A GUIDE TO UNDERSTANDING IP RATINGS FOR EXTERIOR LIGHTING AND BATHROOM ZONES

Some questions we get asked time and time again from our customers are “is this fitting suitable for my bathroom” or “Are these fittings suitable for use outdoors”. Its perennial question and one that is of particular importance in our northern hemisphere climates. Understanding IP ratings is key to understanding if a fitting is suitable for a wet or dusty or dry environment.

The technical description of an IP rating, (the IP stands for Ingress protection), is a means of categorising lamps by their ability to stop entries of dirt and water. The better the seal the cleaner the fixtures interior. Basically it is a way of showing how good a light fitting is at keeping out dust, dirt and water.

IP ratings are expressed as “IP” followed by two numbers where the numbers define the degree of protection. The first digit (Foreign Bodies Protection i.e. “dirt”) shows the extent to which the equipment is protected against particles (i.e. “grime”). The second digit (Water Protection) indicates the extent of protection against water entering the fixture.

For example, IP20 offers protection against solid objects over 12mm in size, e.g. fingers and hands while IP68 is totally protected against dust ingress – dustproof and is protected against continuous immersion in water no deeper than 100cm – this covers pool or pond lights. The typical lamp solution to an exterior light is IP65 – fully dust proof and offering protection from low pressure water jets from all directions.

We would recommend a minimum of IP65 for any outdoor application in temperate climates. Sometimes fittings of IPs as low as IP43 are sold for outdoor application. While these may be useable in Mediterranean climates, we have found they are not suitable to harsher climates such as Ireland or the United Kingdom. Generally we recommend IP65 for exposed outdoor lighting with the option to drop down to IP44 for covered areas i.e. Patios, where there is roof cover or similar areas.

Another area where IP ratings are important, is in the bathroom. Here not only do you need to consider the IP rating of the fixture but you also need to consider the zone in which the feature will reside.

There are four zones that need to be considered when installing bathroom lighting and based on the zone applicable the IP requirements will change.

Zone 0: Is the area inside the bath or shower. A minimum of IP67 would be required here.
Zone 1: This is the area directly above the bath or shower tray and to a height of 2.25m. You need to use IP65 in this location.
Zone 2: This is the area over the bath or shower tray above the sides of zone 1 up to a distance of 60cm. This is an external area which would be suited to an IP44 lamp at distances that extend vertically to .6m and to a height of 3m.
Zone 3: The final zone is as you might expect is the area external to zones 0, 1 and 2 and extends to a distance of 2.4m from zone 2 and a height of 3m. Because this zone is not in the direct line of water IP20 lamps are suitable for these fittings.


Decorative Lighting is an excellent way to add that artistic value to a space both indoor and outdoor but it needs to be done on a considerate and safe manner, by following this guide you can ensure that the fixtures you choose perfectly meet all requirements.

Here at Willie Duggan Lighting we are aware how confusing IP ratings can be so please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any queries.

Here is a useful table to help you understand the best type of IP rating you should use on your lamps:

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