The company that has certified electrical product safety for over 120 years is now creating safety standards for battery-powered vaping devices.
UL LLC, formerly known as Underwriters Laboratories, has created a testing and certification protocol for vape mods and other e-cigarette products that use internal lithium batteries. In an FAQ explaining the standards, UL says, “UL is certifying e-cigarettes to enhance consumer safety.”
The product category is known as UL 8139. Each type of product has its own number in the massive list of products UL tests and certifies. “UL 8139 provides manufacturers with the appropriate requirements and methodology to confidently evaluate, test and certify e-cigarette and vaping devices for electrical and fire-hazard safety as a system,” says the company’s site.
UL’s evaluation of each device looks at the whole electrical system, including batteries, charging circuits and charger, and the control circuitry. There are seven primary requirements for certification:
- Determining that lithium cells are operated within their safety windows
- Assessing the Battery Management System [BMS] for both normal use and foreseeable misuse
- Evaluating compatibility among interconnected systems as a whole
- Factoring in wide environmental parameters and conditions expected
- Testing for mechanical stress reasonably expected in use/misuse
- Requiring a mechanism that directs venting away from the inhaler
- Supplementing marking and instructions for safe use
There are a couple of points that may prevent the UL standards from accomplishing much in the vaping industry. First, the life cycle of vaping devices is short…very short. Products may go through five or ten generations within one calendar year — and that makes the slow, careful testing by UL a luxury for Chinese manufacturers. More importantly, the testing protocol only covers devices with built-in batteries. That means that the majority of mods used by experienced vapers wouldn’t even be eligible to apply for UL certification.
The number of high-wattage mods with internal batteries is growing, but may never dominate in a market where users need a lot of power for sub-ohm atomizers. Using a mod with a built-in battery creates the impractical situation of having to carry two devices if you might be away from home for a few hours. That leaves high-power vapers in the boat they’re already in: learning Ohm’s Law and following basic battery safety rules.
The standards will work nicely to certify pod vapes or small MTL devices — but those are unlikely to create safety problems anyway. Tiny batteries, like in a JUUL or similar pod mod, used with fairly high-resistance coils are a low risk for dangerous malfunctions and battery explosions.
Still, as vaping gets more popular, the UL certification may be a selling point for new vapers looking for devices in the confusing vape mod marketplace. And if the UL standards manage to prevent battery-related vaping injuries, who would complain?