The Ingress Protection (IP) rating refers to the degree of protection an electrical enclosure can provide against the intrusion of solid objects, including body parts like hands and fingers, dust, accidental contact, and water. In other words, IP ratings tell you how much your bulbs can withstand before they break.
IP ratings are important to consider when selecting light bulbs because they help you understand where a light bulb can be safely used. Using an improperly rated light bulb in the wrong location can be dangerous, and can potentially expose the electrical components to water and dust and increase the risk for injury and damage. IP ratings are especially important in outdoor areas where your bulbs will be exposed to weather, and in areas like bathrooms where they will be exposed to water and moisture.
How to Read IP ratings
The IP rating aims to provide consumers with detailed information about the product beyond general terms such as “waterproof” or “splashproof”.
The IP rating classification system utilises the letters “IP” followed by two or three digits:
- The first digit of the IP rating represents protection against penetration by solid objects like debris, and ranges from 1 – 6, with 1 indicating protection against a large object and 6 indicating the product is dust tight.
- The second digit indicates the degree of protection against moisture, and it ranges from 1 – 8. A rating of 1 indicates a lower level of moisture protection, whereas an 8 indicates the enclosure can be completely immersed in water.
- The third number indicates the level of protection against mechanical impacts and is commonly omitted.
An “X” in place of either digit means that either the enclosure has not been tested or that the test is not applicable.
Understanding IP Ratings
IP ratings indicate a light bulb’s ability to protect against the intrusion of solid objects and moisture. A breakdown of the protection levels required to receive each number rating is summarised in the tables below:
Size of Object
Level of Protection
|0 (or "X")||No protection against contact and ingress of objects; or not evaluated.|
|1||Greater than 50.0 mm in diameter||Protection for any large surface of a human body, such as the back of a hand, but no protection against deliberate contact with a body part|
|2||Greater than 12.5mm in diameter||Protection for fingers or similar objects|
|3||Greater than 2.5mm in diameter||Protection against tools, thick wires, etc.|
|4||Greater than 1.0mm in diameter||Protection against most wires, screws, etc.|
|5||Dust-proof||Ingress of dust is not entirely prevented, but it must not enter in sufficient quantity to interfere with the satisfactory operation of the equipment; complete protection against contact.|
|6||Dust-tight||No ingress of dust; complete protection against contact|
Level of Protection
|0 (or "X")||No protection against water; or not evaluated.on|
|1||Dripping water||Dripping water (vertically falling drops) shall have no harmful effect.|
|2||Dripping water when tilted up to 15°||Vertically dripping water shall have no harmful effect when the enclosure is tilted at an angle up to 15° from its normal position.|
|3||Spraying water||Water falling as a spray at angles up to 60° from the vertical shall have no harmful effect.|
|4||Splashing water||Water splashing against the enclosure from any direction shall have no harmful effect.|
|5||Water jets||Water projected by a nozzle against enclosure from any direction shall have no harmful effects.|
|6||Powerful water||Water projected in powerful jets against the enclosure shall have no harmful effects.|
|7||Immersion up to 1m||Ingress of water in harmful quantity shall not be possible when the enclosure is immersed in water under defined conditions of pressure and time (up to 1 m of submersion and a 1 hour immersion period).|
|8||Immersion beyond 1m||The equipment is suitable for continuous immersion in water under conditions which shall be specified by the manufacturer. NOTE: Normally, this will mean that the equipment is hermetically sealed. However, with certain types of equipment, it can mean that water can enter but only in such a manner that produces no harmful effects.|
For example, lighting rated IP65 is protected against dust and debris and will not be damaged or rendered unsafe when exposed to rain or other types of weather. IP65 are typical minimum requirements for unsheltered outdoor lighting.
Selecting the Proper IP Rating
Different uses require different IP ratings. In some cases, such as indoors, a lower IP rating is perfectly acceptable, while other uses, such as outdoors, call for higher IP ratings.
Lower IP ratings, such as those below 44, are only suitable for indoor use in areas where you don’t anticipate a high level of exposure to water or dust, such as a living room or office. Most electrical outlets and equipment around your home will have an IP rating of 22, protected from touch by fingers and objects greater than 12mm.
IP ratings between 44 and 65 are acceptable for both indoor and general outdoor use, provided that they are in a sheltered location, protected from the elements, and not directly exposed to water or dust.
As a general rule, low IP ratings are suitable for:
- Indoor use
- Inside sealed or sheltered fixtures and locations
Higher IP ratings are best for areas that will be exposed to debris and water or weather conditions, such as industrial, factory, and unprotected outdoor lighting. If you know there is potential for contact with dust or liquids, make sure that you select a high IP rating to ensure your light bulbs have adequate protection.
IP ratings of 65 and above are considered to be weatherproof and are suitable for both indoor and outdoor use, with some small but important variations between the numbers:
- IP65 is water resistant, and can tolerate water projected directly onto the enclosure, but is not waterproof and should not be submerged in water.
- IP66 is water resistant and can tolerate water being sprayed forcefully from any direction, but should not be submerged in water.
- IP67 is water resistant and can tolerate brief periods of submersion in water up to 1 metre.
- IP68 is considered waterproof and can be permanently submerged in depths greater than 1 metre.
Always make sure to follow manufacturer guidelines when selecting new light bulbs.
These areas require high IP ratings:
- Unprotected outdoor locations
- Locations with exposure to lots of dust and debris or weather
- Wet areas or places with a high chance of coming in contact with water
- Inside showers, pools, or bathtubs
Find the Right Bulb
Got questions about IP ratings? Our sales and service team can help you find the right bulb for your use. Call us at 01869 362222, email, or get in touch with our experts using the new chat feature.