What Is an IP Rating?
IP rating stands for “ingress protection rating.” This international standard lets you tell how effective a light (or another item) seals against moisture and dirt. The IP rating features two numbers indicating protection against solids (like dust) and humidity.
Now that you have a basic idea of an IP rating, take a deeper look at its importance in lighting and choosing the right rating for your needs.
Why Do We Use an IP Rating System? Why Does It Matter?
The IP rating system is incredibly important, not only for the information it tells you about a light fixture but also because it is an international standard.
Helps You Choose the Appropriate Fixture
As for the first point, knowing the IP rating of a light fixture will help you decide if it is suitable for your needs. For example, if you want to place a light in a fountain, pool, or another underwater location, the IP rating will tell you if the light can handle that. Or, if you are in an industrial setting with fine particles in the air, the IP rating can confirm whether those particles will get into the fixture and ruin it.
Choosing the appropriate fixture for a space is important for several reasons. Most importantly, it keeps you and others around the light safe. You hopefully know that there is a major risk of electrocution if water and electricity mix. There is also a risk if dust enters a light and causes it to malfunction.
Details Longevity and Functionality
Using the right fixture also directly impacts how well it will work and how long it will last. This is incredibly important for your bottom line. After all, the more frequently you have to replace a fixture, the more money you will spend. There is also the chance that if it doesn’t work correctly, it could hurt productivity. For example, if workers can’t see labels clearly, it may take longer to find the right items. Or, if you are lighting a manufacturing plant, workers may have to be more careful (and therefore slower) if the light is dimmer.
Creates an Industry Standard
As mentioned, the IP rating is an industry-standard across the world. This is especially important, as it lets you easily buy lights or other fixtures from another country without worrying about the description. There are no worries about translational errors. You also don’t have to take the time to learn numerous different rating systems. After all, without the IP rating, every country or even company could have its rating system.
Not only would it be more complicated to understand multiple systems, but it could also lead to unscrupulous companies taking advantage of that. For example, one company could use a rating system similar to that of another company but with lower standards per qualification. That could potentially mislead clients into thinking that the fixtures have better ingress protection than they do.
Having a universal system with a standardized IP rating prevents these issues. It makes it easier to buy fixtures internationally and ensures that you know the level of ingress protection of the fixture.
The Possible IP Rating Numbers and How to Understand Each
As mentioned, the first number in an IP rating indicates its protection against solids, while the second shows protection against moisture.
The international standard is outlined in IEC 60529.
Take a closer look at each set of digits with more detail about what they mean.
The following describes the meaning behind potential first digits. Remember that this figure indicates protection against solids.
- X – There is no available data.
- 0 – No protection against ingress or contact of solids.
- 1 – Protection against objects larger than 50 mm. (It is protected against large body surfaces, but there is no protection if you deliberately touch it with a body part.)
- 2 – Protection against objects larger than 12.5 mm. (This is about the size of a finger.)
- 3 – Protection against objects larger than 2.5 mm. (This protects against thick wires, tools, and objects of a similar size.)
- 4 – Protection against objects larger than 1 mm. (This protects against most wires, large ants, slender screws, and objects of similar size.)
- 5 – Protection against dust. (While dust can still enter, there will not be enough dust accumulation to interfere with normal operations of the device or fixture.)
- 6 – The unit is dust-tight. (No dust can enter. A fixture needs to pass a vacuum test that can last up to eight hours.)
The following describes how to interpret the second number in the IP rating. Remember that these ratings indicate protection against water.
- 0 – No protection.
- 1 – Protection against dripping water. (Dripping water won’t harm the fixture if it is in its normal position and rotating at a rate of 1 rpm.)
- 2 – Protection against dripping water at a 15-degree angle. (If the fixture is at a 15-degree angle compared to its normal position, dripping water will not harm it. This test includes four positions and two axes.)
