How do I choose the right IP Rating for an outdoor enclosure?

We are often asked this about our outdoor electronic equipment cabinets.  Sometimes customers – who have perhaps done a little Googling – begin by stating something like “I need IP67”, without really understanding what this means in practice or the implications of such a high rating.

When it comes to housing optical routers and switches, DWDM transmission multiplexers, sometimes servers, backup batteries, etc then Ingress Protection (IP) is the essential ability of the enclosure to prevent the entry of foreign objects, both solid and liquid.

Keeping the inside dry is an obvious requirement for an outdoor cabinet, and on the solid side things like insects, vermin, curious fingers, a vandal’s tools, and dust are all known operational hazards that must be managed.

The Rainford guide to IP Ratings explains the EN60529 standard in more detail.  Basically, the standard classifies various degrees of protection that an enclosure provides for low voltage electrical equipment.  Incidentally “low” here means under 72,500 Volts.  It also specifies scientifically the method of testing that a UKAS accredited testing laboratory would perform to provide certification.

All very well and good, but what rating do I need?? 

Of course, it depends.  The higher the rating the more the enclosure itself will cost, because of additional seals and care that must be taken both in design and manufacture to achieve finer tolerances.  So, there is commercial pressure to go for the lowest rating that will be good enough.

The higher the IP rating the more the enclosure will be airtight, which can create thermal heat management issues.  As well as the heat that your equipment generates an outdoor cabinet will also be subject to solar radiation (yes, even in the UK).

How do I know what is ‘good enough?

That’s easier, maybe.  The equipment that you are putting inside will determine how much protection the enclosure must provide.  Typically equipment that has been purpose-designed to be housed outside will be hardened for extended temperature ranges and be less sensitive to environmental conditions like high humidity.  Time to study the back of those data sheets more carefully!

Still not sure?  Talk to one of friendly team today to discuss your project and see how we might be able to help.

About Rainford Solutions Ltd

Established in 1982, Rainford serves a diverse client base of Tier 1 network operators, System Integrators and global OEMs across a wide variety of markets, including fixed and mobile network operators, road, rail, data centres, defence, water and energy utilities.

Our UK engineering team is experienced in developing solutions for challenges with thermal, electro-magnetic (EMC), seismic, shock and vibration, ingress protection (IP), and vandals, certified to global civilian and military standards.

Operating from a modern factory located in St Helens, UK, Rainford Solutions’ facilities are built with the highest level of flexibility and capacity for volume manufacture, to support national infrastructure projects.

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