Using the correct IP rating is one of the most important considerations when specifying connectors for a custom cabling project.
If your wiring harnesses are in a location where there is little chance of adverse conditions affecting them (for example, connecting desktop computers to an Ethernet socket), then an IP rating may not be important.
But if your custom cabling project involves areas where exposure to moisture or dust can occur, ensuring you have the adequate rating needs to be thought through properly.
In this blog, our expert team explains the ins and outs of IP rated cables and connectors.
What is an IP Rating?
First things first.
An IP (Ingress Protection) rating refers to the level of protection an electrical enclosure provides from exposure to liquids. This includes both water and moisture.
It also applies to the level of protection against the intrusion of solid objects such as fingers, wires, dirt, dust and tools.
The terms “IP Rated Cables” and “IP Rated Connectors” tend to be used interchangeably.
This is because the rating applies to the section where the cable and the connector actually join, not to the cable itself.
So if both connectors at either end of the cable are IP rated, then the cable itself is considered to be an “IP rated cable”.
How Does the Rating System Work?
The rating consists of a number which will specify the level and degree of protection against either solid or liquid elements.
As an example, “IP64” ensures that the cable is protected from total dust ingress while also being protected from water spray in any direction.
Whereas an installation that is only exposed to minimal dust and no moisture may only require a rating of “IP50”.
Generally speaking, the higher the rating, the more protected the cabling will be, and obviously the more expensive.
For any type of cable project, you want to ensure you are using connectors that aren’t under or over rated.
There’s no point in paying extra for a higher rating when it won’t be necessary in the environment the cabling is exposed to. This would unnecessarily increase overall costs.
To determine what rating you need for your project, there are a few broad factors to consider.
As a rule of thumb, if you need to rug up or be kept cool using air con, as a human, in the areas where your cables and wiring harnesses will be located, then you need to think about protecting your cables with an IP rating.
Temperature has a massive impact on the longevity and performance of cables.
If it’s a cold environment, especially where there is also moisture such as in refrigerated warehouses or factories, the combination of cold and moisture can make the shielding brittle if the rating isn’t sufficient.
If it’s a hot environment, the cables can actually expand and contract, causing them to deteriorate and eventually fail. Or in extreme cases, the use of the incorrect insulating material may cause melting and failure.
To ensure a long service life and the integrity of the wire harness, custom made IP rated connectors may need to be used.
Indoor vs Outdoors
A cable that is specified to work indoors is probably not going to survive the outdoors.
Outdoor cables, in particular, require a high level of protection from water if there is possible exposure to the elements, such as rain, or if the cable could be submerged in water for any length of time.
Different levels of protection apply for vertical water drops landing on a cable compared to being partially or fully submerged in a body of water.
An indoor cable that runs through a wall and up through the roof may need protection from dust. Total or limited dust ingress may be required depending on the location of the cabling and if it’s likely to lay undisturbed.
And of course, there may be a mix of environments!
For custom cabling projects, there are a whole host of factors that need to be considered.
If yours is a complex project, with cable being routed through different environments, deciding on the right rating for your connectors will require a holistic approach.
As the cable goes from point A to point B, there may be varying stress points and potential environmental exposures you may not have thought of or noticed.
A custom cabling manufacturer has the knowledge and experience to weigh up all of these considerations and help you to think it all through.
They will be able to identify what type of rating will be appropriate for the environment and recommend if a custom solution is required.
Moreover, the manufacturer will be able to professionally test the cabling to confirm it meets IP rating standards.
With an expert opinion, you can then be fully assured the cables in your project are safe for use and fully protected from the elements.
What Type of IP Rated Connectors and Cables Do I Need for my Project?
So, as we’ve discovered, there’s not always a simple answer when it comes to deciding on IP rated connectors and cables.
If you have a custom cabling project and you are unsure what level of rating you need, call the experts at QCC Custom Cables.
Our team have the expertise and have access to the right equipment to deliver a workable solution for you, in full and on time.
For more information and advice, click here to contact QCC Custom Cables.