By Pierre McDonald
With energy prices on the increase, many utility grids reaching capacity and some existing power generation facilities in Canada nearing their end of useful life, business owners and consumers alike have become vigilant in finding new ways to reduce their carbon footprint. It has become increasingly important to lower energy consumption in all areas, including the sign industry.
New technology for sign lighting continues to evolve to meet these energy reduction demands, but existing sign installations cannot simply all be replaced with new ones. Rather, the industry needs ways to make existing signs more efficient. Light-emitting diode (LED) kits for sign retrofits have helped meet this need, but it is important to use only kits certified for safe use.
All provincial and territorial jurisdictions across Canada require electrical products to be certified by a certification body (CB) accredited by the Standards Council of Canada (SCC). As such, the CBs test electrical equipment to a national standard—or a number of national standards—and also inspect that equipment’s manufacturing process on a routine basis in order to ensure compliance with the appropriate standards. Upon approval, the CBs allow their mark to appear on the equipment as proof of compliance to those standards. This certification mark must appear on all electrical products for them to meet provincial and territorial requirements.
Underwriters Laboratories (UL), which provides safety consulting and certification services, currently has seven categories associated with sign products, which are used to evaluate equipment to meet Canada’s jurisdictional requirements:
- UXYT7—Signs Certified for Canada.
- UYAM7—Field-installed Neon Outline Lighting Systems Certified for Canada.
- UYFS7—Signs, Changing Message Certified for Canada.
- UYMR7—Sign Accessories Certified for Canada.
- UYTQ7—Sign Controllers, Message Centers Certified for Canada.
- UYWU7—Sign Conversions, Retrofit Certified for Canada.
- UYZZ7—Sign Flashers Certified for Canada.
- UZBL7—Skeletal Neon Sign and Outline Lighting Systems, Field-assembled, Certified for Canada.
While six of the above categories specifically cover equipment for new installations, the other—UYWU7, ‘Sign Conversions, Retrofit Certified for Canada’—will meet SCC CB requirements and allow sign owners to bring their existing infrastructure up-to-date with newer technology. (Information associated with each of these product categories can be obtained from UL’s online directory, database.ul.com, simply by entering the category codes listed above in the appropriate box and clicking ‘search.’)
Requirements and markings
The retrofit sign conversion category covers subassemblies or kits intended for field installation in certified signs. There are several specific types of sign conversions in this context.
Scrolling units (i.e. motor-operated message assemblies), devices that change the type of illumination (e.g. from incandescent to fluorescent) or combinations thereof are among these subassemblies intended for field installation in specific, certified, permanently connected electric signs. This type of conversion must identify the catalogue number or other description and the company name for the sign in which it is intended to be used.
An LED retrofit kit, meanwhile, includes the LEDs themselves, a power source and a mounting assembly or other means of changing the type of illumination originally contained within a sign to an LED system. The kit’s installation instructions must specify the type of sign in which these components are intended to be installed.
All of these conversion options have been investigated to determine that, when used in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions provided with the retrofit device or system, they will not adversely affect the operation of the complete electric sign. To obtain certification for use in the Canadian market, these kits must meet the requirements of the appropriate Canadian standard. (This could be a standard published by an organization other than CSA. There are now eight accredited standards development organizations in Canada, all of which can write product standards.)
The main standard by which products in this category are investigated is CAN/CSA-C22.2 No. 207, Portable and Stationary Electric Signs and Displays. UL provides classification marks and certification marks to identify these manufactured products, through its certification and followup service.
See Figures 1 and 2 for the two marks that can appear on retrofit kids, plus the additional certification markings required. Over the next eight to 10 years, the UL classified mark will be phased out, in favour of the enhanced mark.