IP stands for ingress protection, and this rating is a measure of how protected a fitting will be from solid and water penetration. IP ratings have two numbers, with the first for solids, such as dust or sand, and the second is for liquid.
The number representing protection from solids runs from 0-6, while the second number, protection from liquid ingress, is from 0-9. The higher the number, the more resistant the fitting is to contaminants, meaning the more it is protected.
Lights that are fitted in bathrooms and showers, as well as those being used in external applications, will need to be IP rating. And that is not all; within a bathroom, there are different zones that determine what can be installed and where and what the required IP rating is. This diagram shows the different bathroom zones:
Zone 0 will need IP*7 as a minimum. The star denotes that the first number is not too relevant, it is the high level of protection against water ingress that is vital. Zones 1&2 will need a minimum of IP*4.
Here are some other rules that could be useful to have knowledge of:
As with zone 0, steam rooms will usually have a minimum of IP*7 due to the increased moisture in the air in these settings.
If you are using lights externally, light fittings above ground will need to be IP*4, unless a hose will be used nearby, which would make an IP*5 fitting a more suitable choice.
If it is recessed into the floor, then the external fitting will need to be IP*7 as a minimum, with additional drainage beneath the fitting. If the light is going to be underwater, such as a fountain or a decorative water feature, it will need a minimum rating of IP*8.
These examples demonstrate how IP ratings are a really important way of ensuring we choose the right fittings for each individual application. By choosing the right fitting for the environment it will be operating in, you can ensure the longevity of the fitting, while not overspending on areas that you don’t need to.