Protection Classes, Types of Electrical Protection, Protection areas

All important information on the subject of protection during electrical installation

Good protection, safe installation and long-term operational safety are the be-all and end-all in electrical installation. The IP protection classes, protection classes for electrical engineering and protection areas for the bathroom are standardized for all installations throughout Germany. But what does IP 44, protection class II or protection zone 0 mean? We will answer these and all other important questions on the subject of protection in electrical engineering in this article.

  • Safe in and around the house – protection classes for lights and electrical devices
  • Which devices are double insulated?
  • Two numbers that say it all – IP degrees of protection
  • In the open air: IP protection classes for outdoor use
  • Electricity and water don’t mix: electrical safety areas in the bathroom

Due to the high demand, we have updated this article and added the question “Which devices are double insulated?”.

Safe in and around the house – protection classes for lights and electrical devices

The protection class designates the security measures that are built into an electrical device or component to protect it and its users against electrical accidents such as electric shocks. There are a total of four protection classes that were defined in DIN VDE 0140-1. This subdivision is important to define a general security standard. It also allows you to see how secure a device is at a glance, without a lengthy investigation.
Protection class 0 – not permitted
Protection class 0 designates devices and electrical components which, in addition to their own insulation, have no protection against electrical accidents and cannot be connected to a protective conductor (see below). Devices with this protection class are not approved for use in Germany, the EU and numerous other countries due to their insecurity. So always pay attention to the protection class if a device is suspiciously cheap – the black zero is only good for accounting.
Protection class I – protection by grounding
In the case of devices with protection class I, all conductive elements of the housing are connected to a protective conductor. This ensures that the device is grounded so that the current is safely discharged in the event of a power accident or a voltage spike and prevents potentially dangerous voltages when the device is touched. Grounding is via a plug or cable. Protection class, I am marked with the symbol for grounding.
Protection class II – double insulation holds better
Devices and installations with protection class II are usually not connected to the protective conductor for technical reasons. In order to still ensure operational and installation safety, they are provided with reinforced or double insulation. The protection class II symbol shows two nested squares.
Note: If the connection cable of the device is provided with a protective conductor, this must not be connected to the housing. Caution is advised because the housing can also conduct electricity.
Protection class III – protection for batteries and rechargeable batteries in everyday life
Protection class III designates electrical elements that work with their own safety extra-low voltage. That means they have a touch current, but it’s harmless to adult humans. Of course, the old mnemonic applies to children: knife, fork, scissors, light… These are not for small children. The same applies all the more to electricity. Due to this special feature, these devices may only be connected to power sources that are approved for safety extra-low voltage or protective extra-low voltage (SELV/PELV).
These are usually batteries, rechargeable batteries or safety transformers. Many Class III devices have additional reinforced or double insulation between the low voltage parts and the main connection. The protection class III symbol shows a Roman numeral 3 in a rhombus.

Which devices are double insulated?

In principle, electrical devices have what is known as basic insulation. In the case of devices with protective insulation, additional insulation is carried out for the protective insulation.
Even if the electrical device is live, you are protected by this protective insulation in the event of contact. The protectively insulated device appears to be completely insulated from the outside.
Devices with protective insulation are devices of protection class II. Devices marked with the symbol of protection class II are protectively insulated.
Devices in protection class II are safer to use than those in protection class I, which is why many domestic electrical appliances have protection class II.
What does the double square mean?
The double square is the symbol for devices of protection class II. It is a square with a second, smaller square inside.
The two squares symbolize the double insulation of the protectively insulated devices. Devices of protection class II or devices with protective insulation are products that have a 2-pin plug and therefore, in contrast to 3-pin plugs, cannot be connected to the protective conductor.
Note: Please note that double-insulated devices are not automatically waterproof. The IP protection class reveals how well a device is protected against water.

Two numbers that say it all – IP degrees of protection

Modern technology can do a lot, but wind, weather and water still don’t get along with electrical devices. While the protection class designates the protection for users of a component, the IP protection class primarily provides information about how the electrical device itself is protected against various environmental influences.
Many devices and components, especially outdoors and in industry, are exposed to difficult environmental conditions and must be able to work safely for a long time (years or even decades). But it does not have to be an industrial company, many of these problems can also be found in the home garden or in the hobby room.

  • These harmful environmental influences include:
  • Moisture, spray and splash water
  • fumes
  • Corrosive substances such as acids or alkalis
  • Pollution (e.g. from oil in the workshop)
  • dust and fine dust

In addition, all electronic and electrical devices have a minimum and maximum allowable operating temperature. This is especially important on the terrace or in the garden – too much sun or a cold winter night is just as uncomfortable for electronic devices as they are for us.

Types of Electrical Protection Valid worldwide, safe for your home

With these types of protection, the abbreviation IP stands for “International Protection”, since the protection standards for devices are internationally standardized – good to know if you are buying devices from a foreign manufacturer. Of course, in the best German tradition, there is also a local version of this standard, namely DIN VDE 0470-1.
The IP code usually consists of two code numbers

. The first digit designates the protection against foreign objects and contact and ranges from 0 to 6:
0 – no protection against foreign bodies or contact
1 – protection against foreign bodies larger than 50 mm in diameter, protection against access with the back of the hand
2 – protection against foreign bodies larger than 12.5 mm in diameter, protection against access with a finger
3 – protection against Foreign objects with a diameter of more than 2.5 mm, such as needle-nose pliers or knife points, protection against access with a tool
4 – Protection against objects with a diameter of more than 1 mm, such as nails or large needles, protection against access with a wire
5 – Protection against dust in relevant Quantity and full protection against contact recommended for industrial and workshop work
6 – Full protection against all dust and contact
The second digit stands for protection against the effects of water. It ranges from 0 to 9:

no protection
1 – protection against dripping water
2 – protection against falling dripping water when tilted
3 – protection against falling spray water when tilted
4 – protection against splashing water
5 – protection against jets of water from a nozzle, for example in car washes
6 – protection against powerful jets of water
7 – protection against temporary submersion, but not at greater depths
8 – protection against permanent submersion, for example in pools or ponds
9 – protection against water from steam or high-pressure cleaners, especially suitable for agricultural operations
Below are some examples of the most common types of protection

