Cracking the Code

Sept. 24, 2018

Understanding product certification for plumbing fixtures & fittings

About the author:

Charles Erickson is a senior project engineer, technical lead, for mechanical plumbing products at UL. Erickson can be reached at [email protected] or 847.664.2494.

Plumbing fixtures and fittings are certified to many standards in the U.S., and at times the process can seem overwhelming. Understanding what drives product certification, common standards and how the standards relate to one another can make everything less intimidating, while also teaching you what to expect during the certification process.

Regional Requirements

In the U.S., three model plumbing codes have been adopted by states, counties and/or cities. The adoption can be as-is or with amendments that address location-specific concerns. For example, in colder climates, the model code might be adopted with amendments that require pipe insulation or specific routing to prevent freezing. Upon adoption, the model plumbing code becomes known as the local plumbing code, the plumbing code or the code. The code will contain general requirements that all plumbing fixtures and fittings must meet. There also will be product-specific sections with requirements that often stipulate that a product conform to product standards. 

Code enforcement happens at a local level. When a plumbing inspector or authority with jurisdiction conducts an inspection, he or she looks to ensure the plumbing fixtures and fittings have been third-party certified to the applicable product standards outlined by the code.

One of the most commonly asked questions is, “What plumbing standards apply to my product?” The answer usually can be found by looking at the plumbing codes, searching online standard distributors for keywords related to your product or contacting your certification body of choice. It is a good idea to have a copy of the appropriate product standards available when you are designing the product. By doing this, you know exactly what your product will be up against when you submit it for certification. When product development is focused on designing a product compliant to the standard, it greatly increases your likelihood of success and reduces spending on retests and redesigns. Standards can be purchased online from any number of sources, including their publishers or third-party groups.

Another question that often is asked is, “What tests and requirements will the product standard include?” Typically, product standards are divided into three categories: design requirements, performance requirements and marking or literature requirements. 

The design requirements section often will address product features that may or may not require testing as part of the certification evaluation. This may include verification that certain alloys or plastics, proper threads and electrical safety have been addressed by the manufacturer. 

The performance requirements section is the testing section. It contains tests that evaluate the functionality, structural integrity, and cosmetic and mechanical durability of a product.

The marking or literature section details requirements for each product specific to the product type. It is important to note that product standard markings are not the same as the markings required by third-party certification bodies, which typically include their mark and traceability information.

Standards & Certification

Some of the most common plumbing fixture and fitting product standards include ASME A112.18.1/CSA B125.1-Plumbing Supply Fittings, ASME A112.18.2/CSA B125.2-Plumbing Waste Fittings, and IAPMO Z124/CSA B45.5. These standards appear to have two names because they are harmonized between the U.S. and Canada, meaning two previously separate product standards were combined in an attempt to simplify the product compliance process between the two countries. These three product standards are examples of how standards can be interrelated. For example, a service sink that is supplied with a faucet and drain will require all three product standards. This is something that is pointed out in IAPMO Z124/CSA B45.5, as two of the clauses require ASME A112.18.1/CSA B125.1 and ASME A112.18.2/CSA B125.2 for all factory-supplied fittings.

Another example of product standards referencing other product standards is ASSE 1016/ASME A112.1016/CSA B125.16. Devices covered by this product standard are required to comply with all applicable requirements of ASME A112.18.1/CSA B125.1. Single product standards may require compliance to other standards depending on design choices, included hardware and construction materials. In these instances, the manufacturer may purchase previously certified supply and waste fittings or opt to make their own and have them certified. There are advantages to both approaches. While it can be frustrating to find out additional standards apply to your product, writers often refer to additional standards in this manner to organize requirements and avoid duplication, which may lead to inconsistencies over time.

Product certification by an accredited third party is the best way to verify your product meets the requirements of any standard. This approach generally has three steps: application, evaluation and testing, and completion. The application can be submitted in many ways and ideally leads to a quote for the certification of your product. Depending on the level of information provided, the quote can be general or specific. General quotes often include additional assumptions that will be verified during the second phase of the project. The certification agency typically will provide application forms to their customers to gather the correct product information. The next step, evaluation and testing, includes gathering complete product information, including a design or construction review, development of the test program, and the actual testing itself. Finally, results are issued at completion, and if everything meets the criteria of the standard, certification or approval to apply the certification body’s mark is provided.

When broken down, the regulatory drivers, standards and certification processes are much simpler than they first appear. Taking the time to determine the standards that apply to your product and their associated requirements will make the certification process easier down the road. This approach will help save time and costs associated with redesign and retesting.

About the Author

Charles Erickson

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