- 3 – Protection against spraying water. (Spraying water at an angle of 60 degrees or less from the vertical doesn’t harm the fixture. This test is done with a spray nozzle featuring a counter-balanced shield or an oscillating fixture.)
- 4 – Protection against splashing water. (No matter the direction, splashing water won’t harm the fixture. It is tested with a spray nozzle without a shield or an oscillating fixture.)
- 5 – Protection against water jets. (The fixture can handle nozzles that are 6.3 mm across and have a flow rate of 12.5 liters per minute. The tests come from every direction.)
- 6 – Protection against powerful water jets. (This test checks every direction. It involves jets with 12.5 mm nozzles and rates of 100 liters per minute.)
- 6k – Protection against water jets with higher pressure. (This test is similar to that for a 6, but the jet has a 6.3 mm nozzle and is 75 liters per minute for increased pressure.)
- 7 – Protection against being immersed in 1 meter of water. (The fixture can handle being under a meter of water for 30 minutes.)
- 8 – Protection against being immersed in at least 1 meter of water (or more). (The fixture can be continuously underwater. It has to do better than the depth and duration requirements for IPX7 – the previous rating.)
- 9 – Protection against powerful water jets with high temperatures. (The fixture can handle water sprays of 80 degrees Celsius with high pressure and at a close range.)
To understand the total IP rating, find the first digit of the rating in the first of the above lists, then find the second digit in the second list. For example, an IP rating of IP61 would indicate the fixture is airtight, dust cannot enter, and it can handle a light rain as long as the rain is vertical.
What’s the Highest IP Rating?
The highest IP rating is IP69. This lets you know that the fixture is “dust-tight,” meaning no dust can enter the unit. This rating means that the light can handle high pressure and high-temperature water or steam in terms of water protection.
Keep in mind that some fixtures with an X8 or X9 rating will be hermetically sealed so no water whatsoever can get inside. This is most common. Sometimes, however, some water can get inside, but it will not negatively affect the fixture if it does.
The IP69K rating is the go-to choice for industries where frequent sanitization is necessary. It can handle high-pressure, high-temperature water used to sanitize food processing and other similar locations.
You are unlikely to need this IP rating unless you are in an industry where you regularly use high-pressure sprays with chemicals to clean the surfaces.
What Is an IPX Rating?
Sometimes, you will see an IP rating with “X” in one of the digits. If you notice an X in one of the digits, that just means that the light or fixture was not rated for that category. So, if you notice an X in the first digit, that means there is only an IP rating for liquids, not solids. If the X is in the second digit, there is only an IP rating for solids, not liquids.
Which IP Ratings to Use in Which Situations
With your newfound understanding of IP ratings, how do you know which ones to use in which situations? As a general rule, if you need more ingress protection, you want a higher IP rating. But there is more to it than this.
General Guidelines – High vs. Low Ratings
To choose an IP rating, you need a clear idea of how you will be using the light, especially where you will place it.
As mentioned, if you will put the lights in a dirtier, dustier, or wetter environment, then you need a higher rating. The following are some general guidelines for when various ratings will work well.
You will typically opt for a low IP rating if the light is placed inside. You can also opt for this rating with lights that go inside sealed signage or other sealed products or work with aluminum extrusions.
“Low” ratings can sometimes be divided into two categories. Lights under IP44 are ideal only inside an area without much dust exposure. Good examples include offices and living rooms.
A low rating between IP44 and IP65 is also okay inside. These lights can also be used outside, but only if they are sheltered from the elements and will not have any direct dust or water exposure.
You will want to go with high IP ratings in outdoor locations that are not sealed. They are also a good choice for any location that is wet or at risk of a lot of splashes. Use these lights in areas with high foot traffic and areas where people may touch them a lot. Most people consider a high rating to be IP65 or higher.
Remember to consider dust and debris in addition to more obvious solid objects when considering the first digit of the IP rating.
