NEMA Ratings vs IP Codes for Keeping Out Dust & Liquids

May 2, 2022


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Whether you are a facility manger or just the person who is responsible for selecting the right enclosures to protect your company’s sensitive electronic equipment, it is important to understand the difference between two common standards used to rate ingress and resilience. Profitability often depends upon protecting a company’s equipment investment as well as keeping the software and data readily available for workers. Since coding systems for enclosures that house electrical components developed independently in Europe and the United States, two popular acronyms IP and NEMA are similarly used but are not identical measurements for preventing ingress.

If your servers, computer workstations, barcode label printers, or Keyence equipment is operated in harsh industrial, manufacturing, warehousing, or medical environments, the electronics must withstand exposure to moisture and particulate matter. Although NEMA ratings and IP codes are interchangeable in some environments, there are several differences that are important when you are trying to determine the best enclosure for your specific installation. Here’s how the two standards are applied to identify an enclosure’s resistance to foreign materials (including human touch) and environmental conditions like water, dust, and temperature.

What is a NEMA rated enclosure?

The National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) is a trade association of electric equipment manufacturers founded in the United States. NEMA is best known for the rating metric it created for electrical enclosures used in both indoor and outdoor environments. NEMA ratings correspond to the kind of environmental hazards from which the enclosure must protect its interior, including harsh temperatures and corrosive materials. Through a combination of numbers and letters, the NEMA scale rates equipment from the low-end of basic indoor protection like a NEMA 1 enclosure to the high-end of ultra-resilient outdoor enclosures like a NEMA 6P enclosure, which provides protection during prolonged submersion. In between are common (but not sequential) ratings like NEMA 4X and NEMA 12 commercial or industrial enclosures. Similar to the IP Codes, NEMA ratings sometimes can be used interchangeably for a given environment and purpose.

What is an IP rated enclosure?

The Ingress Protection Code system was developed in Europe, but it is increasingly being used in the United States as well as internationally. The two-digit coding comes from the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization (CENELEC). Although some American enclosure manufacturers may offer an IP rating, this typically appears on electrical cabinets and equipment produced outside the USA. While there are some equivalencies in a NEMA and IP rated enclosures, the two standards may differ significantly. This is due to the fact that IP Codes only consider protection against ingress of solid foreign objects and the ingress of liquids, but do not rate construction details or protection against all operating conditions. IP Codes are simple to use as the first number indicates the degree of protection against penetration from solid objects and the second number indicates ingress protection from liquids entering the cabinet. For example, an enclosure with a rating of IP-68 would provide complete protection against penetration of dust and indefinite immersion in water under a specified pressure.

Protecting Sensitive Equipment in Harsh Environments

While NEMA and IP ratings are not identical, they are similar and can often be used interchangeably for the purpose of rating enclosures for a specific environment. Unfortunately, cross referencing is not an easy task. IP Codes specify standards primarily for protection against ingress of solid foreign objects or liquids, whereas NEMA ratings also specify protection against other conditions, such as corrosion. Since the comparison of NEMA and IP enclosure ratings is only approximate, it is the responsibility of the end user to verify the enclosure rating necessary for a given application. That’s where the knowledgeable staff at Dust Free PC can customize an enclosure to meet your specific needs.

If you need to protect Keyence equipment, you may see an IP rating listed for any Keyence electronic device produced outside the United States. Even though there is no direct conversion between NEMA and IP ratings, NEMA standards meet or exceed a corresponding IP rating. On the other hand, an IP rating does not necessarily meet or exceed NEMA standards. This is due to the fact that NEMA includes additional product features and environmental tests not addressed by the IP coding system. At Dust Free PC, we offer custom designs for NEMA 4 enclosures and Keyence equipment enclosures that are manufactured from ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) thermoplastic polymer sheet to protect against the toughest environmental hazards, such as corrosive agents or below freezing temperatures. Use our convenient contact form or call us today at 800-775-7611 to learn more about our NEMA 4, NEMA 12 or NEMA 4X equipment enclosures.

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