IP 44: safe for terrace and balcony

Philips LED wall light
Philips LED wall light

A device, machine or component with protection class IP 44 is protected against the ingress of solid objects with a diameter of up to 1 mm and access with a wire (first digit, protection class 4).
In addition, the device is sealed from all sides against splashing water at normal pressure (second digit, protection class 4). An example of devices with this degree of protection are wall lights for outdoor installations (see below), which have to be rainproof to a limited extent.

IP 54: dustproof for workshop and garden

An electrical operating part with protection class IP 54 is sealed against large amounts of dust and safe from contact (see above). In addition, it is also protected against splashing water. This is particularly common in sensitive electronic systems where dust can cause short circuits

IP 66: first-class for the bathroom

The protection class IP 66 is recommended for private users, especially for installations in the bathroom, as the current-carrying parts are fully protected against contact, dust and strong jets of water, for example from the shower. This also guarantees operational safety if you slip with the shower. Switch cabinets in the industrial sector should also have this type of protection.

In the open air: IP protection classes for outdoor use

From light sources to transformers, outdoor electrical and electronic devices are subject to particular loads. Rain, temperature swings, and wind-blown dust are everyday hazards that these devices should be able to fend off with ease.

Dust- and access-safe outdoors

In principle, at least IP protection class 44 is recommended for outdoor use. In this way, you prevent larger dust particles or insects from penetrating the device, even when installed close to the ground. However, sensitive or highly conductive components should have the first digit 5 ​​or 6. Even small amounts of damp dust can cause major operational disruptions. In addition, this degree of protection ensures that children or pets cannot accidentally come into contact with live cables.

From the entrance to the pond: water protection for the outdoor area

Lights and electrical devices that are installed outside the house under a canopy should at least correspond to protection class IP X4. A covered porch or carport offers some protection, but anyone who has ever stood in the rain in windy weather knows that water can sometimes come from the most unlikely of angles.
To be on the safe side, devices and components that are completely outdoors should either be additionally protected or have a slightly higher second code number of the protection class. This corresponds approximately to protection class X5. A small roof or other rain protection also offers good protection.
Workshops with outdoor facilities should use equipment with IP protection class X5 or higher if spray and splash water can occur. This includes, for example, devices that are used for car cleaning. The water belongs in the car, not in the compressor.

Wibre underwater spotlight Types of Electrical Protection
Wibre underwater spotlight

Devices for installation in wet systems such as pools or garden ponds must have protection class 48 or 58 because they work submerged. This includes, for example, pumps or lamps installed in the pool. In the case of deeper systems, it is important to note that the IP code does not provide any information on pressure security.
Therefore, before you buy, check how deep your water system is and whether the equipment is suitable for the water pressure at this depth. If you can dive into your pool, the device must also be able to handle it.

Electricity and water don’t mix: electrical safety areas in the bathroom

Special requirements apply to electrical devices and systems within the wet cell. If a room contains a shower or a bathtub, DIN VDE 100-701 must be observed, since steam, splashing water and a generally higher level of humidity pose particular risks during operation. Therefore, devices used here should have IP classification 3 or higher, depending on the protection area. Unfortunately, the protection class doesn’t help when the cell phone or tablet takes a bath.

Protection zone 0 – in the tub

Protection zone 0 designates the direct interior area of ​​the shower or bathtub. Here, installations such as sockets are logically forbidden, since by definition they cannot be watertight. Luminaires must have at least IP protection class 7 or 8 since they work temporarily or completely submerged. Cosy bath lighting can become very uncomfortable if it enriches the bubble bath with electric shocks. In addition, all devices must have a safe extra-low voltage of fewer than 12 volts. If the shower is installed at ground level, this does not count as protection area 0, but in a radius of 120 cm as protection area 1.\

Protection zone 1 – above the tub

Protection zone 1 for the bathroom includes areas and rooms above the tub or shower up to a height of 225 cm above the floor. In order to safely avoid electrical accidents caused by jets of water from the shower, all electrical installations here must at least meet the requirements of IP protection class 5. No sockets or switches may be installed because water can get into the pipes through cracks and openings.

Safeguard 2 – How washing machines REALLY live longer

Protection area 2 is also measured up to a height of 225 cm or up to the height of the highest water outlet. The lateral extent of this protected area is slightly larger than that of protection area 1. No sockets are permitted here either. Permanently installed lights or the washing machine can be used in this area, provided that the washing machine’s power connection is also within protection areas 0-2.
When building a house or renovating, cables for lights may also be laid here. Switches are only permitted in protection area 2 if they are installed in the lights and do not reduce the IP protection class. Touch sensors are always safer than switches and still have a sleek, futuristic touch.

Protection area 3 – the rest

Depending on the size of the bathroom, protection area 3 includes the entire remaining room or a defined area. Sockets and switches may be installed in this area under certain conditions. In addition, they must be equipped with a type F1 protective device to ensure operational safety. Extension cords and junction boxes can be used here without any problems, but always pay attention to the layout of your bathroom.
Separate devices such as lights in the bathroom cabinet are a special case. In principle, these may also have a lower IP classification because they are protected by the cabinet itself.