International Protection Ratings & You

“Is this light safe to use in my bathroom?” It’s one of the most common questions we get! Luckily it’s pretty easy to answer thanks to a little thing called “IP Rating”. Unfortunately, not many people know what that is or where to find it when shopping for lights.

Ratings are often treated as a burden that must be tolerated in the process of choosing that perfect luminaire to compliment the tone and character of your space. Even if that feels true, they are critical for ensuring you install the right light in the right situation. A beautiful light in your garden that shorts out because of rain loses its beauty quickly, to say nothing of the expense and possible danger involved.

So, we invite you to nerd out with us as we put on our labcoats and take a closer look at International Protection (IP) Ratings: what they are, how to read them, and how to use them.

Pictured: your friendly local LightForm nerd ready to talk about IP Ratings.

What IP Ratings Are

As mentioned, we get a lot of requests for luminaires that perform well in environments that are less-than-friendly to electricity and electronics, with requirements such as:

  • Water-resistant or waterproof
  • Airtight
  • Vapour-proof
  • Dust-proof
  • And, often most important: child-safe

International Protection Ratings (sometimes rendered as Ingress Protection Ratings) are a scientific, standardized, and measurement-based system that serve to replace inexact language like the terms above, the misuse or misunderstanding of which can often have expensive–even disastrous–consequences. They evaluate and inform how well a light fixture’s mechanical casings and electrical enclosures will perform against a range of life-cycle intrusion threats such as dust, dirt, and moisture.

How IP Ratings Work

All International Protection Ratings start with the letters ‘IP,’ followed by a two-digit set of numbers (eg. IP36). The first digit (3 in our example) indicates the degree of intrusion protection the fixture has against solid particulates, such as dirt, dust, or sand. The second digit (6 in our example) indicates the degree of intrusion protection from moisture–drips, sprays, and immersions.

Our example above, then, is Ingress Protection rated against solid objects larger than 2.5mm (a ‘3’) and moisture sprayed from powerful water jets–“powerful” is defined in the rating–(a ‘6’). 

Location of the IP rating for Lampe Gras N°304, a bathroom light rated IP64

Both ratings start at ‘0’, which indicates that there is no protection, and range to ‘6’ for solid particulates and ‘8’ for moisture. When you see an ‘X’ in an IP rating, it indicates that there is insufficient data to support the assignment of a rating/protection level.

Not every fixture will have an IP rating, so don’t worry if you can’t find one. 

The Specification tab information for a non-IP-rated light

Using IP Ratings

Each individual space or environment presents its own challenges, and IP ratings are one tool that makes selecting the ideal luminaire for your needs easier. Certain areas within kitchens and bathrooms will often require fixtures with a higher number in the second digit.

Likewise, it is particularly important to know the rating for outdoor light fixtures, as exterior conditions will present the greatest threats to their lifecycle performance. As a general rule, lights that are to be exposed to the outdoor elements should have an IP rating of IP65 or greater (Ingress Protection against all solid matter and water jets sprayed from any direction).

Lenta Outdoor Floor from Davide Groppi, rated IP65

You may notice lights simply listed as “Damp Rated” with out listing a specific IP, but that’s no cause for alarm. Those items are designed for wet locations but generally are not suitable for permanent outdoor or submersion areas like fully exposed outdoor areas and pools.

So you’re still with us. Great! We hope that you’ve enjoyed this peek behind the technical curtain at LightForm. But, even if you only tolerated it and are eager to click away as soon as you finish reading, that’s okay (also: thanks)!

You can, with confidence, continue to ask for waterproof, dust-proof, or lube-proof (we don’t judge) fixtures; it’s our job and goal to know how to use IP ratings (among other specifications), and to ask you the right questions to ensure that the luminaire you invite into your home is right for your needs and that it stays so for a long, long time. 

Now we invite you to use your newly-gained knowledge to shop more confidently on our website, or to call one of our showrooms in Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, or Toronto to book a consultation with one of our knowledgeable associates (we may or may not have our labcoats on when you call).

More information on IP ratings, including the ratings table, is available here.