While shopping for restaurant equipment, knowledge is power. In the course of your search for equipment, you will find NSF® listed, UL® certified and ENERGY STAR® rated items. In many cases, people do not always know what these certifications mean. We’ve compiled this list based from the North American Association of Food Equipment Manufacturers’ CFSP (Certified Foodservice Professional) guide and each of their websites to give you the information you need to make an educated decision on these products. 

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What is NSF® Certification?

What it stands for:  National Sanitation Foundation 

Who they are: A non-profit, non-governmental organization, also known as the Public Health and Safety Organization™, who describe themselves as the “world leader in standards development, product certification and risk-management for public health and safety.” 

Why they are important: The CFSP guide says NSF has the following three purposes for equipment in the foodservice industry: 

  • Assure all equipment meets health standards and passes critical inspection at the facility 
  • Allows manufacturers to apply uniform construction methods to all NSF listed equipment 
  • Provide health authorities throughout the country a “united front or voice” to require basic elements of equipment sanitation 

What NSF listed means: In order to obtain the NSF listing, the equipment is reviewed and tested before approval. As there are several types of equipment, NSF says on their website they have developed “over 75 standards and certified thousands of products as safe to use in commercial food settings.”  They look closely at these standards before granting the NSF listing. 

Below is a very brief and general overview from the CFSP guide of some of the things NSF looks into (keep in mind there are different standards more specific to different kinds of equipment): 

  • Physical design and construction 
  • Materials (look for corrosion or heat resistance, durability, nontoxic) 
  • Product Performance 
  • Ensure that the product is cleanable and is not likely to harbor bacteria 
  • Accuracy of control systems 
UL logo black on white

What is UL® Certification?

What UL® stands for:  Underwriters Laboratories, Inc. 

Who they are: UL is an independent, not-for-profit and non-governmental organization who describes themselves as “a global independent safety science company offering expertise across five key strategic businesses: Product Safety, Environment, Life and Health, University and Verification Services.” 

Why they are important: With over 120 years of experience, the CFSP guide says the UL listing evaluates gas, electrical and sanitation safety on cooking, refrigeration, food processing, and food prep equipment. They look at the most current standards and follow up after approval to ensure standards are maintained. A very brief overview of their mission on their website is below, view their full list here.

  • Promote safe working environments 
  • Support the production and use of physically and environmentally safe products to prevent or reduce loss of life and property 
  • Advance safety science 

What UL listed means: To receive the UL listing, companies will have received the proper testing for a specific product based on their over 20 safety standards. UL has worked with many organizations such as the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), National Electrical Code (NEC) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) to determine and maintain current standards. The CFSP guide also adds the UL listing can also be reviewed for custom built equipment as well. 

Are products with the UL Sanitation mark also NSF listed? According to the Underwriters Laboratories, they are accredited by the American National Standards Institute to certify products to NSF standards. This applies to food equipment, drinking water chemicals and products, and swimming pool equipment. For more information on UL products being NSF listed, check out “UL Food Program: Acceptance of the UL Mark” which includes information about the UL sanitation classification mark. 

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What is ENERGY STAR® Rating?

Who they are: ENERGY STAR® is the government-backed symbol for energy efficiency. They have created a partnership with the EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) and the U.S. Department of Energy that uses methods to protect the environment with energy efficient products and practices. 

Why they are important: ENERGY STAR® rated products can give a solution to some of the high energy costs and environmental issues that occur with commercial restaurant equipment. “In 2017, more than 2000 manufacturers and 2000 retailers partnered with ENERGY STAR® to make and sell millions of ENERGY STAR® certified products across more than 75 residential and commercial product categories,” their website states. They also deliver technical information and tools to help make decisions for energy efficiency and play a key role in the latest technological advances. They have also put together a guide titled “ENERGY STAR® for Small Business: Restaurants” specifically for restaurants. 

The ENERGY STAR ® website states their label was created to: 

  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants caused by the inefficient use of energy 
  • Make it easy for consumers to identify and purchase energy efficient products that offer savings on energy bills without sacrificing performance, features and comfort 

What ENERGY STAR means:  ENERGY STAR® says “products can earn the ENERGY STAR® label by meeting the energy efficiency requirements set forth in ENERGY STAR® product specifications.”  These specifications have been/are established by the EPA, based on key guiding principles on this website.  According to the CSFP guide, if a product is ENERGY STAR® rated, a manufacturer must be able to show they meet the minimum energy efficiency criteria for that particular product category. 

**Note: Certain ENERGY  STAR® products qualify for Federal tax credits, for more information click here. 

We offer more than 400 ENERGY STAR® qualified products designed to help your restaurant cut utility costs. Our product consultants can help guide you to the products that are NSF and UL listed to ensure you are meeting health standards in your foodservice establishment. For more details call 800-215-9293 and be sure to visit our website for our entire line of foodservice equipment and supplies.

What is ETL Listed?

Who they are: ETL Intertek is an independent testing laboratory that tests, inspects, and certifies products according to North American safety standards.

Why they are important: The ETL Listed Mark demonstrates the compliance to widely accepted product safety standards. Their mark sets them apart for their quality of customer service and capabilities provided by their testing laboratory.

What the ETL Listed Mark means: This mark means that a product passed the safety certification program at ETL Intertek. The mark shows that the product was tested by Intertek and complied with accepted national safety standards.


Common Questions About NSF:

What does NSF Approved mean?
This approval means that NSF has reviewed and tested a product and approved it for their standards.

Is NSF Certification required?
While NSF does not require certification for you to sell an item, U.S. health departments, end users, and buyers will look for this to ensure that it has gone through the rigorous testing to comply with public health standards.

How do I get my product NSF certified?
The process is specific to the type of product, process, or service getting certified but it generally follows these seven steps:
1. Application/Information submission
2. Product evaluation
3. Product testing in the lab
4. Manufacturing facility inspection, production confirmation, and product sampling.
5. Test results review & acceptance
6. Contract signed, products listed
7. Annual plant inspection & testing

Common Questions About UL:

Is UL Certification required by law?
No, a UL Certification is not required by law. This certification means that your product follows stringent safety and performance standards internationally.

How do I get a UL Certification?
The process to obtain a UL Certification are outlined on their website, but the basic steps are:
1. Request and get a quote from UL
2. Send all product information and samples for testing
3. Product is tested and evaluated
4. UL issues a notice of completion, reports test results
5. Initial production inspection completed at manufacturing locations
6. The authorization is provided for the use of UL Mark
7. Periodic follow-up services

Common Questions About ENERGY STAR®:

How is Energy Star calculated?
This score is calculated using a 1-100 scale that can be applied to a building’s energy consumption and how it measures up against similar buildings nationwide. The main three factors considered are:

1. Property type
2. Property use details
3. Energy data

You can find the full list of calculation criteria listed here.

What are Energy Star requirements?
Products earn the ENERGY STAR by meeting strict energy efficiency criteria set by the EPA and US Department of Energy. ENERGY STAR products are similar to their standard versions but use less energy. See the full list of product specifications on the Energy Star website.

Common Questions About ETL Intertek:

Is ETL the same as UL approved?
ETL and UL are both Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratories (NRTL) and comply with national standards for safety and testing. Both certifications demonstrate that a product has been rigorously tested and approved by an NRTL and are subjected to periodic follow-up.

Does ETL meet CSA standards?
The ETL Listed Mark is a known alternative to the CSA Mark (Canadian Standards Association). Both of these marks indicate that a product and manufacturing facility has been tested and met the strict requirements of safety standards. In short, the ETL mark does meet product safety standards in the United States and Canada.

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