Understanding the ratings that ensure protection against environmental factors is crucial for safeguarding vulnerable electrical enclosures in industrial computing, LCD displays, and many technologies used in extreme conditions. Two primary rating systems are widely used to standardize and rank protective enclosures: NEMA (National Electronic Manufacturers Association) and Ingress Protection (IP) ratings. But which one is better? Understanding the details and differences of both systems, their applications, and how they coincide will help determine the best choice in protective enclosures for your hardware needs.

Why Enclosure Rating Systems Exist

NEMA and IP ratings provide a standardized way to measure an enclosure’s ability to protect its contents from environmental hazards. These rating systems ensure that electrical enclosures can withstand various conditions, such as dust, water, and other contaminants, making them essential for ensuring safety and reliability in harsh environments. This standardized approach helps manufacturers and consumers make informed decisions about the protective products they use, ensuring compatibility and performance in specific conditions.

Standardized ratings play a vital role in various industries by providing a common language for specifying enclosures’ environmental protection capabilities. They help reduce misunderstandings and ensure that equipment is adequately protected, reducing the risk of damage, downtime, and safety hazards. Without these ratings, comparing products or determining their suitability for specific applications would be challenging, leading to potential failures and increased costs.

What Applications are NEMA and IP ratings Used for?

These rating systems are commonly used for products and applications that require protection from the elements. For instance, NEMA and IP-rated enclosures are often used in industrial settings, outdoor installations, and anywhere where robust protection is necessary. Specifically, sunlight-readable monitors with appropriate ratings for rugged outdoor environments are highly advantageous links.

Industries That Rely on NEMA and IP Ratings

  1. Industrial Manufacturing: Protecting sensitive electronic components in harsh manufacturing environments.
  2. Military/Aerospace: Protecting sensitive electronic components in demanding and unpredictable environments.
  3. Telecommunications: Ensuring reliable operation of equipment exposed to outdoor conditions.
  4. Utilities: Safeguarding electrical and control systems in power plants and substations.
  5. Transportation: Protecting electronics in vehicles and outdoor infrastructure.
  6. Healthcare: Ensuring medical devices operate reliably in various environments.

Examples of Rated Products

  • Electrical Panels: Enclosures that protect circuit breakers, switches, and other electrical components from dust and moisture.
  • Control Cabinets: These are used in industrial automation to house control systems and protect them from harsh factory conditions.
  • Outdoor Computers/Monitors: Displays used in outdoor settings, such as digital signage or industrial monitors, need protection from weather elements.
  • Junction Boxes: Enclosures that protect electrical connections in various settings, from residential to industrial applications.

What Does NEMA Stand for?

NEMA stands for the National Electrical Manufacturers Association, which created the NEMA rating system. This system is primarily used in North America and provides a detailed categorization of enclosures based on their ability to withstand different environmental conditions.

NEMA Enclosure Ratings Defined

NEMA ratings range from 1 to 13, with several subcategories in between, each indicating a specific level of protection. The higher the number, the more robust the protection.1

 Below is a table that summarizes each NEMA rating:

Common NEMA Enclosure Ratings Description
NEMA 1 General-purpose indoor enclosures provide a degree of protection against limited amounts of falling dirt.
NEMA 2 Similar to NEMA 1 but with the addition of drip-tight protection.
NEMA 3 Weather-resistant enclosures for outdoor use provide protection against windblown dust, rain, sleet, and external ice formation. They are suitable for indoor and outdoor use.
NEMA 3R Enclosures designed to be rainproof and provide protection against rain and sleet but without the dust protection of NEMA 3. Suitable for indoor and outdoor use.
NEMA 3S Like NEMA 3, this rating also ensures that internal mechanics remain operable even when ice-covered.
NEMA 4 Enclosures that offer protection against splashing water, hose-directed water, corrosion, and severe external condensation or ice formation damage are suitable for indoor and outdoor use.
NEMA 4X Similar to NEMA 4 but with additional corrosion resistance, it is suitable for use in harsher environments, both indoors and outdoors.
NEMA 5 Indoor-only enclosures that protect against dirt, dust, small particles, and light, indirect water spray, dripping, or splashing.
NEMA 6 Enclosures that provide protection against dirt, high-power directed water, external ice formation, and temporary submersion in water at limited depths.
NEMA 6P Enclosures that offer protection similar to NEMA 6 but also against prolonged water submersion are suitable for indoor or outdoor use.
NEMA 12 Indoor-only enclosures that protect against circulating dust, falling dirt, and dripping non-corrosive liquids.
NEMA 12K 12k Enclosures are similar to NEMA 12 but also offer resistance to corrosive liquids.
NEMA 13 Indoor-only Enclosures protect against dust, spraying of water, oil, and non-corrosive coolants.


Advantages of NEMA Ratings

  • Detailed Classifications: NEMA ratings offer specific details about protection levels, which can be crucial for selecting the proper enclosure for hazardous locations.
  • Broad Applications: NEMA ratings cover various environmental conditions, from indoor to highly corrosive outdoor environments.
  • Industry Standards: NEMA ratings are widely recognized and used in North America, making them a trusted standard for electrical enclosures.

Typical Applications of NEMA-Rated Enclosures

NEMA-rated enclosures are commonly used in industrial settings, military infrastructure and equipment, outdoor telecommunications equipment, utility installations, and transportation infrastructure. Their ability to provide robust protection makes them ideal for environments where dust, water, and other contaminants are a concern.

