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What’s an IP Rating?

Shopping for LED commercial and industrial lighting can be confusing. There are many different factors to consider, but the good news is that you’ve already made a good choice by deciding to switch to LED lights.

They provide numerous benefits, like energy savings and lower maintenance costs, and they last significantly longer than other types of bulbs.

But, there’s a lot to learn about LED lighting, and knowing how to read and understand the different attributes of each LED is essential to ensuring that you choose the right light for your facility.

Learn more about what an IP rating is and how to read them below. 

led lights on a light post
IP Rating

The International Protection Marking (IP Code / Ingress Protection) rates the effectiveness of bulb housings from intrusions such as dust or water. The IP rating is a standard of the International Electro-technical Commission (IEC).

It applies to a wide range of products, not just lighting, but it is especially important in lighting because lights are usually one of the most fragile things in commercial and industrial settings.

These ratings are especially important for vapor tight and explosion-proof lights, where protecting the bulb from the environment is just as important as keeping what’s inside safe.  It is of utmost importance that you verify the IP rating of your LED vapor tight lights before you get them. The IP rating ensures that specific lights can be used without becoming a safety hazard to the users.

A light’s IP rating also reflects its suitability for both outdoor or indoor use. The “I” in IP refers to the protection level of the light’s enclosure. It secures a light’s internal components against solid particles, like dust. The letter “P” refers to the ability to protect its internal components against water. 

Where IP Rating Matters

Truth be told, paying attention to IP ratings is always important, but some settings need extra protection. Waterproof lighting is essential for light fixtures exposed to moisture, water, dust, or oil. Places like food processing plants wash with high-pressure hoses or oil rigs, where the might of the ocean is always on display require special lighting with very specific IP ratings.

Additionally, light fixtures in commercial refrigeration will face condensation, wet conditions, and extreme cold. A car wash light will have to withstand extreme wet conditions, harsh cleaning agents, and hot wax. And, lights installed in warehouses have pollution and dusty environments that could cause damage.

This is why a LED fixture’s IP rating is so critical. They give us an exact measurement of the protection of the electrical components. A higher IP rating signifies greater protection against the intrusion of smaller particulates. A lower rating points to limited protection against such intrusions. The highest rating indicates that the fixtures are protected and can submerge in water without any damage.

The below charts outline both digits in an IP rating and what you can expect from their different levels of protection.  

IP Rating for First Digit (Protection against Intrusion of Solid Objects)

Digit Object size Type of Protection
0 No protection at all from intrusion by objects
1 Objects greater than 50mm Protected against a large object’s surface area such as a palm of the hand. This level of protection does not keep it safe from force or deliberate tampering
2 Objects greater than 12.5mm This includes protection from objects such as fingers and other equal sized tools and objects
3 Objects greater than 2.5mm This encompasses protection from tools, thick-sized wires, and other similarly sized solid objects
4 Objects greater than 1mm This size of items includes screws, fine tools, and most wire sizes
5 Protects against the entrance of dust that may adversely affect the light fixture This level of protection not only protects against dust and its effects in large quantities but against contact as well
6 Completely dust tight This IP protection level ensures that no dust or any other foreign body will access the light fixture’s internal components
x Unrated light fixtures Since the IP rating is not defined, such light fixtures could be hazardous in high abuse environments

IP Rating for the Second Digit (Protection against Intrusion of Liquids)




Type of Protection


No protection from ingress of water or humidity


Dripping water and condensation

No adverse effects on light fixture when exposed to water drops vertically falling at an equivalent of 1mm per minute


Water droplets when tilted at an angle of 15°

Water droplets landing on the light fixture when it’s inclined at an angle of 15° will not damage it.


Sprayed water at a 60° angle

Water sprayed and falling at an angle of up to 60° will not damage the light fixture


Water splashes and sprays from any direction

Water that is splashed or sprayed on the light fixture from any direction will not harm it


Protection from water jets that utilize low pressure to spray water

Low-pressure water jets projected by nozzles (that are at least 6.3mm) from any direction will not damage the light fixture


Protection against ocean waves and powerful water jets

12.5mm water jets and waves hitting the light fixture from all directions will not destroy it


Protection against temporary immersion up to 1mm

The light fixture is effectively sealed against water infiltration at depths of 1mm


Protection against effects of immersion in pressurized applications

The light fixture is effectively sealed against water intrusion when immersed for a prolonged period. Acceptable conditions are specified by the manufacturer. It may be hermetically sealed or able to let in water, but the water does not adversely affect its functions.


IP Rated LED Vapor Tight Lighting

One of the most popular types of LED watertight fixtures is a LED vapor tight lights.

They’re rugged, impact resistant exterior casings along with gasketed seals protect the internal lighting and wiring components from corrosive fumes, moisture, dust and other gases in an environment that could shorten the life of the lighting fixture. These particular lights are popular in:

  • food processing facilities
  • stairwells
  • subways
  • laundry facilities
  • swimming pools
  • car washes
  • riding arenas
  • automotive repair centers
  • barns
  • parking garages
  • commercial refrigeration facilities
  • kitchens
  • bakeries

These are environments where the fixtures have exposure to dirt, wetness, and dampness. Regular lighting fixtures will present a safety risk to the users.

LED Lighting & IP Rating

As you can see, understanding different IP ratings is absolutely essential to ensure that your new LED lighting is the right fit for your commercial or industrial facility. Any facility manager or electrician knows that these settings often pose unusual hazards for lighting.

Shipyards, labs, and oil rigs are all examples of facilities that wouldn’t be able to survive without highly specialized lighting. Luckily, specially engineered LEDs solve this problem. This is why it’s so important to make sure that the lights have the appropriate IP rating.

Knowing the right IP rating for your circumstances is imperative, but there’s plenty of other factors to consider that will help you find the perfect fit for your space. If you’re converting from metal halide to LEDs, you can learn a little more about that process here.

Or, if you just want to brush up on your general knowledge about LEDs, this is the perfect place to begging. But, knowing the meaning behind different IP ratings is a great start.

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