Product Certification & Labeling Questions
Testing, Certifying, and Accreditation Bodies
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Why does EPA require third-party certification?
EPA wants to ensure the WaterSense program's integrity ,sustainability and consumer confidence in the products that bear the WaterSense label.
Licensed certifying bodies, independent of EPA and the product manufacturers, test products for both efficiency and performance, certify product conformance to WaterSense specifications, authorize use of the WaterSense label, and conduct periodic market surveillance. Third-party certification is the framework already established in the United States to independently verify that products in the marketplace meet specifications and standards.
Does certification apply to all product categories?
EPA will requires all WaterSense labeled products to be certified by a licensed certifying body. EPA may, however, adjust the specific certification requirements as appropriate for individual product categories.
What is the WaterSense Product Certification System?
The WaterSense Product Certification System specifies the minimum requirements that licensed certifying bodies must follow when certifying products for WaterSense. EPA-approved accreditation bodies accredit certifying bodies specifically for their capability and competence to meet WaterSense requirements.
The WaterSense Product Certification System enables EPA to:
- Provide fully transparent criteria for product certification to ensure that products meet and continue to meet EPA's criteria for water efficiency and performance.
- Ensure consistent application of the minimum product certification requirements.
- Establish uniformity in the certifying body accreditation process, while making the process open to all qualified certifying bodies and accreditation bodies.
How does EPA maintain the integrity of the WaterSense label?
EPA maintains the integrity of the WaterSense label through several mechanisms:
- Through the independent third-party certification process, licensed product certifying bodies provide surveillance for the proper use of the WaterSense label for the products that they certifytypically through periodic store audits or warehouse inspections.
- WaterSense encourages its partners to be vigilant and report any suspected label misuse to EPA. If you see a product you believe to be improperly labeled, please contact the WaterSense Helpline at (866) WTR-SENS (987-7367), or e-mail us.
- WaterSense encourages partners to submit print and Web materials for pre-press review. EPA provides prompt review and ensures that the use of the label is consistent with WaterSense guidelines.
- WaterSense conducts periodic reviews of partner Web sites to ensure that the label is used properly.
- WaterSense conducts periodic Google image searches to detect misuse of the label by non-partners. When label misuse occurs by a WaterSense partner, EPA contacts the relevant licensed certifying body, which handles necessary corrective actions. If a non-partner misuses the label, EPA engages in corrective action directly with the infringing party. In all instances, EPA strives to resolve matters quickly and fairly in order to preserve public confidence in the WaterSense program.
Why did EPA revise the Product Certification System and what major changes were made in Version 2.0?
As part of its ongoing effort to improve the WaterSense program, WaterSense released the WaterSense Product Certification System Version 2.0 in September 2011. Revisions to the WaterSense Product Certification System will allow the program to more easily expand into new product categories and market sectors, make the program more affordable and accessible to manufacturers of all sizes, reduce delays in the certification process, and, most importantly, continue to provide the necessary rigor to maintain the integrity of the WaterSense label.
The major changes include:
- Clarifying requirements for licensed certifying bodies to ensure they are capable and competent to perform certifications and that their certification decisions remain impartial.
- Clarifying requirements regarding the qualifications and competencies of laboratories that are used to conduct product testing.
- Allowing and setting guidelines for supervised manufacturer testing for qualified manufacturers' laboratories.
- Revising the product notification process, which now requires licensed certifying bodies, instead of manufacturers, to report WaterSense labeled products to EPA.
- Modifying annual market surveillance requirements to better evaluate and more representatively assess the continued conformance of WaterSense labeled products in the market place.
Why did EPA change the product notification process under Version 2.0 of the WaterSense Product Certification System?
EPA revised the product notification process to streamline the flow of information and improve data quality for products included on the WaterSense product registry. With thousands of labeled products produced by hundreds of manufacturers, the WaterSense program decided to reduce unnecessary burdens on both EPA and manufacturer partners. Under the new process, licensed certifying bodies report WaterSense labeled products directly to EPA once the products have been certified. This helps reduce errors, costs to manufacturers for certification listing changes, and the amount of time it takes to list products on the WaterSense registry of labeled products. For more information on the product notification process, visit the WaterSense Product Certification System page.
