By Allan P. Sanedrin, UL Solutions, principal engineer — Fire and Life Safety Signaling Systems, Built Environment
In the fire and life safety signaling systems industry, efficacy testing — “Can the product do what it’s supposed to do?” — represents one of the key pillars of safety. Industry stakeholders share this perspective, which drives testing and evaluation to closely review the product design and components.
Test failures and noncompliances occur regularly. They necessitate redesign, re-evaluation and retesting, leading to project completion delays. The following list on UL product certification of fire and life safety signaling equipment addresses the top five main causes, along with action items to help compliance engineers mitigate them.
1. Every component matters
The component temperature test measures the operating temperature of all components. The capacitor reliability test measures the voltage across every capacitor. Alternate components — especially relays, transient suppressors and microprocessors — require evaluation and likely retesting of the end product with the alternate components populated.
Control the components described in the bill of materials and know that alternates may require further evaluation and testing.
2. Third-party equipment poses a high risk
- During the product certification project, the manufacturer shall submit the bill of materials, component layout drawings and component specifications to UL Solutions.
- Redesign or sourcing of an alternate component may be the only course of action when a test failure or other noncompliance occurs.
- Upon certification, we enroll the third-party product in UL Solutions Follow-Up Services, where products are subject to regular inspections at the production facility. We inspect the product construction to the level of discrete component details to verify that it still meets the original requirements under which it earned certification.
Develop agreements with equipment partners such that information sharing, redesign and product inspections at the production facility do not become an unsurmountable barrier to product certification.
3. Manuals play a critical role
Installation instructions, installation wiring diagrams, programming instructions, operating instructions and product markings are integral parts of the product. These documents undergo review in the preliminary review phase of the project. The product operations verified, the test setups, configurations and equipment that the manufacturer needs to submit for testing are based on the ratings and functions claimed in the product documentation.
Make product documentation a top priority. Have it available early in the product certification submission process and be aware that changes in the documentation can require additional evaluation and testing.
4. Compatibility claims are important
Equipment is not assessed in isolation. It undergoes evaluation as part of a system to verify compatibility. The installation instructions shall identify the interconnected devices and systems by manufacturer, model, ratings and software version, as applicable.
- The devices and systems interconnecting to the equipment under evaluation shall be UL certified for their intended application.
- Initiating devices, notification appliances, conventional two-wire smoke detectors, signaling line circuit devices, releasing devices, amplifiers and any other ancillary devices that connect to the control unit are to be identified in the installation instructions.
- For off-premises signaling transmission equipment, the installation instructions shall specify compatible receiving equipment and communication protocols, respectively.
- Interconnections with other systems shall be indicated in the installation instructions.
Finalize the compatibility lists and be prepared to include the equipment in the test setup for system testing.
5. Software versions are controlled
Products that use executive software, site-specific software and firmware require evidence of software integrity as defined in the applicable standards.
Review the software integrity testing requirements in the applicable standards and verify that your company’s internal software testing includes those tests. Prepare a software integrity test report to submit to UL Solutions.
Awareness of these five points and following the action items increases the probability of a successful product certification project. Due to rigorous efficacy testing, UL product certifications of fire and life safety signaling systems can prove complex. To partner with manufacturers, UL Solutions offers early engagement projects, where we get involved early in the product development process. This includes involvement during the prototype or initial design phases. In an early engagement project, we highlight high-risk factors, identify critical decisions and review for any detectable noncompliances. This occurs prior to the product certification project to lower the risk of unforeseen noncompliances.
About UL Solutions
A global leader in applied safety science, UL Solutions transforms safety, security and sustainability challenges into opportunities for customers in more than 100 countries. UL Solutions delivers testing, inspection and certification services, software products and advisory offerings that support our customers' product innovation and business growth. The UL Certification Mark is a recognized symbol of trust in our customers' products and reflects an unwavering commitment to advancing our safety mission. We help our customers innovate, launch new products and services, navigate global markets and complex supply chains, and grow sustainably and responsibly into the future.