What is IP Rating?
Ingress Protection Rating, more commonly referred to as IP Rating, is an international standard used to depict protection from environmental elements such as water and dust for electrical cases. Additionally, IP Ratings complement another international standard in North America, called National Electrical Manufacturers Association Rating or NEMA Rating. NEMA Rating can correspond with IP Ratings but goes into more specifics of the environment itself, including testing and resistance to corrosive materials in the environment.
When you see an IP Rating, it will mostly appear as IP and then two numbers following it. For example, IP 68. The first number refers to its solid protection rating and the second number refers to its water protection rating. The solid production number goes on a scale from 1 to 6. The lowest rating of 1 means nothing bigger than 50 mm or roughly 2 inches can get inside the case. A rating of 6 means the case is dust-proof for up to 8 hours. The second number corresponds to the water protection number and it goes from 1 to 9k. With a rating of 1, it means it's resistant to water dripping down on top of it. A 9k is when it is protected against close-range high pressure and high-temperature spray downs. The IP Rating can have an X instead of one of the numbers. The X means that the test wasn't conducted or there is not enough information to conclude a result. For a better look into what the number means look at the chart below.
There is even more that can go into IP Ratings with the possibility of two letters following at the end to give more information on the product. The first letter corresponds to protection against access to hazardous parts. For example, the letter A following the two numbers would correspond to protection against the back of the hand hitting hazardous parts. The second letter that follows the first one is a supplementary letter. Seeing an H is this spot can depict high voltage apparatus. If you want a full understanding of IP Rating number and letters please go to Degrees of Protection.
Why is IP Rating important to your project?
Testing your product and getting your device IP rated is important because it proves to the clients that your device is up to that IP Rating. IP rating was created to get away from terms like waterproofing and dust-proof and be more uniformed in knowing exactly what you want to mean. IP Rating is an international standard it means there will be a wider range of clients looking for an IP rated device. While just saying a device is waterproof or water-resistant doesn't tell us much about the product itself, and can be easily misunderstood. But with the IP Rating system, it is very detailed and clear on what you want to mean. IP rating of 68 means it is dust-tight and watertight and it has gone through those tests.
Recently my team was looking for an electronics case so we could put a prototype in it. I would only look for cases that had an IP Rating. It was important to my team that I get an IP rated box so they didn't have to worry about their new prototype being destroyed by water or dust. Regardless of the product description having watertight or Water Shield, if it did not have an actual IP Rating I would not consider looking into it for my project. An example of when an IP Rating is important is for the tracking device Allosense is developing. This tracking device needs to be able to track through most environments and reliably for up to 10 years. A lot of times when we are talking to clients, they want to know what it can withstand. If you just say “oh it's water resistance” you don't sound very confident or professional. waterproof or water-resistant gets thrown around a lot without a clear meaning. The problem with waterproof or water-resistant is you don't actually know what its definition is. IP Ratings are a way to get a more defined definition of what your device can handle and relay that to the client.
What does it mean for different projects?
There are tons of different projects that can use IP Ratings, from building a back patio to developing a tracking device that uses satellite and cellular to pinpoint its location. When redoing your back patio, it is important to always make sure that you have IP rated lights so that new electronics last longer than just one rainy spring. For most lights, it is important for them to be protected from rain but in some specific cases where you are next to a pool, you might want to get one with a little bit higher rating that protects against water spray from any direction. Now on the other hand, when making a tracking device it's important to make sure your device is waterproof and dust-proof so the electronics last more than just a week out in a harsh environment. If you're trying to make a tracking device that can determine where a package is anywhere in the world but it gets disabled if it starts to rain or goes across the desert you aren't able to track really anywhere in the world.
Determining the best IP Rating for your project
Let's dive into what goes into picking IP Ratings and trying to determine what IP Ratings you need for your device. At Allosense we are making a modular tracking device using different communication methods and sensors. We determined that we wanted an IP Rating of 68 for our trackers so we could place it on almost any cargo without the fear of our device being disabled easily. We won our devices to be able to track whether it is humid or wet or if it's at the bottom of a lake and you can't do that if your device is not IP Rating 68. We figured out the IP Rating of 68 was the ideal rating for a tracking device because of the nature of different packages like cargo crates on a ship, we wanted the capabilities of being able to go into most environments whether that environment happened to be the sea or a desert. Some difficulties we encountered were that we wanted to have access to the outside world. A recommendation would be figuring out the best IP Rating for your device that would best accommodate what hurdles you'll encounter with the design process.
You don't always have to go with the best IP Rating possible. There's no reason to get an IP rated 68 indoor light, it just doesn't have to be that protected for an indoor project. They can save a lot of money and time if you determine what IP rating you need and don't overshoot your expected environments. Most outdoor circuit breakers have an IP Rating 24 and aren't waterproof. In this example of an outdoor circuit breaker, most are placed four feet off the ground and are against a building they only need to protect against harsh rain and aren't being submerged in water.
Degrees of protection provided by enclosures (IP codes)’ M-124’, Course (Syria - Damascus) 21 May 2002, Mr. M. Leusenkamp, Holec, The Netherlands. Understanding IP Certification. (n.d.). Retrieved July 06, 2020, from https://www.pacergroup.net/pacer-news/understanding-ip-certification/
IP Rating Chart. (n.d.). Retrieved July 06, 2020, from http://www.dsmt.com/resources/ip-rating-chart/
Annie. (2019, April 03). How to choose the right IP rating of LED lights for interior and exterior. Retrieved July 06, 2020, from https://www.aisledlight.com/choose-right-ip-rating-led-lights/