How can stakeholders provide input on the specification development and certification processes?
EPA is interested in input from all stakeholders in the specification development and certification processes. EPA has established a list to notify interested persons when various programmatic elements are developed and released for public input. Please visit the Contact Us page to be added to the WaterSense e-mail and mailing list; remember to specify your interest in becoming part of the specification and certification development processes in the "Message" field.
How can my product earn the WaterSense label?
The first step toward obtaining the WaterSense label is for the product manufacturer to enter into a WaterSense partnership agreement with EPA. Manufacturers can sign a WaterSense partnership agreement with EPA once a draft specification or final has been released for a product they produce or manufacture under a private label. Under the partnership agreement, manufacturers will have 12 months to obtain certification for a product that conforms to the relevant WaterSense specification.
The second step is to have one of EPA's licensed certifying bodies certify the products for conformance to the relevant WaterSense specification. Manufacturers apply directly to the licensed certifying body for certification. Once the product is certified, the licensed certifying body will provide the manufacturer with the graphic artwork for the WaterSense label. Manufacturers must use this label in accordance with the WaterSense Program Mark Guidelines (PDF) (35 pp, 230K, About PDF).
Which certifying bodies can certify my products?
A list of EPA licensed certifying bodies is posted on the WaterSense website or may be obtained from the WaterSense Helpline at (866) WTR-SENS (987-7367). Certifying bodies are approved for each individual specification, so be sure to choose one that is licensed to certify products for the WaterSense specification relevant to your products.
Not every licensed certifying body certifies every product, but EPA strives to ensure that at least one licensed certifying body is available to manufacturers at the time final specifications are published.
What is generally involved in product certification?
Product certification involves product testing and an assessment of the production process and quality management system, both initially and on an ongoing basis. This may include factory visits, periodic product retesting, or other approaches to monitor the product's continued conformance to WaterSense specifications.
The general certification requirements applicable to all product categories are described in the WaterSense product certification system. EPA will evaluate and specify additional certification details for each new product category as part of the product specification development process.
How will consumers know that my product has been certified?
Products certified to WaterSense specifications are allowed to bear the WaterSense label. In addition, EPA maintains a Web registry of WaterSense labeled products on its website. To get your products included on this list you must submit to EPA a new certified product notification form for each certified model. EPA will verify the product certification information with the licensed certifying body that conducted the certification. This process, from notification to listing on the WaterSense website, may take four to six weeks.
Please note: Beginning November 3, 2011, WaterSense is transitioning to a new product notification process. After this date, EPA will no longer be accepting product notification forms from manufacturers.
What is the cost of certification to product manufacturers?
The cost structure for product certification is determined by the licensed certifying bodies. EPA anticipates that the testing fee and cost for certification of products, which may include opening a new certification listing or adding models to an existing one, will be in line with the current cost structure to have plumbing products certified by an accredited certifying body.
How will this certification process impact smaller manufacturers of products?
In the development of its WaterSense Product Certification System, EPA considered the impact on smaller manufacturers and worked to balance the cost of the process with the rigor the program needs to maintain the integrity of the WaterSense label.
While there will be some cost impact on all manufacturers to submit a product for certification, the integrity of the WaterSense label should help products stand out in the marketplace. This should be of particular value to small business partners.
How long will the process take from the time I submit my product for certification until the time when I can apply the WaterSense label to certified products?
The exact process and timing will be determined by the licensed certifying body conducting the certification. Licensed certifying bodies recognize that time to market is an important consideration and will compete for a manufacturer's business in this area. EPA anticipates that the time to achieve product certification to WaterSense specifications will be similar to the time it currently takes to get plumbing products certified to American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) and other relevant standards.
I am an overseas manufacturer looking to get my products certified to WaterSense specifications. Will there be certifying bodies in my country that can conduct the certification?
EPA licensed certifying bodies have offices worldwide with the capability to conduct product certifications for WaterSense. Please keep in mind, however, that to qualify to earn the WaterSense label, you must sell or intend to sell products in the United States that meet the relevant WaterSense specification within one year of partnership with EPA. Please contact one or more of EPA's licensed certifying bodies to determine if they certify products in your area.
How will the recent revisions in WaterSense Product Certification System Version 2.0 affect me?
