Getting to know the certification process for lighting products

CSA Canadian Code
CSA Canadian Code

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports an estimated 1500 to 3000 residential structure fires, and an estimated property loss of $44 million to $77 million, each year from lighting equipment. Additionally, there are approximately ten deaths and 90 injuries each year from lighting equipment.

To reduce these numbers and mitigate the risk to people, property, and manufacturing organizations, a testing and certification plan can be vital for lighting products. Understanding what certification engineers are looking for when testing lighting products can be critical in ensuring a smooth, efficient process. So what is pertinent to a lighting certification project? What information needs to be provided? What is the process? It all starts with the information manufacturers provide to their testing and certification vendor.

Gathering all the required and recommended information is one of the most challenging aspects of preparing for certification of a lighting project. It is important that manufacturers provide the right information from the start, and expert guidance can be critical to getting through this stage.

The details that certification engineers are looking for depend upon the safety standard(s) used and often differ from product to product. This information is used to determine how much engineering and technician time is needed to complete the certification process. The process includes a construction evaluation of the product to the relevant safety standards, conducting all necessary testing, and creating (or modifying) the certification descriptive report and other supporting documents. Much of the information collected for the product under evaluation is used to create a certification descriptive report, which details the name of the product, its ratings, the standards used for evaluation, the required markings and instructions, its individual parts, and the results of the testing conducted. CSA Group uses generic forms that help describe the product, but that only gives a limited conception of the product.

As a general guideline, the following information is needed to begin the process for certification:

  1. A picture of the product or specification sheet
  2. A bill of materials (BOM)
  3. Installation instructions
  4. Electrical schematics (if required)

A picture is worth a thousand words

The most helpful piece of information is a picture of the product. From an accurate picture, a lot of information can be quickly determined visually. If provided in a specification sheet, it is usually the first document opened. The ratings, method of installation, location of installation, and model variations are several factors that are considered.



The composition of a lighting product

A bill of materials that is typically provided from a manufacturer that lists the parts used to build the product is helpful, yet it only goes so far. An engineer needs to know what materials are used in the product, including those that are not easily determined simply by looking at a sample. All the critical components of a luminaire need to be detailed. Critical components include those parts which form an enclosure, power supplies, lamp holders, cord bushings, cords, batteries, switches, LEDs, printed wiring boards, and other parts critical to the luminaire operation.

Metal must meet or exceed a minimum thickness or equivalent strength depending on the type used. A polymeric material must meet minimum flammability ratings and be suitable for the conditions of use. An engineer will require proof that a polymeric material is suitable for the application, such as verification from a certification directory. If an accredited test lab has not evaluated the material itself for a required rating, the product’s material evaluation is added to the project. This addition can increase the cost of the project significantly. An expanded bill of materials, including certification file numbers, model number, or material designation and ratings for all critical components, is one of the best representations that help detail this needed information.

More than a manual

Installation instructions that show how the product should be mounted or used in service must accompany any luminaire. We use lighting in so many different locations and even use it for various purposes apart from being able to see in the dark. The safety standards applicable can depend on the installation location and the method of connection to the electrical grid. In some cases, a product could fit into several lighting standards. Knowing the product’s intended installation and end use allows for a better determination of the evaluation standards.

When is additional testing required?

Electrical schematics for parts that have not been evaluated to appropriate safety standards are necessary to determine if additional testing is required. An LED driver or power supply that is intended only for use with a particular LED module circuit should be provided with schematics. These type of products also require an evaluation of electrical faults, such as simulating open and short circuit conditions based on common failure modes of certain components. A custom LED module or array with multiple LEDs requires information on the electrical arrangement, such as the number of parallel series of LEDs. Depending on the function of the circuit and if identified as performing a critical safety function, a circuit may also be needed to be evaluated as a safety-related electronic circuit to functional safety requirements. If, during the evaluation process, any of the components are found not to conform to the appropriate standard or used outside the rated electrical values, an additional evaluation can be required.

It is all in the details

The amount of detail required for a large number of products (like a catalogue), can take a considerable amount of time to organize and consolidate in a meaningful way. The best way to make information easy to understand is to create an initial spreadsheet of all models. The spreadsheet header should include max input rating, lamp type, lamp wattage, lamp compartment type, lamp compartment size, amp orientation, number of lamps in a lamp compartment, luminaire mounting method, and environmental location. This will be helpful in reducing the time and effort required to determine what needs to be tested and produce a quote.

The samples requested by a test lab depend on the scope of the project and should be as close to a production model as possible. Testing to safety standards includes various methods for many constructions and electrical features, and not all tests may apply. Creating a proper test plan is necessary to result in a comprehensive and reasonably priced project. In many cases, the product found with the most non-conformities is selected for the test to represent all other models with that feature. Still, in some cases, multiple samples and tests may be required to test a feature that is different between models.

Evaluating the hazards

Lighting products can present several potential hazards that are evaluated during the certification process. Safety standards were created to mitigate known hazards and potential hazards that may occur through improper installation or misuse. Lighting products are used in many different locations, and the hazards associated with those installations may not be the same in all locations. For instance, a luminaire installed within an occupied space must include enough protection to prevent the product from being a contributing factor to a risk of fire and be able to withstand a certain level of abuse.

A product that can be within reach should also be relatively stable and not present an electrical hazard during use. A lighting product must also be suitable for the location of installation or use, such as its ability to resist moisture and the effects of the sun.

Lighting products used for emergency egress purposes are additionally evaluated to meet minimum light output requirements for a minimum amount of time in the event of a loss of power. Products with rechargeable batteries are evaluated to help ensure they can be recharged and discharged safely. Products with wall dimmers are evaluated for use with a dimmer under the worst possible operating conditions.

The details that are required for this process can be numerous and significant.

For manufacturers in the industry, the certification process can be made less cumbersome by providing as much detail upfront when requesting services from a test laboratory. As recognized, accepted, and relied upon by authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs), testing and certification of lighting products by an accredited body have become predominant to help in preventing the damage and loss caused by fire due to unsafe lighting scenarios. Evaluating hazards and compiling critical information in an efficient manner are key aspects of this process. While this journey may seem cumbersome, there are organizations with experts who help manufacturers navigate it efficiently.


CSA Group always strives to provide up to date and accurate information. However, no representation or warranty, expressed or implied, is made that this information meets your specific needs, and any reliance on this information is at your own risk. Please contact CSA Group for more information about our services.

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CSA Group
The CSA Group, is a not-for-profit standards organization which develops standards in 57 areas. CSA publishes standards in print and electronic form and provides training and advisory services.