For specifiers of residential and hospitality spaces, the relevance of IP ratings is primarily to do with water (hence this picture I took on Queensland's Fraser Island -- a unique, amazing place!).
IP (Ingress Protection? or maybe Index of Penetration? or International Protection?) ratings are defined by IEC60529 published by the International Electrotechnical Commission. They are expressed by the letters “IP” followed by two digits, as follows:
1st DIGIT Protection from solid objects or materials
0 no protection
1 Protected against solid objects over 50mm e.g. accidental touch by hands
2 Protected against solid objects over 12mm e.g. fingers
3 Protected against solid objects over 2.5mm e.g. tools, wire
4 Protected against solid objects over 1mm e.g. small tools, thin wire
5 Protected against dust, allowing limited ingress (but there must be no harmful deposit)
6 Totally protected against dust
2nd DIGIT Protection from liquids
0 No protection
1 Protection against vertically falling drops of water
2 Protection against direct sprays of water up to 15° from the vertical
3 Protection against direct sprays of water up to 65° from the vertical
4 Protection against water sprayed from all directions. Limited ingress permitted
5 Protection against low pressure jets of water from all directions. Limited ingress permitted
6 Protection against powerful jets of water from all directions. Limited ingress permitted
7 Protection against the effect of immersion up to 1m for short periods
8 Protection against long periods of immersion under pressure
Note: these descriptions are for illustrative purposes only, and should not be relied upon.
All lights have an IP rating. If they are not stated as having been tested to a specific rating, they are deemed to be IP20 (so all lights are "IP-rated").
The relevance of IP ratings is that electrical regulations sometimes specify a minimum IP rating in certain locations. So if an IP rating is required, it will be specific about which rating.
If part of the rating does not matter, it is replaced by an X. So “IPX4” means that the protection against liquids must be 4 or above, but it does not matter what the protection against solid objects is.
When an IP rating is specified, you can use that rating or, often, a higher one. So, in an IP44 area, you could also put lights that are rated IP45, IP55, IP68...but not always. Using an IP68 fixture in an IP66 environment could cause problems: the IP68 rating is based on immersion in water, which dissipates the heat generated in a way that air does not.
Catalogues will always state the IP rating of a light if it is higher than IP20 so, once you know the required rating, you will have no difficulty specifying lights that meet the requirement.
Points to note:
- There are virtually no IP44-rated pendants, because nobody would put a pendant where such a rating is required (for example, in the UK, within 60cm of a bath or shower). But sometimes they are requested, in which case, contact us for acceptable solutions.
- an IP20 light can almost never be re-engineered on demand, in order to make it into a light with a higher IP rating. It would have to be changed too much.
- If an IP rating higher than IP20 is required:
- the vast majority of lights can no longer be considered
- the budget will have to go up, because lights that have the necessary additional protection need additional labour and components. The testing also has to be paid for.
- requirements vary territory to territory, so what is required by UK regulations will not apply anywhere else. Thus, the electrical requirements for a French are not the same as those for an English bathroom. It is necessary to find out precisely what the local regulations are before specifying for areas where there are likely to be restrictions on what can be installed.
In the UK:
- THERE IS NO SPECIFIC IP REQUIREMENT FOR WALL LIGHTS ABOVE A BASIN
- THERE IS NO SPECIFIC IP REQUIREMENT FOR OUTDOOR LIGHTS.