Is a waterproof Bluetooth speaker the same as a water resistant Bluetooth speaker? Each description means the device can be safely operated in conditions where moisture is present without any risk to the user, or damage to the equipment itself.
But what are the limits to this protection? What happens, for example, if you and your waterproof/water-resistant Bluetooth speaker are caught in a rain shower? What about wireless speakers which will play your favourite music whilst you shower? And is it true some speakers are guaranteed to function even when fully immersed in water?
These, and similar consumer questions, are addressed by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) rating system which defines a range of protections under IEC standard 60529.
These ratings are known as IP Codes (International Protection Markings) and indicate the degree to which casings and other electrical enclosures can withstand ingress of water and dust, and protect users against accidental contact. Each rating standard is applied after a device-type has been tested, and more fully described below:
IP codes have two digits. The first addresses protection against solid particle ingress, and the second covers liquid-ingress protection. Where either type of protection status is not available, the rating digit is replaced by an ‘X’ instead: thus IPX7 has no dust/particle protection, whilst IP5X has no waterproofing.
Protection against solid particle ingress:
This first-digit coding describes six protection levels guarding against (i) access to dangerous parts; and (ii) the ingress of any solid item.
0 indicates the device has been found to offer no protection.
1 provides protection for large body surfaces – like the hand – against accidental contact; and will offer similar protection for solid objects whose diameter exceeds 50mm.
2 protects against fingers, or similar objects, no longer than 80mm with a diameter in excess of 12.5mm.
3 indicates the device is protected against entry by tools and other objects which exceed 2.5 mm in diameter.
4 means device protection extends to include all solid bodies such as small tools, screws etc. which are larger than 1mm.
5 is the dust-protected standard: whilst dust ingress is not totally prevented, it cannot enter in harmful quantities which prevent safe and satisfactory equipment operation. This dustproof classification also gives total protection against contact.
6 guarantees the equipment to be completely dust-tight.
Protection against liquid ingress:
The second-digit coding describes 11 protection levels guarding the casing/enclosure against harmful ingress of water.
0 indicates the waterproof Bluetooth speaker has been tested and found to offer no protection.
1 ‘dripping water’, confirms that water drips falling from a vertical angle on to the device will have no damaging effect. Test conditions last for 10 minutes, with a rainfall-equivalent of 1mm per minute.
2 ‘dripping water when tilted up to 15°’, indicates testing shows no harmful effect when the device is subjected to dripping water whilst leaning at angles up to 15° beyond its usual orientation. Test conditions last for 10 minutes, with a rainfall-equivalent of 3mm per minute.
3 ‘spraying water’, indicates protection against water dropping as a spray either from the vertical or angles up to 60°. This test lasts for 5 minutes and requires the water to be directed at a pressure of 80–100 kPa, and with a water volume equivalent to 0.7 litres per minute.
4 ‘splashing of water’, protects against a 5-minute test where water is splashed on to the enclosure from any angle without any damaging effect. The water pressure must be 80–100 kPa, and delivered at a volume of 10 litres per minute.
5 ‘water jets’, protects against water directed at the enclosure, from any angle, via a 6.3-mm nozzle. The test is conducted for a minimum of 3 minutes, with water at a pressure of 30 kPa from a distance of 3 metres, and at a volume of 12.5 litres per minute.
6 ‘powerful water jets’, requires a 3-minute test where water is jetted against an enclosure from any angle without damaging effect. The jet nozzle must be 12.5mm, the water pressure 100 kPa at 3 metres, and the water volume delivered at 100 litres per minute.
6K ‘powerful water jets with increased pressure’. Here, the pressure is increased to 1000 kPa at 3 metres for a test period of 3 minutes, using a 6.3-mm nozzle and water jets directed at the enclosure from any angle, at a volume of 75 litres per minute.
7 ‘immersion up to 1 metre’. This half-hour test requires the enclosure to be totally immersed in water at a depth not exceeding 1 metre – ‘under defined conditions of pressure and time’ – without damaging ingress of water. Furthermore, the lowest point of any enclosure less than 850-mm high must be 1,000mm under water, and the highest point of enclosures 850-mm tall (and more) must be 150mm under water.
8 ‘immersion beyond 1 metre’. This ranking indicates equipment ‘suitable for continuous immersion in water under conditions which shall be specified by the manufacturer’. For some devices, this status allows non-harmful ingress of water. Testing is conducted at a manufacturer-specified depth – usually within 3 metres – and requires continuous immersion.
9K ‘powerful high temperature water jets’. This test confirms equipment is protected from high pressure jets directed at close quarters, and from any angle.
IP codes are sometimes alternatively known as Ingress Protection Markings, and the message to the consumer is that only the official designation provides definitive proof of the protection offered. Therefore it is important to compare the product description against the IP code quoted in the product specification. In addition, purchasers should remember a genuine IP coding contains no hyphen. Thus, for example, IPX7 is a correct code designation, whereas IPX-6 is a fake code.