April 11, 2024

3 min

Skills & Seamanship

Understanding IP Ratings: What’s Waterproof at Sea

IP68 connector

For any electronic device used at sea, durability and resilience are paramount. Whether it’s headlamps, electrical connections, smartphones, or general equipment, the ability to withstand the environmental challenges of being at sea is crucial. This is where Ingress Protection (IP) ratings come into play, offering a clear and standardized measure of an electronic device’s resistance to foreign particles and water. Understanding these ratings, such as IP67 and IP68, is essential for sailors and boat owners alike when choosing devices that are suitable to be on board.

What Are IP Ratings?

Developed by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), IP ratings are a global standard identified by the letters “IP” followed by two digits. These ratings provide a clear indication of an object’s level of protection against the intrusion of solid objects (including body parts like hands and fingers), dust, accidental contact, and water.

Decoding the Numbers

The first digit after “IP” ranges from 0 to 6 and indicates the level of protection against solid particles (e.g., dust). A “6,” for instance, signifies that the device is completely dust-tight.

The second digit, which ranges from 0 to 8, denotes the device’s resistance to moisture, with “8” representing the ability to withstand continuous immersion in water under conditions specified by the manufacturer, often beyond 1 meter of depth for extended periods.

Common IP Ratings and Their Significance

  • IP67: Devices rated IP67 are completely dust-tight and can withstand temporary immersion in water up to 1 meter deep for about 30 minutes. This rating is common in many smartphones and gadgets, offering a good level of protection for everyday use.
  • IP68: IP68-rated devices also offer complete dust protection but can be submerged deeper than 1 meter as specified by the manufacturer, usually up to 1.5 meters for up to 30 minutes. This rating is often found in equipment designed for use at sea.

All IP Ratings

First Digit (intrusion protection)

  1. (or X – see section below): No special protection. Not rated (or no rating supplied) for protection against ingress of this type.
  2. Protection from a large part of the body such as a hand (but no protection from deliberate access); from solid objects greater than 50mm in diameter.
  3. Protection against fingers or another object not greater than 80mm in length and 12mm in diameter (accidental finger contact).
  4. Protection from entry by tools, wires etc, with a diameter of 2.5 mm or more.
  5. Protection against solid objects larger than 1mm (wires, nails, screws, larger insects and other potentially invasive small objects such as tools/small etc).
  6. Partial protection against dust that may harm equipment.
  7. Totally dust-tight. Full protection against dust and other particulates, including a vacuum seal, tested against continuous airflow.

Second Digit (moisture protection)

  1. (or X – see section below): No protection.
  2. Protection against vertically falling droplets, such as condensation. ensuring that no damage or interrupted functioning of components will be incurred when an item is upright.
  3. Protection against water droplets deflected up to 15° from vertical
  4. Protected against spray up to 60° from vertical.
  5. Protected against water splashes from all directions. Tested for a minimum of 10 minutes with an oscillating spray (limited ingress permitted with no harmful effects).
  6. Protection against low-pressure jets (6.3 mm) of directed water from any angle (limited ingress permitted with no harmful effects).
  7. Protection against direct high-pressure jets.
  8. Protection against full immersion for up to 30 minutes at depths between 15 cm and 1 metre (limited ingress permitted with no harmful effects).
  9. Protection against extended immersion under higher pressure (i.e. greater depths). Precise parameters of this test will be set and advertised by the manufacturer and may include additional factors such as temperature fluctuations and flow rates, depending on equipment type.
  10. (K): Protection against high-pressure, high-temperature jet sprays, wash-downs or steam-cleaning procedures – this rating is most often seen in specific road vehicle applications (standard ISO 20653:2013 Road Vehicles – Degrees of protection).

IPX Ratings

Not an entirely valid IP rating, but still occasionally seen on websites offering enclosures. The “x” simply denotes that the value for that number is missing. You can replace it with a zero, assuming that it has no ingress protection rating. This may not be the case, but better safe than sorry. 

Choosing the Right IP Rating

When selecting a device to take to sea, consider what it will be used for and what it is likely to face. For everyday electronics, IP67 offers adequate protection against accidental drops into water dust and dirt. However, for more rigorous use, such as on deck, IP68 or higher may be preferable.

The Bottom Line

IP ratings are a crucial factor in determining the durability and longevity of electronic devices for your boat. By understanding what these ratings mean, sailors can make informed decisions that match their requirements, and ensure their electronic devices can withstand the rigors of the sea.

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