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Gas Detector IP Ratings: Why do they Matter?

Gas Detection Equipment  |   October 31, 2016  |   Industrial Scientific

The release of several “water resistant” cell phones is putting the spotlight on IP ratings. IP ratings, or ingress protection ratings, refer to an electronic device’s ability to resist intrusion by dust, water, and other things that may cause it to stop working. Advertisements have touted that both Samsung and Apple have phones rated IP68, but what does that mean? And what about gas detector IP ratings, like the Ventis Pro5, which is rated IP68?

There are two factors that should be evaluated when looking at gas detector IP ratings – the rating itself and how the manufacturer tests to ensure the rating. For the rating itself, the chart below describes what each number means.

Chart of gas detector IP ratings and how to interpret the numbers

So if a device is rated IP67, that means dust won’t cause it to stop working and it can withstand immersion in water for half an hour at a depth of one meter. That’s not necessarily better or worse than IP66, which means that it can withstand a high-pressure water jet. For some devices, it makes sense to make sure it can survive immersion, but others should be able to withstand a fire hose or some other sudden rush of high-pressure water.

There’s a Catch

While IP67 is clearly defined as immersion in one meter of water for 30 minutes, IP68 reveals the challenge with understanding IP ratings when it clearly opens the door for manufacturers to define the test. If we go back to the cell phone example, Samsung tests IP68 as 30 minutes at 1.5 meters. Apple, on the other hand, tested the iPhone 7 for 30 minutes at 1 meter. So while it may seem that the Samsung is better at water resistance, it actually isn’t clear which phone is more resistant to water because we don’t know the companies’ processes for testing.

To understand why testing processes matter, we can look at the Sony Xperia. Back in 2015, Sony launched one of the first cell phones with an IP68 rating using advertisements that showed a group of people swimming while one took photos underwater. It didn’t take long for Sony to issue a statement that gives a glimpse at how complicated IP testing can be behind the scenes.

“The IP rating of your device was achieved in laboratory conditions in standby mode, so you should not use the device underwater, such as taking pictures.”

Sony promptly updated their advertising and began actively discouraging people from using the Xperia underwater. Apple and Samsung’s more recent IP68 phones launched with similar disclaimers. While the rating may make it seem as if taking your phone swimming is fine, the reality is that the testing processes matter.

Pulling Back the Curtain

We’re confident that Ventis Pro5 Multi-Gas Monitors are rugged enough to withstand the conditions you find every day. We’re confident in our gas detector IP ratings because of rigorous testing and what it takes for us to say that an instrument has passed.

While some manufacturers consider one instrument passing a test as enough to declare the rating, Industrial Scientific has a Guaranteed for Life™ warranty on the Ventis Pro, so repeatedly and consistently passing the test is important to us. We want statistical confidence that we have minimal defect rates so that we won’t have warranty replacements later.

As a result, we tested dozens of Ventis Pro5 gas monitors for ingress protection during development. Several were submersed for one hour at one meter, and then each instrument was opened. First each instrument was visually inspected, and then a special cloth was used to check for traces of water inside the instrument that were not visible to the naked eye. If any water was detected at all, even a microscopic amount, the instrument failed the test. We made engineering improvements until we were able to say with absolute confidence that the instruments coming off our manufacturing line will survive water. And after we were confident with our own testing, the gas detector IP ratings were certified by an accredited third party. We will continue to periodically test instruments to make sure that our high standards of quality are never compromised.

Exceeding Expectations

Every specification document for Ventis Pro lists that the instrument is IP68, but it’s worth noting that the instrument also passes our tests for IP66. So whether you drop your instrument into a puddle or get caught in a downpour, Ventis Pro will be there to protect you in the moment when you need it most.