Why are IP Ratings Important?

Why are IP Ratings Important?

IP ratings allow for the comparison of sealing levels among different types of electrical enclosures, such as LED light bulbs and light fixtures. The international IP rating of an LED light or light fixture deals with a product’s resistance to environmental factors. It helps contractors, electricians, engineers, maintenance people, and DIY homeowners know what sort of protection an electrical enclosure has against solids and liquids potentially entering it.

Safety is the main reason IP ratings were developed. Safety standards for electrical enclosures help protect the end consumer and those who install light fixtures in outdoor environments or wet locations. These ratings inform the purchaser. They reveal the protection levels provided and how a particular enclosure will shield the electrical components inside, so the product will work as expected. In addition, referencing standard safety zones when lighting a bathroom, or other room with running water, helps you comply with wiring regulations.

Once you decipher the IP Rating format, this detail is easy to read.

 

What are IP Ratings?

The “IP” in each rating stands for Ingress Protection. These ratings are a way to classify the degrees of protection provided by an object with electronic components inside. IP ratings help you determine whether a product is sealed and protected from objects and varied levels of dust or moisture.

An IP rating is a reference standard. Some types of products require full compliance with IEC 60529 standards, while others do not. Certain product types are not always required; that’s why you won’t see IP ratings listed on every technical specification. Check out our Manuals & Documentation page for all our product technical specifications.

The numbers in IP ratings are determined by specific tests. The water or dust capable of entering an area (if any) must not impede the product operation or safety. When it does that affects the rating level. That’s why some products are classified at one level and other, similar products could receive a different IP rating. You’ll learn more about the levels of testing and the protection provided in the charts below.

In addition, you may see products labeled as wet rated vs. damp rated instead of IP rated. IP ratings are a European standard (though we also use IP ratings in the United States). American manufacturers often classify objects as wet or damp rated instead. You will note that Sunco products include both classifications in technical specifications, where appropriate.

Note that IP ratings for manufacturers like Sunco are certified by outside laboratories. This means that, as a consumer, you can be confident in the stated level of protection an item will provide. But what do the numbers after IP stand for?

 

Decoding the IP Rating System

All IP ratings are written with IP##, where the first digit (on a scale of 0-6) indicates the solids protection rating against solid foreign objects such as a hand or tools, while the second digit (0-8) shows the liquid protection rating, the ingress of water and moisture into the enclosure.

The higher the number in each position, the tighter the protection provided.

 

When you breakdown a specific IP rating, it includes:

  • IP = Ingress Protection
  • First Digit = Solids Protection Scale #
  • Second Digit = Liquid Protection Scale #

 

Here is a visual representation of an IP65 rating:

 

 

Each scale or level number in an IP rating means a certain amount of protection is offered by the enclosure. Different number combinations provide differing protection levels to classify products.

 

A Guide to IP Ratings

Review the charts below to define each level of solid and liquid protection offered.

 

 

 

IP ratings mix and match the numbers according to what is appropriate for each object or enclosure. Using the chart above, you will note that an IP65 rated product would offer dust tight protection against solids and no harm from water jets of a certain pressure.

On certain upper levels of IP ratings, code suffixes are added. Those suffix letters provide more information for greater protection levels.

Although the IP65 and IP67 rating shows protection from water, you cannot submerge IP65 rated products and IP67 is only protected for a brief submersion time.

While the IP rating discusses “liquids” it is really covering resistance to water, since the rating does not indicate protection against chemicals. Chemicals in an environment can be corrosive to gear. Chemicals would potentially cause damage to any seals in the product and negate an IP rating. Confer with your licensed electrician in environments where chemicals could come into contact with your equipment to determine what is appropriate for your unique situation.

IP ratings also helps determine whether electronic equipment can function in extreme environments with a great deal of dust, sand, or other fine particulates. This will help you decide if a particular light fixture or LED bulb is suitable for your unique lighting application.

You now know what each IP rating level means. What about where it can be used?

