The National Electrical Code and LED lighting

by Colin Berkshire

You have probably seen these nifty LED light strips. You can mount them under your counter. You can put them in soffits in your living room.

Most of these run on 5v to 12v which is perfectly safe to touch. They are powered by a low voltage power supply.

Well, I have news for you…these are about to become illegal in the United States.

The new 2017 National Electrical code (which will be phased in state-by-state) essentially prohibits almost all of this LED lighting.

The code makes perfectly clear that all voltages are subject to the code and all devices must be “listed”.

What this means is that to install even low voltage LED lights will require you to have an electrician’s license. (You can get a low voltage electrician’s license in Washington State after 2,000 hours of supervised instruction.)

But if the idea of needing 2,000 hours of instruction aren’t enough, the code now requires that every electrical device connected to the electrical network must be “listed”. This means it must be tested by UL or one of the few authorized nationally recognized testing laboratories.

You have perhaps purchased a little power pack from Amazon or somewhere. Turn it over. Does it have a “UL” or “ETL” or “CSA-US” logo on it? If your purchased it as a stand-alone item through eBay or Amazon there is a good chance that it doesn’t have these mandatory tests.

Unfortunately, the US doesn’t recognize any international testing agencies. So that “CE” or “RoHS” or “TUV” or any other icon means nothing in the US. The fact that the device is perfectly safe, and has been certified to meet European standards means nothing under the 2017 National Electrical Code.

That roll of LED lighting that you can cut-to-length works perfectly fine, and is perfectly safe. But you cannot legally connect it to the US electrical network once the 2017 NEC is adopted in your state.

Let me summarize…

That 5-volt or 12-volt flexible LED strip you purchased on Amazon requires installation by a licensed electrician who has 2,000 hours of supervised training. And, because it doesn’t have a ‘listing” (i.e. UL or ETL or CSA-US logo)it can’t be used anyway.

It is precisely this type of regulation which is making the United States increasingly noncompetitive.