE you have to meet Rohs standards which can shoot a lot of parts down. No lead, cadmium, hexavalent chromium which was a big thing with amplifiers and some components have been grandfathered in allowing them to pass.
Thankfully, it looks like Rohs might get shelved. It's not a great system IMO.

14-$15,000 for one amp?
I get a local government recognized company to check my amps at roughly 175.00per hr plus travelling time,including hi-pot testing.Then the stickers are 3 bucks each.The more doumentation you can provide the easier it goes.They do as many amps as they can in that one hour.
Where do you get the 15,000 number from,and what do they do for that insane amount of money?
UL cost is mostly paperwork, documentation, preparation, and paying for the actual testing, plus three of your actual product that will be used (and usually destroyed) in testing. You will then get a registered UL number, and the allowance of affixing that number on your product forever. A lot of dealers who used to require a UL will accept a CE now. (the actual European Union one, not the Chinese Export one that looks identical except the letters are closer together. Pretty funny actually. I'm sure a few of the slip by the uneducated.)

What are you getting when you get yours checked? Do they check each one you make, or just one of each model? I know what it takes to get a CE cert, and that is much more than as many as can be handled in an hour.
 

donnyjaguar

Member
Messages
4,201
I was involved with this in Canada where CSA and UL have actually agreed more recently. Historically it was a culture of one-upmanship with requirements. You can do a lot of the testing yourself and submit it, but there is a lot of testing. I don't think you even need an EE designation to get a (C)UL certificaiton. Note that they do come and inspect your facilities and not sure about UL but CSA is all "surprise" inspections.

I've noticed more recently the way many consumer goods manufacturers get around it is to use a Chinese sweat shop power supply that is approved and DC input to the device. Not something you can do with a guitar amplifier.

From a legal standpoint I don't think there is anything stopping you selling goods that aren't UL approved. Not sure if this puts you in a dubious position from a legal standpoint.

Finally, you can generally have devices "Hydro" approved in Canada on a one-off basis. I'm sure the same loophole applies in the USA. Another consideration.
 

phsyconoodler

Member
Messages
4,315
The 'hydro' approval originates from Ontario Hydro.
I think the 14,000 price tag would be for manufacturers that sell thousands of the same model.They check out three and give the approval for all the projected sales of all the same model amp.I just sell individual models and doing it that way is much cheaper.
Mr. Satellite,you may want to investigate that method if it's available to you in the US.
 

GearHeadFred

Member
Messages
1,651
We do UL certs for my "day job" - digital broadcast equipment.

It's a pain - The stickers have to be printed on special stock, with special ink... even after you receive the cert, you have to pay UL to come inspect your manufacturing facility every 3 months. it's a PITA.
 

uberpict

Member
Messages
500
I was involved with this in Canada where CSA and UL have actually agreed more recently. Historically it was a culture of one-upmanship with requirements. You can do a lot of the testing yourself and submit it, but there is a lot of testing. I don't think you even need an EE designation to get a (C)UL certificaiton. Note that they do come and inspect your facilities and not sure about UL but CSA is all "surprise" inspections.

I've noticed more recently the way many consumer goods manufacturers get around it is to use a Chinese sweat shop power supply that is approved and DC input to the device. Not something you can do with a guitar amplifier.

From a legal standpoint I don't think there is anything stopping you selling goods that aren't UL approved. Not sure if this puts you in a dubious position from a legal standpoint.

Finally, you can generally have devices "Hydro" approved in Canada on a one-off basis. I'm sure the same loophole applies in the USA. Another consideration.
You know, I think you're right there, the codes themselves don't specify UL certification but getting the certification insures you meet the codes. I was wrong about the codes themselves specifying UL certs. UL standards and certifications follow national standards bodies like ANSI and manufacturer standards like NEMA which also get rolled into regulations like the NEC and local codes. Makes my head spin. :nuts
 




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