The below article is about "UL" listing, but "ETL" listing is now becoming just as common as "UL" and is often interchangeable.
The flexible lighting products we sell are very versatile, available in an assortment of colors and suitable for a variety of applications. However, one of the most confusing aspects of rope lights and other cut-to-length flexible lighting products is their UL listing.Be careful when you read a rope light or other flexible lighting product is UL listed. Know what it means.
Why is this? In short, the answer is very simple: field modification. You see, linear lights are usually manufactured and sold in bulk spools with a variety of accessories. And even more accessories are available for purchase on our website. The whole reason for this is that we want our customers to have the flexibility to modify their rope lights as they see fit for their application...whether it be cutting to length in the field, joining runs together with a splice, or tee-in one run into two others. But these methods (even when following manufacturer instructions) are not UL-approved simply due to the fact that the folks at Underwriter's Laboratories cannot go around certifying every cut, splice, and termination done by a customer or installer at their home or installation site. This does not mean that flexible lighting products, or the practice of field modification, are unsafe, just unsupervised.Regarding all flexible lighting products, regardless of seller or manufacturer: the only ones that are UL listed per UL 2388 are those that are fully assembled and terminated at the factory using a pre-approved process. These lights cannot be modified by the end user and still maintaining their UL rating.
What happens if you go ahead and field modify a UL listed rope light? When you make that first cut, the UL listing is effectively gone.
You will notice that we identify some of our products as being UL (or ETL) listed. What this means is that the light is UL (or ETL) listed only in its original, uncut factory condition with pre-attached power cord. Cutting the light will void the listing.NOTE: On low voltage bulk spools, often the amount of light on the bulk spool is longer then the maximum length of the product. In this case, the product must be cut from the spool to be used. Certain products will retain their rating (UL or ETL) from the pre-attached power cord up to the maximum length of the product, at which point it must be cut from the spool and terminated. Products that have this ability will be labeled as such on our website.
If it is important to you to maintain the UL listing for your project, you may either use an entire bulk spool as it is shipped, use a smaller kit that is prepackaged by the manufacturer (if available), or use a UL-listed custom cut. Please note that most of our "custom cut" lights are cut by us in-house, and as such are not UL listed, unless specifically noted otherwise.
Please contact us if you have additional questions about UL listings on flexible lighting products.