Electrical Appliances

I have no experience designing electrical goods and have been wondering about 2 things lately I was hoping someone here could help me out with.

When people sell electrical devices on kickstarter it seems like they just ignore certification testing for different country’s which I would have thought had pretty stringent legal requirements. Am I missing something where they can just do this under certain conditions? Where would the responsibility lay though if something does go wrong - is it with the designer, purchaser, or possibly even kickstarter?

I had heard that in Australia it costs about $7k to get a simple household powered appliance approved which turns a lot of people off doing their own electrical products. With a company like IKEA though, who has a massive range of different electrical products, would they bother getting certification for every electrical product they sell in every region?


In the EU its the importer of the goods that is responsible that the product meets all the legal aspects.
For kickstarters projects you get the item sent to you, which means you are the importer. If your house burns down and they find out it was an item which doesn’t comply with all the CE directives, there wont be any insurance covering the damages.
Even if the item was CE marked it can still not meet the CE directives, because there is no approval organization.

To be sold in the EU it must be CE marked but anyone can put the CE mark on the product, as long as the product meet the CE directives. The certifier is the one responsible that it meets all CE directives.

Even if you try and do everything right with lots of money, there is still no guarantee you are safe. You will just have better evidence in court. You can bet your ass that IKEA and similar companies test their products against every countries compliance. Otherwise they would have a high chance of losing when sued.

In the US and Canada, certification is not necessarily mandatory. I believe FCC cert. for interference is mandatory. There is a cert. for toy safety. Often for labeling of cushion filling. In the province of Quebec, the building code requires CSA approval for all plumbing products.

Electrical is not (to my knowledge) mandatory. It’s often retailers that demand their suppliers to do safety testing. That’s why you can find un-certified products in dollar stores.

We do a lot of certification work for the products we design for our clients - there are few certification marks that are mandatory for market inclusion in the US, Canada, the various South American markets and the EU. Safety certification for building products and toys are the most prevalent, FCC approval for electronics that emit frequencies is second most prevalent. UL/CUL/CE are the most broadly applied for and used but almost none of those are mandatory, they are just preferred by retailers and provide a safety net for liability. We’ve also handled NSF and CSA certifications but those are very category specific. Depending on what regional market you’re dealing with you’ll also see requests for FDA, EPA, SGS and CQC reporting as well.

In many cases, these certifications are expensive to undertake & expensive to maintain (annual fees are not minimal) but they do serve a purpose of providing relative safety to consumers.

Scott: They also force manufacturers to standardize sizes to make retro-fit and replacement easier. For example, CSA and UPC regulations require kitchen faucet mounting holes to be 102mm apart. Otherwise, makes could make up their own distances and require people to buy only their non-standard faucet with their sink and so on.

Thanks Ray, you’re completely right - I forgot to mention consistency is another big benefit of compliance with standards for home, hardware, construction and plumbing products.