What Is an Ingress Protection (IP) Rating? / Understanding IP ratings

The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) created the IP rating system, which is used globally. It classifies and rates the degree of protection provided by mechanical casings and electrical enclosures against intrusion, dust, accidental contact, and water.

The IP Rating Numbering Scale

IP ratings consist of two digits. The first digit represents the level of protection against solid objects, while the second digit represents the level of protection against liquids.2

Here’s a breakdown of the IP rating scale featuring common rating combinations:

IP Rating Description
IP00 No protection against contact and ingress of solid objects or water.
IP11 Protection against solid objects over 50 mm and drops of water (non-spray)
IP22 Protection against solid objects over 12mm (e.g., fingers) and drops of water when the enclosure is titled at a 15-degree angle from vertical
IP33 Protection against solid objects over 2.5mm (e.g., tools, thick wires) and spraying water
IP44 Protection against solid objects over 1mm (e.g., wires, screws) and multi-directional water splashes.
IP55 Firm (not absolute) protection against dust ingress and water jets.
IP66 Dust-tight protection and protection against high-pressure water jets from any direction.
IP67 Dust-tight protection and protection against temporary immersion in water at limited depths.
IP68 Dust-tight protection and protection against continuous immersion in water under conditions specified by the manufacturer.
IP69 Dust-tight protection and protection against high-pressure and high-temperature water jets.


Advantages of IP ratings

  • Global Recognition: IP ratings are recognized worldwide, making them suitable for international applications.
  • Clear Protection Levels: The dual-digit system indicates the levels of protection against solids and liquids, helping users quickly understand the enclosure’s capabilities.
  • Versatility: IP ratings cover various environmental conditions, from essential indoor protection to harsh outdoor environments.

Typical Applications of IP-Rated Enclosures

IP-rated enclosures are used in various industries, including consumer electronics, automotive, telecommunications, and industrial automation. Their ability to provide specific protection levels against dust and water makes them ideal for environments where these elements are a concern.

NEMA vs. IP ratings

Comparing NEMA and IP ratings can be challenging since they cater to slightly different needs and standards. However, understanding your application’s specific requirements can help determine which rating system to prioritize.

Critical Differences Between NEMA and IP Ratings

  • Geographical Use: NEMA ratings are primarily used in North America, while IP ratings are recognized globally.
  • Protection Details: NEMA ratings provide more detailed classifications, especially for hazardous locations, while IP ratings focus on protection against solids and liquids.
  • Complexity: NEMA ratings can be more complex due to the broader range of environmental conditions they cover, whereas IP ratings offer a straightforward two-digit system.

When to Use NEMA Ratings

  • Hazardous Locations: If your application is in a hazardous location, NEMA ratings provide detailed classifications to help you choose the proper enclosure.
  • North American Standards: If your products are primarily used in North America, NEMA ratings ensure compliance with local standards and regulations.

When to Use IP Ratings

  • Global Applications: IP ratings provide a universally recognized standard if your products are used internationally.
  • Specific Protection Needs: If you need to specify protection against dust and water with precision, IP ratings offer clear and straightforward guidance.

How AbraxSys Determines the NEMA or IP Rating for an Application

At AbraxSys, determining the appropriate NEMA or IP rating involves considering several factors, including environmental conditions, whether the application is indoors or outdoors, structural requirements, and industry-specific standards. This comprehensive approach ensures that our products meet the highest standards of protection and reliability.

AbraxSys specializes in manufacturing industrial computer and LCD monitor solutions designed for use in harsh environments, including industrial, manufacturing, and military settings. The NEMA and IP ratings are crucial for determining the protection levels of these products, ensuring they can withstand the demanding conditions they are exposed to.

Factors Considered in Rating Determination

Environmental Conditions: Assessing factors like temperature, humidity, dust, and water exposure is essential to ensure that our products can operate reliably in various settings.

Indoor/Outdoor Use: Determining whether the enclosure will be used indoors or outdoors affects the required protection levels. Outdoor applications often require higher protection levels against elements such as rain, snow, and UV exposure.

Structural Requirements: Considering the physical requirements of the enclosure, such as size, shape, and material, helps ensure that our products are both durable and functional for their intended applications.

Industry-Specific Standards: Ensuring compliance with industry standards and regulations relevant to the application is vital. Different industries, such as manufacturing, military, and healthcare, have specific requirements that must be met.

The AbraxSys Advantage

By thoroughly evaluating these factors, AbraxSys ensures that each product is designed and rated to meet the specific needs of its intended application. This meticulous approach helps us provide reliable and durable solutions for various industries and environments.

Understanding NEMA and IP ratings is crucial for selecting the proper enclosure for your application. Each rating system has its strengths and is suited for different scenarios. NEMA ratings provide detailed classifications for North American applications, especially in hazardous locations, while IP ratings offer a straightforward and globally recognized standard for protection against dust and water.

AbraxSys offers a comprehensive line of NEMA-rated products and IP levels to meet your specific needs. Whatever demands your tech needs protection against, we have the expertise and products to ensure its safety and reliability.

Contact us today for more information on our industrial computer and LCD monitor solutions and how we can help you choose the right enclosures for your applications.


1 https://www.nema.org/membership/products/view/enclosures

2 https://www.iec.ch/ip-ratings