EPA revised its WaterSense Product Certification System (Version 2.0) in September 2011 in part to make the program more affordable and accessible to manufacturers of all sizes and streamline and reduce delays in the certification process. Licensed certifying bodies will have until September 29, 2012, to transition into compliance with the new requirements.
Key changes affecting manufacturers include:
- Licensed certifying bodies may now offer supervised manufacturer testing as an option for qualified manufacturers' testing laboratories.
- Licensed certifying bodies will be required to report WaterSense labeled products to EPA for inclusion on the WaterSense labeled product registry. This will no longer be a responsibility of the manufacturer and should significantly reduce the time and effort it takes to get products listed on the WaterSense labeled product registry. See the WaterSense Product Certification System page for more details on this change.
- Manufacturers will no longer be required to recertify of all of their WaterSense labeled products every five years.
- Licensed certifying bodies will annually retest 15 percent of all the products they certify, as opposed to one unit of each model of each certified product per manufacturer. With this change, not every manufacturer will have products retested each year. However, larger manufacturers with more certified products may have a larger percentage of their labeled products retested annually.
Manufacturers should contact and work with their licensed certifying bodies to understand the full implications of these changes and make appropriate arrangements for compliance with the new requirements.
Under WaterSense Product Certification System Version 2.0, is my product eligible for certification and the WaterSense label?
The revisions to the WaterSense Product Certification System do not impact which products are eligible for the WaterSense label; this is dictated by the release of final WaterSense product specifications for a particular product or product category. Specifications are developed after careful evaluation of technical and market factors that influence the viability of the WaterSense label for the product. For more information on the specification development process, please visit the Specification Development Process page. To view the product specifications that the program has released and those product categories that are currently eligible for certification and the WaterSense label, please visit the compendium of WaterSense specifications.
Testing, Certifying, and Accreditation Bodies
My organization certifies products. How can I become a licensed certifying body for WaterSense?
The first step toward becoming a licensed certifying body is to seek accreditation from an EPA-approved accreditation body in accordance with the latest version of the WaterSense Product Certification System for one or more of the WaterSense product specifications. Upon accreditation, please contact the WaterSense Helpline at email@example.com or (866) WTR-SENS (987-7367) for application procedures and to obtain a copy of the licensing agreement for product certifying bodies.
My organization tests products. How can I participate in the WaterSense product certification process?
WaterSense licenses product certifying bodies, not individual testing facilities or laboratories. Certifying bodies certify products in accordance with the WaterSense Product Certification System , which includes product testing and conducting ongoing surveillance of product conformity. As part of the certification process, licensed certifying bodies may outsource the product testing to external laboratories that can demonstrate compliance and tests products in accordance with International Organization for Standardization/International Electrotechnical Commission (ISO/IEC), 17025, General requirements for the competence of calibration and testing laboratories and the relevant WaterSense product specifications. See the WaterSense Product Certification System] for more details on the exact qualifications for testing laboratories. EPA is not involved in this outsourcing of testing; this arrangement is made between the licensed certifying body and the testing laboratory.
My organization accredits product certifying bodies. How can I become an accreditation body for WaterSense?
To be eligible to accredit product certifying bodies for the WaterSense program, accreditation bodies must meet the requirements outlined in the WaterSense Product Certification System. Eligible accreditation bodies must then submit an application letter, as indicated in the WaterSense Product Certification System, to the WaterSense Helpline at firstname.lastname@example.org or (866) WTR-SENS (987-7367).
As a licensed certifying body, how do the revisions to the WaterSense Product Certification System affect me?
Licensed certifying bodies must read and fully understand the requirements outlined in theWaterSense Product Certification System Version 2.0.
Currently, licensed certifying bodies will have one year from the effective date of Version 2.0 of the WaterSense Product Certification System to comply with and become accredited to the new requirements. The existing licensing agreement between EPA and the licensed certifying body will remain in full force and effect during this transition. However, licensed certifying bodies must submit proof of accreditation to Version 2.0 requirements within the timeframe specified in order to remain licensed to certify products.
Any new product certifying bodies wishing to certify products to bear the WaterSense label will need to be accredited in accordance with the WaterSense Product Certification System Version 2.0.