 

Understanding Bathroom Safety Zones

Bathrooms and other rooms with running water have established safety zones. IEE Wiring Regulations help electricians, contractors, and DYI homeowners identify which areas might be susceptible or at risk of exposure to water ingress, along with protection against electrical shock and which products are suitable. Each description within those regulations should be studied with care to understand area measurements and correctly position your room lighting with safety in mind.

The lower the zone number, the higher the risk of water contact with your lighting fixtures and bulbs. Alternately, the higher the IP rating number, the greater the protection provided.

 

Each zone can be compared to IP ratings as we have prepared for you in this visual representation of bathroom zones.

 

 

 

  • Zone 0
    • Located in the interior of sink, bathtub, or shower basin/tray
    • Requires low voltage fittings (12v maximum) and a high IP rating of at least IP67. NOTE: In tubs you should consider IP68 to accommodate longer submersion times.
  • Zone 1
    • Located directly above the bathtub or shower tray.
      • Extends up 2.25m (7.38 ft) from the floor.
    • Requires electrical products with an IP rating of IP44 (splash proof), or better if more water contact is expected.
    • Lamps and light fixtures in this region might be labeled as wet rated.
    • Some circuit protection may be required. Confer with current regulations and a qualified electrician for more details.
    • Note that if your bathtub sits on feet and/or the space below it is accessible without the use of tools, that space is considered as Zone 1.
  • Zone 2
    • Located above the bathtub or shower basin and above Zone 1.
      • Extends coverage from 0.6m (1.968 ft) past the bathtub/shower perimeter (a.k.a. outside the bathtub/shower footprint) to a height of 2.25m (7.38 ft) from the floor.
    • Located above the sink.
      • Also located around the sink or washbasin with a 0.6m (1.96 ft) radius from your faucet or tap.
    • Requires electrical products and lighting with an IP rating of IP44 or better.
      • NOTE: If you use water jets in Zone 1 or Zone 2 (such as for cleaning or a detachable nozzle or shower jets), then increase to IP65 or above for better protection.
    • Lamps and light fixtures in this region should be damp rated or wet rated, depending on the application. There may be regulations in your state or country that limit the use of recessed fixtures or other lighting within or above a shower stall or bathtub.
  • Zone 3 / Outside Zones
    • This encompasses the rest of the room, outside Zones 0, 1, 2.
    • Any portable electrical equipment should not flex to be used in other zones.

Examine a product’s IP rating or its damp vs. wet rating to determine whether it will function within the environment where you intend to install the light fixture or LED light bulb.

This blog is only a top level view of IP ratings, damp/wet ratings, and wiring regulations. It does not address kitchens, garden atriums with waterfalls, pool areas, saunas and other wet location applications. You’ll also want to make note of any regulations surrounding outlets and switches in a wet location. Conferring with a qualified electrician is recommended to clarify our regulation interpretations.

Now that you understand the placement of IP rated products in a wet/damp bathroom area, let’s briefly review the organization that created it.

 

Who is the IEC and How are IP Ratings Tested?

The International Electromechanical Commission (IEC) developed the system of IP Ratings. They are a worldwide organization focused on standardization within the electronic and electrical fields. They collaborate with the International Organization for Standards (ISO).

The IEC publishes their standards and testing. The International Standard IEC 60529 is an International Protection Rating.

The testing performed at outside certification laboratories might include a drip box system for testing water with different drip nozzle sizes, a series of probes to simulate a finger or tool of a certain size, along with handheld spray tests or oscillating spray chambers. The flow rates of each nozzle need to be regulated to set the volume of water, and also set the pressures applied.

 

 

You can classify the durability of products against intrusion by solids and water with IP ratings. Recall that IP ratings are not always required; you will not see them referenced in every tech spec.

The standards of IP ratings allow you to examine how an enclosure will withstand extreme weather conditions or placement near/in water. Bathroom safety zones and wet or damp rated product ratings also clarify where a lighting fixture or bulb can function safely.

Now you are ready to tackle your current lighting project. Still have questions? Reach out to our Customer Service Specialists or the Bulk Buyer Sales Team or a qualified electrician.

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