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What are NEMA and IP ratings?

clock 7 minutes | 02 Sep 2021

When we think of weatherproof electrical enclosures and outdoor cabinets, we think of IP or NEMA ratings. Here, we show you what they mean and how they compare.

What does IP stand for?

Ingress protection or international protection.

An IP rating, or IP code:

  • Is assigned to outdoor electrical enclosures
  • Tells you the amount of protection the enclosure provides against the entry of solid foreign objects and against moisture and water ingress
  • Are commonly used in Europe, but are becoming more common in the U.S.

For example, what is IP67? What is IP54? Look at the tables below.

  • The first digit indicates the level of protection against solid objects, such as dust
  • The second digit tells you the level of protection provided against water ingress

What is IP20? Look at the ‘2’ in the first table and the ‘0’ in the second table. What is the difference between IP55 and IP65? IP55 is not entirely protected from dust ingress, while IP65 is. They both have the same level protection against water.

IP rating table

Level

Protection from a solid object:

0

Not rated for protection against solid objects

1

Greater than 50mm (2 inches), such as a hand

2

Greater than 12.5mm (.49 inches), such as fingers

3

Greater than 2.5mm (0.098 inches), such as fine or small tools or thick wires

4

Greater than 1mm (0.039 inches), such as most wires, slender screws, large insects, etc.

5

Not entirely protected from dust – only enough that won’t interfere with the quality of the equipment’s operation

6

Complete protection from dust ingress

Level

Protection from water:

0

Not rated for protection against water

1

Vertically falling drops of water, such as drips – limited ingress expected

2

Vertically falling drops of water, with enclosure titled at 15 degrees from vertical position – limited ingress expected

3

Water sprayed at any angle up to 60 degrees from vertical position – no harmful effect

4

Water splashing against the enclosure from any direction – no harmful effect

5

Low pressure jets of water. Limited ingress expected

6

Water projected in high-pressure jets from any direction – no harmful effect

7

Immersion in water for up to 30 minutes at depths up to 1 metre (3.28 feet) – no harmful effects

8

Immersion in water of 1m (3.28 feet) or more, under pressure for long periods – limited ingress with no harmful effects

9K

Close range, high-pressure, high-temperature spray downs

What is NEMA?

NEMA ratings are simple. A NEMA number tells you the attributes of an electrical enclosure – specifically, the type of environment it can withstand.

What is NEMA 1? What is NEMA 4x? And how do NEMA and IP cross reference? IP to NEMA conversions are approximate. That’s because each uses different test methods and parameters to define their enclosure types.

Differences between IP and NEMA ratings:

  • IP ratings are only concerned with the ingress of water and solid objects
  • NEMA standards cover protection against corrosion resistance and atmospheric gasses, while also distinguishing between hazardous and non-hazardous environments

How do IP-rated enclosures compare to NEMA cabinets?

Which standards are higher? NEMA standards meet or exceed those of IP ratings. This is because their testing involves additional protocols and features not covered by the IP system.

Still, it’s not a case of NEMA vs. IP enclosures. There is no hard-and-fast like for like when it comes to the two. For example, no one agrees across the board if there’s an IP55 NEMA equivalent. In the table below, some would equate NEMA 3 to IP55. Others assign IP54 as the NEMA equivalency. Where there’s disagreement, we’re offering you both.

NEMA & IP approximate conversions table

Enclosure type

NEMA

1

2

3

3R

3S

4

4X

5

6

6P

12

12K

13

Indoor application

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

Outdoor application

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

Protection against:

Incidental human contact with enclosed equipment

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

Falling dirt

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

x

Dripping/light splashing of liquids

x

x

x

x

Rain, sleet, snow

x

x

x

x

x

Damage by external formation of ice

x

x

x

x

x

x

Windblown dust

x

x

x

x

External mechanism(s) remain operable when ice laden

x

Hose-directed or splashing water

x

x

x

x

x

Corrosion

x

Lint, fibres & flyings

x

x

x

x

x

Settling airborne dust

x

Temporary submersion at a limited depth

x

Prolonged submersion at a limited depth

x

Circulating dust

x

x

x

Seepage of water, oil & noncorrosive coolants

x

Approximate IP equivalent

10

11

54/

55

14

54/

55

65/ 66

65/

66

52

67

67/

68

52

52

54

Enclosure components can have ingress protection ratings too

When designing an outdoor utility cabinet, you need, for example, latches and locks that can ensure you meet your desired IP or NEMA rating.

Any enclosure using the IP65 rating system is designed to be dust tight. This rating also protects the equipment it holds from water spray from all directions. To obtain that rating, you’ll need, for example, a latch rated IP65 too. A good choice would be an IP65 quarter turn spring latch. Specifically, you want the o-ring to have that IP65 protection rating for its sealing properties. If space is limited, a good choice is a mini adjustable compression latch, which also seals to IP65 standards.

If the electrical enclosure door locks or latches cannot seal to that standard, you’re looking at the possibility of water and dirt ingress, which can damage the equipment you’re housing.

Often in the States, both ratings are given to an enclosure and components. The equivalent of IP65 would be NEMA 4x electrical enclosures. For example, that same quarter turn spring latch rated IP65 in Europe is rated NEMA-4 or 4x in the U.S. So it might read as: IP65/NEMA-4.

Locks and latches for an outdoor telecom equipment cabinet or any enclosure that holds electronics, aren’t the only components that carry IP or NEMA ratings. For instance, IP67 Sealing grommets protect against dust and water and can act as blanking plugs. NEMA-rated adjustable T-handle with compression offers better sealing against vibrations.

However, the easiest might be what you’re used to working with, although it’s a good idea to become familiar with both.

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Download free CADs and request free samples, which are available for most of our solutions. It’s a great way to ensure you’ve chosen exactly what you need. If you’re not quite sure which product will work best for you, our experts are always happy to advise you. Whatever it is you need, you can depend on fast despatch.

Request your free samples or download free CADs now.

Questions?

Email us at sales@essentracomponents.co.uk or speak to one of our experts for further information on the ideal solution for your application 0345 528 0474.
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