An important part of any product that is installed outdoors is its IP rating, also called IP code, ingress protection rating or international protection rating. Published by the International Electrotechnical Commission, they classify and rate the degree of protection a mechanical casing and/or electrical enclosure has against intrusion by dust, water or something else, including body parts such as hands and fingers.
Let’s examine different IP ratings and what they mean relative to landscape lighting components. This will help you be better equipped to know what you’ll need to install in certain kinds of environments.
Defining the digits
There are two digits associated with the IP rating system. The first number refers to how well a device is protected against the intrusion of solid particles like dirt and dust. The highest rating is 6.
The second number refers to the degree of protection against the ingress of moisture. The highest rating for this is 9. The highest rating you’ll see on any landscape lighting element is IP68.
The following is a bit more detail on the typical IP ratings you’ll see on landscape lighting lamps and other components.
Understand each rating
An IP61 rating on a device indicates it is dust-tight and protected against the intrusion of droplets of water from something such as condensation. MR16 LED lamps are among the most common products that carry this rating. It means that even if a directional fixture with an MR16 LED lamp in it gets a crack on its lens, the lamp inside will still be protected.
Ratings of IP63 and IP64 also mean that a component is dust-tight. An IP63 rating indicates protection from rain and water spray hitting the unit at a 60-degree angle. If a unit’s rating is IP64, it’s protected against the intrusion of splashing water coming from any and all directions. Many open-bottom electrical covers will bear IP63 or IP64 ratings. Several manufacturers offer low-voltage dimmers and wall switches that also carry one of these ratings.
An IP65 rating on a device means that it is dust-tight in addition to being protected against rain, splashing water and jets of water that hit it from any angle. Most ground- or wall-mounted integrated fixtures will carry this rating, as will most silicon- and plastic-covered miniature lamps. When retrofitting a path or area light that doesn’t have a lens, it’s a good practice to select an IP65-rated lamp. That way, if water from a lawn sprinkler sprays the fixture, its lamp will be protected.
The rating IP66 means a device is dust-tight and also protected against the intrusion of water projected by powerful jets in any direction. Most landscape lighting transformers have this rating. Several manufacturers offer IP66-rated mesh Wi-Fi extension pods.
An IP67 rating means that a device is dust-tight and can withstand submersion in water up to 1 meter deep for up to 30 minutes. Should you need to do an installation in an area that can experience high moisture levels and/or accumulate standing water, an IP67 product would be a good choice. Many PAR36 lamps and sealed integrated fixtures are rated IP67, as are epoxy-filled LED drivers and several brands of outdoor speakers.
Products with an IP68 rating will be dust-tight and suitable for continuous immersion in water under certain conditions cited by the manufacturer. Normally, this rating means that a piece of equipment is hermetically sealed. However, when it appears on certain other types of equipment, it can mean that water can enter — but only in a way that will produce no harmful effects. Most integrated underwater lights carry an IP68 rating.
Before you install any landscape lighting component, invest some time researching all its specifications. And should you ever run across a “bargain lamp” somewhere, remember that it’s probably a bargain for a reason. Be sure to check the IP rating of every landscape lighting product you buy. If you would like a copy of an IP ratings chart, please email me and I’d be happy to send you a copy.
Kevin Smith is the national technical support and trainer at Brilliance LED LLC, Carefree, Arizona, and can be reached at email@example.com.