What are NEMA Ratings? Understanding Enclosure Ratings & Ingress Protection

Electronic products and mechanical devices that are exposed to any environment (indoor or outdoor) are commonly also exposed to people, dirt, and moisture. The purpose of the case, cabinet, or covering on any electrical/mechanical product is for protection as well as for beautification (cosmetics) and of course to bear a company logo. The design of the case, including vent holes and the placement of screws and fastening devices, determines how much protection the internal workings of the product has from the environment. These intrusions range from dirt, dust and insects to sprayed/dripped/directed moisture and curious poking fingers.

Ingress Protection is the industry standard term created by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), and it is abbreviated IP (not to be confused with Internet Protocol (IP) – a completely different specification altogether). The NEMA (National Electrical Manufacturers Association) rating is a second and just as important rating. In the USA you will usually see a NEMA rating code. The IP code is more common on devices used internationally.

When looking at a security camera you may see a NEMA rating or an IP rating, or both – which can be confusing. Merely by seeing such a rating number you can be assured that at some point in the design process the product was submitted for testing by a third party authority that assigned the number. If you don’t see an IP or NEMA number on something, then take care with placement since it is likely safe for indoor use only, in a protected area (no splashing water, not thrown dirt, dust and no splashing water or high humidity).
NEMA Ratings Definitions

The table below shows a variety of NEMA rating numbers commonly used for products that are intended for placement in non- hazardous locations.
NEMA Rating

Definition
1 – Provides a degree of protection from falling dirt. Equivalent to placing a cardboard box over your product.
3 – Provides a minimal protection for an outdoor product. Provides a degree of protection from rain, sleet, windblown dust and damage from external ice formation.
3R – Provides a minimal protection for an outdoor product. Provides a degree of protection from rain, sleet, and damage from external ice formation.
3S – Protection for outdoor use. Provides a degree of protection from rain, sleet and windblown dust. Special attention afforded to allow operation of external mechanism(s) when ice laden.
4 – Protection for indoor/outdoor use. Used to indicate a degree of protection from windblown dust and rain, splashing water, hose-directed water, and damage from external ice formation.
4X – Protection for indoor/outdoor use. Used to indicate a degree of protection from corrosion, windblown dust, rain, splashing water, hose-directed water, and damage from ice formation.
6 – Protection for indoor/outdoor use. Used to indicate a degree of protection from hose-directed water and the intrusion of water during an occasional submersion at limited depth (a quick dip), and damage from external ice formation.
6P – Protection for indoor/outdoor use. Used to indicate a degree of protection from hose-directed water and the intrusion of water during prolonged submersion at a limited depth, and damage from external ice formation.
12 – Protection for indoor use. Used to indicate a degree of protection against circulating dust, falling dirt and small debris, and dripping non-corrosive liquids.
12K – Type 12 with knockouts. Using knockouts may dramatically change the effective NEMA rating.
7 – Protection rating for an indoor product meant to be placed in a location classified by the National Electrical Codes as Class 1, Groups A, B, C, or D.
8 – Protection rating for an indoor or outdoor product meant to be placed in a location classified by the National Electrical Codes as Class I, Groups A, B, C, or D.
9 – Protection rating for an indoor product meant to be placed in a location classified by the National Electrical Codes as Class II, Groups E, F, or G.
10 – Meets applicable requirements set forth by the Mine Safety and Health Administration.

IEC Ratings Definitions

The IEC uses a 2-digit rating method as defined in standard 60529. The first number in an IP code describes how much protection is afforded to access to hazardous parts as well as intrusion of solid objects (fingers, paper clips, dirt, etc.). The second number describes it’s protection level vs water.

(Please note this is not intended to be an exhaustive discussion of security camera enclosure ratings. For a full definition of all numbers and levels that apply to outdoor products please refer directly to IEC standard 60529.)

The first number indicates the degree of protection both from intrusion of objects and protection to the user from hazardous parts or mechanisms inside the product.

First Number of IP Rating – Definition of Protection Against Access to Hazardous Parts
0 – No protection.
1 – Protected from objects larger than 50mm across, like the back of the hand.
2 – Protected from access with your finger (jointed member) or similar object with approx. size of 12mm x 80mm.
3 – Protected from access with an object or tool with approx. size of 2.5mm across.
4, 5, 6 – Protected from access with an object like a wire, approx. 1.0 mm across.

First Number of IP Rating – Definition of Protection Against Intrusion of Solid Objects
0 – No protection.
1 – Protected from objects larger than 50mm across.
2 – Protected from objects larger than 12.5mm across.
3 – Protected from objects larger than 2.5mm across.
4 – Protected from objects larger than 1.0mm across
5 – Protected from dust.
6 – Dust proof.

The second digit in the IEC assigned IP-number indicates protections from liquids.

Second Number of IP Rating – Definition of Protection Against Intrusion of Liquid
0 – No protection.
1 – Protected from vertically dripping water.
2 – Protected from vertically dripping water up to a tilt of 15° of the product in any direction.
3 – Protected from spraying water up to 60° angle.
4 – Protected from splashing water in any direction.
5 – Protected from jetting water in any direction.
6 – Protected from powerful jetting water in any direction.
7 – Can handle temporary immersion in water.
8 – Can handle continuous immersion in water.