Why you should address power supply Level VI regulations now, if you haven’t already

October 21, 2015 // By EDN
Jeff Schnabel, VP of Marketing, CUI Inc.
Time has a habit of accelerating as a deadline draws closer. At least, it often feels that way. The transition from having plenty of time to having nowhere near enough time to get everything done can happen in the blink of an eye. It can be a nasty shock. If you’re already rushing to meet year-end deadlines, you’ll know the feeling. For OEMs that integrate external power supplies into their end-design, an even more important milestone awaits in early 2016.

After February 10, 2016, all external power supplies marketed in the US must be compliant with the latest Level VI specification set forth by the US Department of Energy. From a practical point of view that date is very close. If you’re involved in marketing OEM equipment with an external power supply in the box you need to start working on this now, if you haven’t already.

The Level VI specification sets significantly stricter  limits for average efficiency and maximum standby (no-load) power . The US Department of Energy expects Level VI to save  47 million tons of CO2  emissions annually. Saving energy and emissions are issues that matter, both to governments and to end users, so there is an imperative for OEMs to demonstrate they are taking a leading position on complying with the new specifications.

Don’t assume that you’re not affected if you’re not currently marketing any products in the US. Historical patterns suggest that other important territories, such as the EU and Asian countries, will soon raise their own minimum standards in response to the move in the US. Currently, the EU has the strictest laws in place, requiring compliance with Level V of the marking protocol, soon to be eclipsed by the US standard.

In any case, complying with the new specification is fairly straightforward from an OEM’s point of view: just be sure enough time is allotted to properly specify, test and procure the new Level VI design.  CUI began introducing Level VI power supplies late in 2014, well ahead of the deadline date, and is shipping these units to customers right now. We think it’s important for us to have a head start complying with important regulation changes such as these, and that it’s equally important to help our customers get prepared well in advance of the enforcement dates.

Why did we start so early? Redesigning a power supply to meet the new higher standards is a tough challenge. In fact, we have had to address every aspect of the circuitry on both the primary and secondary sides, including making architectural changes, designing-in new control ICs and more efficient power semiconductors, and re-optimizing passive component values. We believe some power supply vendors will struggle to have Level VI products ready in time. It’s a point worth checking with your supplier.

By adjusting our product portfolio to comply with the strictest mandatory requirements, we are able to help our customers ensure a universal power supply platform for products that ship globally. This provides an efficient and failsafe way to ensure compliance and avoid costly delays or fines. It eliminates any need to coordinate the shipping of different product configurations, each with a different power supply in the box, to different territories.

It’s urgent. It’s significant. It affects you. There are suitable units already in the market. You need to check whether your current supplier can meet the new regulations. And there is still time to meet the deadline. It’s time to engage with Level VI now, and make sure you’re home and dry by next February. For more