Written by 5:28 pm The Guides

UL Listings for Lighting and Ceiling Fans: What Do UL Ratings Mean?

When is it safe to use a fixture where water contact is inevitable? Here’s a guide to what y…
Haiku Outdoor Ceiling Fans under a covered patio.
Haiku Outdoor Ceiling Fan by Big Ass Fans 

Electricity and water don’t mix. While this may seem like common sense, there are times when an electrical fixture is needed in an area that is exposed to water in the form of weather, steam or condensation. Some light fixtures and fans may pose a hazard if they come into contact with moisture; at the least damaging the fixture, and at the worst electrocuting a person or pet. But the good news is that many fixtures are specially designed to be safe around water. 

What are UL Listings? 

Most of the ceiling lights, wall lights, outdoor lighting and ceiling fans sold in the United States have been tested and rated by an independent product safety certification organization. Underwriters Laboratories gives these products a UL Listing, and Intertek gives an ETL Listed mark. Whether its UL or ETL depends on the product, and either rating can help you choose the most appropriate fixture for your needs. The following ratings let you know where your lighting or ceiling fan may be installed (note that UL and ETL are interchangeable for this purpose):

UL Listed (for Dry Locations) 

Often noted just as “UL Listed.” A dry location is an indoor area that is not normally subject to dampness. It may include a location subject to temporary dampness, provided ventilation is adequate to prevent any accumulation of moisture. 

Dry Locations include kitchens, living rooms, dining rooms, bedrooms, foyers, hallways and most areas in bathrooms. 

You can find UL and ETL ratings in the details section of any product page. If there is no UL or ETL listing mentioned, assume the fixture is suitable for dry locations only. 

UL Listed for Damp Locations (Damp Rated) 

Only lighting fixtures and fans marked “Suitable for Damp Locations” or “Suitable for Wet Locations” can be used in damp locations. A damp location is an exterior or interior location that is normally or periodically subject to condensation of moisture in, on or adjacent to the electrical components of a lighting fixture or ceiling fan. 

Kitchens, bathrooms and other rooms with large sources of water like sinks and showers can expose lighting fixtures and ceiling fans to moisture in the form of steam and condensation, even if the water doesn’t splash directly on the fixture. Think about the area right next to the kitchen sink when doing dishes, or a bathroom that stays steamy after a shower—a damp-rated fixture is ideal for these situations. 

Indoor Damp Locations include indoor pool areas, utility rooms and over bathtubs or showers in bathrooms (without risk of direct water contact). 

Using Damp-Rated Products Outdoors 

Outdoor damp-rated fixtures can only be used in covered, fully protected locations that are not directly exposed to water, even during storms. 

Outdoor damp locations include covered patios and covered porches that are fully protected from water, even during storms. 

UL Listed for Wet Locations (Wet Rated) 

Boxie Flushmount in a shower.
Boxie Flushmount by Sean Lavin for Visual Comfort Modern

Only lighting and fans marked “Suitable for Wet Locations” can be used in wet locations, both indoors and outdoors. A wet location is an interior or exterior location in which water or other liquids may drip, splash or flow on or against the electrical components of a lighting fixture or ceiling fan. 

An enclosed shower is likely to have more water hit an overhead light than just steam rising up, and outdoor areas are often at risk for inclement weather. A wet-rated fixture is the safest bet in these conditions—plus, wet-rated fixtures are safe to be hosed off, which could be a boon in outdoor locations when things get dirty. 

Outdoor wet locations include open-air decks and patios, uncovered porches, outdoor dining areas, exterior walls, gazebos, pergolas and walkways. Indoor wet locations include shower enclosures. 

When shopping for lighting or a ceiling fan for your home, be sure to review its UL Listing or ETL Listing to ensure it is the right fixture for your situation.