IP Ratings – The definitive guide

When you look at the description or specification of a piece of electrical or electronic equipment you will quite often find that an IP Rating is quoted. It consists of the letters IP and a two digit number. IP simply stands for “Ingress Protection” and the number indicates the degree of protection that has been provided to the item of equipment.

The reason why IP Ratings exist is basically twofold. First and foremost is the safety of persons using or coming into contact with the equipment. The most obvious example here is protection against the ingress of water. Everyone knows that water and high voltage electricity are a very dangerous combination so any electrical equipment used in a wet environment needs to be well sealed to keep its electrical parts dry. The second issue is the life expectancy of the equipment itself. Using the same example, it won’t work for long if water can get into it.

Of course water is not the only thing that needs to be kept out of electrical devices. Casings or enclosures need to be sealed against intrusion by tools and fingers as well as keeping out dust and foreign bodies of all kinds.

International Standard

IP ratings are internationally recognized and are defined by International Standard EN60529 (British BS EN60529:1992, European IEC 60509:1989), so the numbers that follow the letters IP, mean the same everywhere. The meaning assigned to each digit is quite specific.

Digit 1

The first digit deals with both the level of protection afforded to people from moving parts and the degree of protection for the equipment inside from foreign bodies.

<td width=”67″ valign=”top”1st Digit

Protection against solid objects


Not protected


Protected against solid objects greater than 50mm (e.g. hands)


Protected against solid objects greater than 12mm (e.g. fingers)


Protected against solid objects greater than 2.5mm (e.g. tools)


Protected against solid objects greater than 1mm (e.g. wires)


Protected against dust (where there is sufficient amount to interfere with teh satisfactory operation of the equipment)


Total protection against dust


Indicates that protection against solid objects is not defined

Digit 2

The second digit refers to the level of protection provided against various degrees of moisture such as drips, submersion in water, sprays and so on.

2nd Digit

Protection against liquids


Not protected


Protected against dripping water greater than 50mm (drip proof)


Protected against dripping water when titled up to 15°


Protected against spraying water (rain proof)


Protected against splashing water (splash proof)


Protected against water jets from any direction (jet proof)


Protected against heavy seas


Protected against the effects of immersion between 15cm and 1m


Protected against long periods of immersion under pressure

Bathroom Zones are dictated by IP ratings

For most of us the IP ratings of lighting equipment take on the greatest degree of relevance when we are considering the purchase of lighting for either outdoor situations or in bathrooms, where moisture is the great enemy. Bathrooms are actually divided into zones for electrical safety purposes. Zone 0 is inside the bath or shower cubicle and requires at least IP67 and must be low voltage. Zone 1 covers an area up to 2.25 metres above the bath and requires IP44 plus an RCD device if mains voltage. Further from likely contact with water is Zone 2 where IP44 is the minimum rating allowed. Beyond that is Zone 3 or Outside Zones where an IP rating is not normally required. For a more in-depth look at this topic take a look at our Bathroom Zones – what can go where guide.


Lyco always quotes IP ratings on all relevant products and you can check these against the above chart to confirm the suitability for the particular location. Let’s take a look at some examples.

The Carina is a 28W flush fitting ceiling or wall light, which is ideal for basic bathroom lighting and is rated at IP44. The first figure 4 means that it is protected against intrusion by solid objects bigger than 1mm such as fine tools and obviously, fingers. The second figure 4 refers to moisture protection and tells you that it is protected against water spray from any direction which is why it is suitable for general bathroom lighting. It’s ideal for stairwells and corridors too using low energy bulbs for economy.

If you need something even better protected for somewhere like a swimming pool or outdoor car park you should consider the 5ft Twin T8 Weatherproof Fluorescent Fittings  with its sealed casing rated IP65.  That’s 6 because it is totally dust tight and the 5 means it’s protected against low pressure water jets from any direction.

Ground lights in drives and pathways may need to withstand weight as well as getting submerged in water from time to time. The Albany Submersible Ground Light fulfils these requirements admirably. Its rating of IP68 means that it is dust tight and is protected against continuous total immersion in water which also makes it ideal for use in water features.

Whatever your particular requirements, check them against the chart to make sure you get the right IP rating for the job. That way you and your customers will be safe and you’ll get the best life out of the products you choose.

Looking for more news, information or inspiration? Try our Lighting Advice section.

Charles Barnett Managing Director

Charles started Lyco in 1995 with just 4 enthusiastic employees and has grown it considerably over the past 25 years. Charles is also the Managing Director of Lighting Direct and newly acquired Online Lighting. He now has a team of 50 lighting experts working on growing Lyco Group to be the UK leader in lighting for both businesses and homes. Away from the office he is a keen cyclist and is proud to have cycled 1017 miles from Lands End to John O’Groats to raise money for a new residential centre for adults with multiple learning difficulties.