Getting Listed for Networks

by Colin Berkshire

The 2017 National Electrical Code mandates that every device connected to the electrical network must be “listed”. This now applies to every permanently installed electrical device operating on any voltage.

So it means that something as simple as an RJ-45 connector or a rack-mount RJ-45 patch panel bust be “listed”.

What is “listing” and how do you get something “listed”?

To get something “listed” you need to have it tested by a NRTL (Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory). There are only a very few of these, and they have names like UL or ETL or CSA or TUV.

The process typically takes several months and generally costs about $25,000 to $35,000 for the testing to be done. Once the testing is completed, then there will be ongoing listing fees of about $15,000 or more per year for as long as the items is manufactured or sold.

Each and every separately installed component must be individually “listed”. That means that a keystone plate must be separately listed. The keystone jack must be listed. The wire must be listed. The plastic wall box that you mount the keystone plate onto must be listed. The clips that you use to support the wires must be listed. The conduit that the wire goes into must be listed. The 110 block you terminate the wire on must be listed. The mounting panel you mount the 110 block to must be listed.

In the past, low voltage wiring has generally been “left alone”. The greatest hazard it has presented has been smoke from the PVC jacket during a fire. We have learned to use plenum wire in ducts and above suspended ceilings.

But now getting a product listed involves dozens or tests and inspections. The main regulation is over 1,000 pages. Then, the ASTM and other optional regulations (and there can be dozens of them) range from 10 to 1,000 pages each.

The worst part of it is that these governmentally mandated regulations are not public information. You must purchase each one because you are allowed to look at it. And, you must agree not to share the regulation with anybody else. The cost is about $60 to $200 per regulation that you purchase a license for.

So, just learning what is required before you manufacture something can easily cost $10,000 just to purchase the regulations.

The whole low voltage “listing” thing is a giant scam. I have no kind words for it.