You will typically want a high IP rating for anything outside and therefore exposed to water, debris, and weather. High ratings are also important for some indoor locations, especially factories and industries with a lot of dust or occasional splashes. For example, you should opt for a high IP rating if you want to place a light in a shower or a pool or close to one.
IP20 and IP40
If your light will be indoors and the space has a relatively neutral environment, these low ratings will be fine. Only use this rating inside. You also should not use it if there are high humidity levels or any other harsh conditions.
This is a lighting rating that you commonly find in offices and commercial spaces. Imagine LED linear lights or something similar.
The IP54 rating is also incredibly common for indoor use like bollard lights. You wouldn’t want to use these lights outside unless they are covered. That is because there is only protection against splashing water. As such, you don’t want the lights exposed to rain. The rating does, however, deliver complete dust protection.
This is another IP rating that you are likely to find on LED lights for indoor use. Many basic light bulbs will also have this rating.
If you plan on putting a light outside, like outdoor wall washer lights, outdoor bollard lights, then you want a rating of at least IP65. Remember that this rating means the light is dust-tight, so no solid objects can get inside. In terms of water, it can handle a 6.3 mm nozzle, which means it should do fine in the rain.
IP67 and IP68
While IP65 lights can do well in most rain, if you live in an area with floods or plan to submerge the light in a pool or music dancing fountain, you need an IP67 or IP68 rating.
The high rating for water ingress protection makes IP68 and IP67 lights the most popular option for lights in any area that is likely to be exposed to water. In addition to obvious uses like pools and docks, it is also a good choice if you know the area is likely to flood or you have extremely heavy rainfalls.
IP Zones in Bathrooms
When dealing with lights for bathrooms, there are even more specific guidelines in terms of IP ratings. Any bathroom gets divided into four zones, and each of those has its minimum IP rating.
- Zone 0 – This zone is physically inside the shower or bath. If you place a light here, it needs a rating of at least IP67. This is because the light will frequently be submerged in water, at least temporarily. This zone also requires low-voltage lights, meaning they can have a maximum of 12 volts.
- Zone 1 – This zone refers to the area directly above the shower or bath, up to 2.25 meters tall. Because this is farther away from the moisture, you just need a rating of IP44. That being said, most experts still recommend at least IP65 for this zone, including electricians and lighting experts. As a note, if you use a 240-volt fitting here, your electrician will also have to install a 30ma residual current device to go with it.
- Zone 2 – This zone includes two sections. It can be any space right outside the shower or bath that is up to 0.6 meters away from it. It also includes areas directly above the shower or bath that are taller than 2.25 meters. You want to use IP44 lights or those with a higher rating in this area.
- Outside the Zones – If an area of the bathroom is not in zones zero through two, there is no minimum IP rating. It is still best to choose at least a rating of IP20. However, you should never use water jets to clean them and need to be careful with water. It is still best to look for some level of waterproofing for these lights in case of accidental splashes or drips. When in doubt, err on the side of caution. Many experts, for example, will only use IP65 or higher-rated lights on bathroom ceilings because of the potential for high moisture levels.
To give you a point of comparison, consider that most of the lights and outlets in your home will have a rating of IP22. They don’t need a higher rating because there is not much dust or moisture inside. The low rating also protects kids and pets from accidental shocks.
If you search for security lighting, you will typically want to opt for IP44 to IP68 ratings. That is because you want security lights to be able to handle various conditions. You will want to opt for IP68 if the lights are outside and unsheltered.
For path lighting, you will typically want at least a rating of IP65. This is important because the light will be outside, subjected to dust, dirt, and rain. The fact that it is by a path also means that foot traffic could kick up lots of dust and increase wear and tear.
For another lighting in a garden, you will likely want a rating of at least IP54 or maybe IP65, depending on where the light will go. If it is in a more sheltered location, then an IP54 option should be fine. An example location would be a covered porch. If, however, the light will be exposed instead of protected, you would want an IP65 light or higher.
