When it comes to ensuring the safety of electrical equipment, there are multiple routes for compliance. Electronics intended for use in the European Union can be certified according to the Low Voltage Directive and other applicable EU harmonised standards. Alternatively, compliance can be ensured according to the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) CB Scheme. This guide explains CE marking and CB certification for electrical equipment, highlights important regulatory changes and considers the pros and cons of each approach. Let’s get to it:
CE marking electrical appliances and electronics
CE marking is obligatory for all products that fall under the health and safety directives established by the European Union. Once CE-certified, products can be sold and distributed freely within the European Union. Electrical appliances fall under the scope of such directives and must therefore bear the CE mark in order to be sold in the EU. Let’s have a closer look at applicable EU directives when CE marking electronics.
The Low Voltage Directive 2014/35/EU (LVD) is considered the ‘overarching’ EU directive for electronics since it is applicable to a wide range of products, including:
- Household appliances
- Power supply units
- Laser equipment
- Electrical components (such as fuses or batteries)
The LVD aims to ensure that electrical equipment within the following voltage limits is safe to use:
- Between 50 and 1000 V for alternating current
- Between 75 and 1500 V for direct current
If your electrical equipment falls under the scope of the LVD, you may only affix the CE mark when your product is in accordance with the requirements outlined in the directive. You must also conduct a risk assessment and document this in your technical file.
Keep in mind that electronics are likely to fall under the scope of multiple directives. For example, electrical products which incorporate radio or Bluetooth functions may be subjected to the Radio Equipment Directive 2014/53/EU (RED). Other directives that are relevant to electrical devices or components include:
- Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC) Directive 2004/108/EC
- Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) Directive 2011/65/EC
- Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive 2012/19/EU
- Ecodesign (EU-wide rules for improving environmental performance of products)
More about the EMC Directive
All electric devices are subject to electromagnetic interference: they influence each other when interconnected or placed closely beside one another. Think, for example, of the potential static on a phone or television when another appliance is running nearby. The electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) Directive 2014/30/EU exists to control the effects of electromagnetic interference by outlining the techniques and technologies which must be used to reduce such disturbances. All electrical equipment must comply with EMC requirements before being placed on the market. In short, the EMC:
- Limits electromagnetic emissions from equipment
- Governs immunity of equipment
- Seeks to ensure that equipment is not disturbed by radio emissions
What about RoHS II and the new RoHS III?
When CE marking electronics, producers often have questions about the multiple RoHS directives. RoHS stands for Restriction of Hazardous Substances. The RoHS I restricts the use of ten hazardous materials when manufacturing electronics and electrical equipment.
Restrictions for additional substances have been added since the RoHS I took effect: in 2011, the first amendment was made in the form of the Directive 2011/65/EU (RoHS II). In 2015, the Directive (EU) 2015/863 (RoHS III) added four additional restricted substances to the list, namely:
- Bis(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) (0.1 %)
- Butyl benzyl phthalate (BBP) (0.1 %)
- Dibutyl phthalate (DBP) (0.1 %)
- Diisobutyl phthalate (DIBP) (0.1 %)
If your product falls under the scope of the RoHS, it is important to note that the RoHS II and RoHS III are not replacements, but amendments to the initial directive. You must account for the standards outlined in the original RoHS directive and ensure that your product complies with the additional substance restrictions outlined in RoHS II and RoHS III. The RoHS mark is also widely used voluntarily in other regions of the world as proof of compliant substances.
Consider CB Certification for Electrical Equipment
The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) is an organisation which outlines global standards for electrical and electronic products. The IEC has established an arrangement for the mutual acceptance of test reports in the field of electrical and electronic equipment: the IECEE Certification Body (CB) Scheme.
Why certify according to IEC standards?
Certifying according to the CB Scheme has several benefits:
- Removes trade barriers caused by different certification criteria
- Reduces costs and delays due to various testing and approval processes
- Ensures consumer confidence through internationally recognised certification
- Holds the potential for one-time testing and certification
The CB Scheme can be seen as a product passport for the world. It offers the potential of performing one test and certification to obtain one or more national certification marks in one go. Each National Certification Body (NCB) will recognize test reports issued by one another, so that you (the manufacturer) do not need to get a product re-tested if you want to use a particular certifying body’s test mark on that product.
Important: The IEC 62368-1 has replaced IEC 60950-1 and IEC 60065
A new standard, IEC 62368-1, has replaced the following global safety standards for information and communication technology (ICT) equipment and audio-visual (AV) equipment in both Europe and the United States:
- IEC 60950-1 (safety requirements for ICT equipment)
- IEC 60065 (safety requirements for AV equipment)
Increased technological advancements are blurring the line between ‘traditional’ AV and ICT equipment. The IEC has therefore drafted the IEC 62368-1 to act as an overarching standard that is applicable to both electronic equipment and IT/communications technology. The standard introduces a new, hazard-based philosophy to product testing, placing more emphasis evaluating product safety in the design phase.
Currently, the IEC 62368-1 standard has been embraced in both Europe and the United States. Given that Europe and the US represent significant markets for products falling under the purview of IEC 62368-1, it is foreseeable that the rest of the world will also adopt these modifications.
Should I certify my product according to the CE marking or CB scheme?
After having explored both CE marking & CB Certification for electrical equipment, the question remains: which is the best approach for certifying your electrical equipment? Let’s consider the benefits and potential drawbacks of both.
CB scheme certification according to IEC 62368-1 provides more flexibility in product design and evaluation without requiring more frequent revisions. Since it acts as a passport for other international certifications, it can be hugely beneficial to certify according to the CB scheme if you are planning to access multiple markets in a short timeframe.
The CB scheme and IEC 62368-1 standard, while aiming to enhance product safety, have potential downsides. These include complexity in compliance, transition periods, testing and certification costs, product redesign needs, challenges in market access, training requirements, documentation demands, and risks of non-compliance. Despite these challenges, the standards are designed to ensure high safety standards for products, and many manufacturers consider the long-term benefits of compliance to outweigh the initial difficulties and costs.
CE marking electronics according to the LVD and other applicable EU harmonised standards could therefore mean a lower cost and shorter timeframe than with the CB scheme (depending on your product). Another benefit of the LVD is that the manufacturer is responsible for the certification procedure: they can carry out the required conformity assessments without a Notified Body. Compliance with the CB scheme is only possible through the use of test labs and certification bodies.
The downside of CE marking for electrical equipment is that it is only applicable for products sold in the European Union. As increasingly more producers, importers, manufacturers and designers begin to acknowledge IEC standards as reputable indicators of product safety, applying the CB scheme from the start could lower barriers for international market access in the long run.
In summary, the certification process is different for every product. If you are unsure whether CE marking or CB certification is best for your electrical product, contact us. Our experts will guide you through the entire certification process, ensuring quick market access for products that meet the highest safety standards.
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