Level VI External Power Supplies

Brief Overview

As of February 10th 2016, a new law regulating power supplies for the US market will be enacted. This law will make it so that any external AC-DC power supply sold for the US market must be Level VI – which will have implications for any OEM customer that designs these products.

Whereas in the past, regulations were dealt with on a regional basis with voluntary programs, mandatory laws are becoming the standard and it is important to stay up to date on these in order to avoid money wasting delays and/or fines. Currently in the United States and in Canada, Level IV is standard (in the European Union it’s Level V). Designed primarily to conserve power, this regulation will increase efficiency in both consumer and industrial products by roughly 5%.

Reducing waste in as many ways as possible is the major focus of this change; in the past decade alone regulations in power supplies have resulted in vast changes in three major spheres:

  • Money – savings of $2.5 billion annually
  • Energy Consumption – savings of 32 billion kW annually
  • CO2 emissions – savings of 24 million tons annually

The Department of Energy has estimated that standards proposed in 2014 and set to go into effect in 2016 will help save consumers an equivalent to the annual electricity use of 6.5 million homes.

What’s New

There are two major new components in Level VI that were not included in previous levels;

Firstly in Level IV, only active mode efficiency was impacted, however with Level VI there will be a focus on no-load power consumption – which could have levels as low as 20% of those in previous standards. This reduction in no-load power consumption is pertinent due to the fact that it accounts for a great deal of wastage when the power supply is plugged into an outlet but nothing is connected to it – in Level IV it was at .5 watts and in Level VI it will go down to .1 watts.

Secondly, in Level VI there will be a much broader range of products included, some of these being multiple-voltage external power supplies as well as products with power levels >250 watts.


For Level VI, exemptions will be made for:

  • Any medical power supplies that have been approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration)
  • Any Direct-Operation AC-DC external power supplies with nameplate output voltage less than 3 amps and greater than or equal to 1,000 milliamps that charges the battery of a product that is fully or primarily motor operated.

What this means for our Customers

Staying informed about changes to regulations will keep you ahead of the curve, and could potentially save you a lot of time and money.

Making the switch from Level IV to Level VI early would ensure that your purchasers have enough time to consider the need to get a different adapter as well as giving your designers enough time to design with the latest technology. Doing this gradually rather than when it becomes mandatory will mean that you have enough time to phase out your older parts gradually rather than ending up with excess parts that will be rendered unusable come February.

The switch from Level IV to Level VI in the US and Canada will mean that our customers will have to go through some design revisions to accommodate the new products. It is important to check to see if the suppliers manufacturing the parts being used in your designs will be making the switch to Level VI, as certain suppliers will not and instead will be getting out of adapters altogether.

Another important consideration when deciding when to switch to using Level VI power supplies is that Chinese New Year occurs around the same time as when the law will come into place – waiting until it’s mandatory could mean holding off on production for a short while as the majority of these power supplies are manufactured in China/ Taiwan.

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