When choosing lights for water resistance, it is crucial to pay attention to the difference between IP65, IP67, and IP68.
Remember that IP65 lights only resist water. You cannot submerge these in water, but they can handle rain and water sprays. IP67 lights can be submerged, but only briefly and only up to a depth of 1meter. If the light will be placed deeper than a meter in the water or stay in it for longer than ten minutes or so, you need an IP68 rating.
Examples of Differences in High Bay Lights by Rating
Another great way to conceptualize the differences in IP ratings is to look at how an LED high bay light would differ from several different ratings.
An IP20 high bay light would just have a basic cover. It would be great for low-dust and dry areas of a warehouse.
An IP54 high bay light would also have a clear seal on it. This seal would protect against splashing water and dust getting in. The seal could also have the bonus benefit of allowing for light direction and emission. It would be a good choice in warehouses or other spaces where there may be airborne debris or dampness.
An IP67 high bay light would have a full cover or seal to prevent dust and water from getting inside. You could use this type of light in a food production area without concerns.
More Than Just Lights: What Else IP Ratings Are Used For
So far, we’ve mostly discussed IP ratings regarding lights. However, IP ratings are a universal system that applies to any electrical or mechanical item. It always describes the ingress protection of the enclosure, meaning the enclosure’s ability to protect the device’s inner workings.
In some cases, the fixture may also have a letter at the end of the IP rating. This is not very common, but it can indicate resistance to high voltages, oils, or other specific hazards. For an IP rating to feature a letter at the end, it must have additional certification.
The following are some of the other types of products that can have IP ratings. We will not mention lights in this section, as that was the focus of the rest of the guide.
One of the most common types of items you will find IP ratings on is enclosures. These can be enclosures of nearly any type and across industries. It even includes residential enclosures designed for use at home. Most of these enclosures are designed for mechanical or electrical systems. Some examples include the housing on a mobile phone or an instrument case.
Floor Standing Enclosures
One of the most common styles of these IP-rated enclosures is those that stand on the floor. They tend to have ratings of at least IP43. This rating can protect them against small insects, tools, and wires, as well as water spray at up to a 60-degree angle. They are very commonly used to protect racks of electronics.
Depending on the items that will go inside the enclosure, they may have much higher ratings. Some, for example, are rated IP67 or IP68 and can handle being cleaned with a hose for convenience.
General Purpose Enclosures
These general-purpose enclosures typically refer to storage units designed to have multiple functions, including storing electronics. They are commonly mounted on walls and highly versatile. Some are “junction boxes,” meaning they also have a keypad or lock.
The most basic of these units will not necessarily have an IP rating. More advanced ones, however, can have a rating of IP65 or higher. That is especially common among general enclosures used outside or for specific industries with sensitive electronics.
These are enclosures you can fit in your hand and vary from heavy-duty cellphone cases to cases for voltmeters, flow readers, or digital thermostats. Most of these will have lower IP ratings, as they are designed for portability. Most focus more on preventing people from accidentally damaging the device inside. Some, however, do have higher ratings, especially if they will be used in dusty or wet areas.
In addition to the enclosures themselves, some of the accessories for those enclosures will also have IP ratings. These are locks, keys, keypads, brackets, nuts, screws, self-adhesive feet, and panels.
Because these accessories have an IP rating, you can rest assured that adding them to the enclosure won’t reduce the rating of the enclosure itself.
In addition to those enclosures, you may also find IP ratings on:
- Instrument cases
- Power supply cases
- Wall boxes
No matter the type of unit, the IP ratings always follow the same standard as lights.
Understanding IP ratings will help ensure that you choose a lighting fixture designed to work in a given space. IP measures the ingress protection against solids like dust and water. Always opt for a higher IP rating outdoors or in areas with a lot of dust. If you need help choosing the right IP rating for a light in a given space, our team is here to help.