IP Light Ratings – What do they Mean

IP Light Ratings Explained

Light fittings are often given an IP rating, but not always, and don’t always need one. It is a  rating to allow you to easily select if that light is suitable for use in a given area and use.

What are IP Light Ratings.

IP Light Ratings are for Light fittings and other electrical goods, they can be given an IP number. This testing sytstem was first developed in 1976 by the IEC, these ratings standardized how to classify electrical enclosures and mechanical casings against ingresses such as dust and water particles. The international standard in EN 60529, the British standard is BS EN 60529. In the UK if you want to have a product rated it needs to be tested by an approved testing company. IP is short for Ingress Protection, then 2 figures, the first digit for mechanical protection (what can get inside) the second number for the level of water protection.

Of course this test cost money and some manufacturers of low volume equipment, may not go through the process unless the fitting has a particular requirement, due to its intended location. Given that many indoor lights in general use are decorative and the style maybe short lived, manufacturers may not see the need for an expensive test. Not having an IP rating doesn’t mean the light is any less safe than any other.

The requirement for Domestic Lighting in the EU & UK requires all fittings to comply with CE ratings (You will find a small CE sticker on most lights) and comply to standard BS EN 06598. So Indoor general lighting only need to have this CE mark and it will be safe and legal.

 IP Ratings IP20, IP44, IP65 What Should You Use.

  • IP20: A very common rating is IP20 and may be used for many indoor household lights, 2 means nothing over 12mm can enter, ie fingers, and 0 – it has no water protection.
  • IP44: Common use for Outdoor Lights where they will get wet from normal rainfall, or in a Bathroom where they will not get sprayed. See here for Bathroom Details. (Links to our specialist Bathroom Lights Website)
  • IP65: Where there is water present, ie. Bathrooms, Shower rooms and cloakrooms etc, then greater protection may be needed. This extra protection will apply the nearer the fittings are to water or steam. The distance of the light fitting to to water source is important and particular regulations apply. See here for Bathroom Details. (Links to our specialist Bathroom Lights Website)

As you will see if the bathroom is large enough, no IP rated light is needed, but generally IP44 or IP65 lights will be used in this type of setting.

What do the IP numbers mean?

The first number relates to the size of gap, or more specifically its mechanical protection.

Level sizedEffective againstDescription
XX means there is no data available to specify a protection rating with regard to this criterion.
0No protection against contact and ingress of objects
1>50 mm
2.0 in
Any large surface of the body, such as the back of a hand, but no protection against deliberate contact with a body part
2>12.5 mm
0.49 in
Fingers or similar objects
3>2.5 mm
0.098 in
Tools, thick wires, etc.
4>1 mm
0.039 in
Most wires, slender screws, large ants etc.
5Dust protectedIngress of dust is not entirely prevented, but it must not enter in sufficient quantity to interfere with the satisfactory operation of the equipment.
6Dust-tightNo ingress of dust; complete protection against contact (dust-tight). A vacuum must be applied. Test duration of up to 8 hours based on airflow.

The second number relates to moisture ingress.

LevelProtection againstEffective againstDetails
XX means there is no data available to specify a protection rating with regard to these criteria.
0None
1Dripping waterDripping water (vertically falling drops) shall have no harmful effect on the specimen when mounted in an upright position onto a turntable and rotated at 1 RPM.Test duration: 10 minutesWater equivalent to 1 mm (0.039 in) rainfall per minute
2Dripping water when tilted at 15°Vertically dripping water shall have no harmful effect when the enclosure is tilted at an angle of 15° from its normal position. A total of four positions are tested within two axes.Test duration: 2.5 minutes for every direction of tilt (10 minutes total)Water equivalent to 3 mm (0.12 in) rainfall per minute
3Spraying waterWater falling as a spray at any angle up to 60° from the vertical shall have no harmful effect, utilizing either: a) an oscillating fixture, or b) A spray nozzle with a counterbalanced shield.Test a) is conducted for 5 minutes, then repeated with the specimen rotated horizontally by 90° for the second 5-minute test. Test b) is conducted (with shield in place) for 5 minutes minimum.For a spray nozzle:Test duration: 1 minute per square meter for at least 5 minutes[4] Water volume: 10 liters per minute (0.037 impgal/s) Pressure: 50–150 kPa (7.3–21.8 psi)For an oscillating tube: Test duration: 10 minutes Water volume: 0.07 liters per minute (0.00026 impgal/s) per hole
4Splashing of waterWater splashing against the enclosure from any direction shall have no harmful effect, utilizing either:a) an oscillating fixture, or b) A spray nozzle with no shield. Test a) is conducted for 10 minutes. b) is conducted (without shield) for 5 minutes minimum.Oscillating tube: Test duration: 10 minutes, or spray nozzle (same as IPX3 spray nozzle with the shield removed)
5Water jetsWater projected by a nozzle (6.3 mm (0.25 in)) against enclosure from any direction shall have no harmful effects.Test duration: 1 minute per square meter for at least 3 minutesWater volume: 12.5 litres per minute Pressure: 30 kPa (4.4 psi) at distance of 3 meters (9.8 ft)
6Powerful water jetsWater projected in powerful jets (12.5 mm (0.49 in)) against the enclosure from any direction shall have no harmful effects.Test duration: 1 minute per square meter for at least 3 minutesWater volume: 100 liters per minute (0.37 impgal/s) Pressure: 100 kPa (15 psi) at distance of 3 meters (9.8 ft)

From this we can see that an IP20 light has will not let children poke fingers into somewhere they shouldn’t and it’s not protected and water, whereas an IP44 (common outside light rating) will prevent small items, wires etc entering, and is protection against rain splashes. An IP65/IP66 Light fitting is even more protected.

So in summary, if you are looking for a light in the hallway, living room or bedroom, etc then no IP rated light is needed. If the light is in the bathroom, follow the relevant regulations above, if the light is for outside then IP44 or greater will be needed. 

As with all electrical equipment, it should be installed by a qualified person.

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