What Does IP Rating Really Mean?

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James Prietzel, Product Manager at Intelligent LED Solutions (ILS)

James is the ILS Product Manager for everything related to LEDs and has been with ILS since 2012. James is dedicated to understanding the latest technologies and innovations from leading suppliers in the OptoElectronics world, from optics, to LEDs and to Intelligent LED Drivers.

IP rating is something commonly encountered when looking at finished lighting products. For some applications it is a vital to know and acquiring a light fitting with the correct rating is paramount. 

IP stands for Ingress Protection. It is a classification that is assigned to light fitting when they have been evaluated and approved for protection against water, as well as solid objects including dust and dirt.  

You will see IP rating written as two numbers. For example, IP67 or IP20. The first digit represents the level of protection the light fitting has against dirt and dust particles. While the second digit stands for the degree of protection from water. This number is often more important in applications in environments where water may be present, such as bathroom lighting or outdoors. Any light fitting used in a potentially wet environment should hold a sufficient IP rating to prevent the ingress of dust and water.  

So, what do the numbers mean? Well, the higher the value of either digit, the greater is protection is.  

Lower IP ratings: Indoor applications: 

Many applications will not require a high IP rating, such as general indoor use with no exposure to water or high dust levels (bedroom or living room lighting). In such instances, ratings below IP44 are typically acceptable. Most standard light fitting within your home are rated IP20, meaning that they are not protected against water, but have slight protection against dust.  

Mid IP ratings: 

Lighting products rated between IP44 and IP65 have more protection against the elements, and therefore are suitable for both indoor and outdoor use. Although they are not fully waterproof, so when implemented outdoors, they should be protected from the harshest weather condition and installed in a sheltered location.   

Higher IP ratings: 

If your application is subject to harsher weather conditions, then a higher IP rating would be needed. Lighting with IP65 or IP67 are typically considered to be able to withstand water, excluding full submersion. Applications that require these higher IP ratings could include, horticultural applications whereby standard hoses and irrigation systems are used, and dirt is present. As well as, inside showers, wet rooms, pools, and any other spaces with high chance of contact with water, dirt, dust, and debris.   

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