IP Ratings for Lights

Sunday, 1 March 2020  |  Graham

 IP Ratings IP20, IP44, IP66 What Should You Use.

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 is an IP Rating.

Light fittings and other electrical goods can be given an IP number, 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.

So a very common IP20 may be used for many indoor household lights, 2 means nothing over 12mm can enter, ie fingers, and 0 - it has no water protection. Not all indoor lights have a rating, it depends if the manufacturer has put a sample light through the test. 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.

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.

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.

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 does an IP number mean?

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

Level sized Effective against Description
X X means there is no data available to specify a protection rating with regard to this criterion.
0 No 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.
5 Dust protected Ingress of dust is not entirely prevented, but it must not enter in sufficient quantity to interfere with the satisfactory operation of the equipment.
6 Dust-tight No 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.

Level Protection against Effective against Details
X X means there is no data available to specify a protection rating with regard to these criteria.
0 None
1 Dripping water Dripping 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 minutes

Water equivalent to 1 mm (0.039 in) rainfall per minute

2 Dripping 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

3 Spraying water Water 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

4 Splashing of water Water 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)
5 Water jets Water 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 minutes

Water volume: 12.5 litres per minute Pressure: 30 kPa (4.4 psi) at distance of 3 meters (9.8 ft)

6 Powerful water jets Water 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 minutes

Water 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 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.