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05/21/12 NEMA Enclosure Ratings Basics for Electrical Equipment

Article- May 2012 By Larson

Larson Electronics Oil Rig Lighting

Larson Electronics TX-500VA-4XAO NEMA 3R Rated Power Transformer

NEMA ratings are guidelines published by the National Electrical Manufacturers Association intended to provide a homogenous system of rating electrical enclosures according to their various design parameters. NEMA ratings encompass a wide area of subjects such as protection against contact with internal parts, resistance to internal contamination from fluids, resistance to icing and external damage, and the enclosures suitability for use in various environments. NEMA guidelines are published as a way for manufacturers to adhere to an easily referenced rating system that allows consumers to determine the suitability of an item for a given application. NEMA does not produce regulation nor does it hold the power to enforce, penalize or otherwise exert authority regarding adherence to NEMA guidelines.

NEMA ratings can be correlated to IP ratings, but are not directly cross compatible and can only be compared regarding ingress protection against solids and liquids as IP ratings do not encompass as broad a spectrum of parameters as NEMA ratings. Most manufacturers of non-portable electrical enclosures will include both NEMA and IP ratings in order to provide as complete and detailed a reference as possible as to the items suitability for an application.  


There are thirteen basic NEMA ratings for electrical enclosures and they cover a range of conditions and environments including wet locations and locations designated as hazardous such as locations identified as Class 1 Division 2. In order for an enclosure to meet compliance and merit inclusion under a particular NEMA rating it must undergo rigorous testing and meet the minimum requirements of protection as outlined by NEMA guidelines. NEMA ratings do not follow an escalating scale of protection according to higher numerical values, thus it is not accurate to assume protection is greater with a rating of 12K as compared to a rating of 6P. Additionally, NEMA ratings normally are not applied to mobile electrical devices due to the degree of difficulty in meeting requirements with such devices as phones or portable radios.

At a basic level, NEMA enclosure ratings for electrical devices help the consumer to evaluate a product’s suitability based on the conditions the device is expected to be subjected to. Those who frequently deal with electrical devices and components in industrial and commercial settings should familiarize themselves with the basics of NEMA ratings in order to help maintain highest levels of safety and reliability and thus maintain cost effectiveness. Environmental and operating factors such as frequent icing, periodic exposure to water and high humidity, dry and dusty conditions, exposure to corrosives, exposure to hazardous gases, vapors and materials, and other potentially damaging or dangerous conditions need to be considered when considering an items rating. By matching ratings to the minimum expected exposure to these various conditions, operators can choose equipment appropriately suited to their applications with a good degree of confidence in the devices’ performance over extended periods.


NEMA ratings for enclosure types denote the degree of protection the device affords against environmental and operating conditions. These ratings are not a guarantee of performance, but rather demonstrate that the device has met the minimum standards testing for a given condition according to NEMA guidelines. Below is a basic breakdown of NEMA ratings for electrical enclosure types. For a full description of NEMA and their published guidelines it is best to visit the NEMA website directly.

NEMA Electrical Enclosure Type Ratings

The types outlined below are fully detailed in NEMA ICS6: guidelines. Visit the NEMA website for a full and complete description and explanation of NEMA ratings.





Type 1 is described as general purpose and denotes minimal protection against indirect splashing of water, dusts and primary contact with energized internal components. This rating does not denote dust tight protection and is a general level of safety commonly under average indoor conditions.


Type 2 is similar to Type 1, but also denotes the ability to withstand dripping water. Usually indicates the inclusion of drip shields or other added protection against water falling directly on the enclosure. Commonly found on enclosures intended for use in areas of high humidity and condensation.

3 and 3S

Type 3 and 3S denotes weather resistant protection. Enclosures rated 3 and 3P protect internal components from common weather conditions such as rain, snow and sleet. Primarily used in outdoor and construction applications where protection against normal inclement weather conditions is required. Does not indicate weatherproof protection.


Type 3R is similar to Types 3 & 3S and denotes enclosures suited for outdoor applications. Type 3R offers slightly higher protection against rain and sleet as well as ice formation. This rating indicates suitability over a wide range of potential ingress events according to testing including rod ingress, rain, and rust-corrosion resistance.

4 and 4X

Type 4 and 4X denotes watertight and weatherproof construction. To meet this level of protection the enclosure must prevent the ingress of water projected at 65 GPM from a 1” nozzle from no less than 10 feet for 5 minutes. Enclosures of this rating are normally used outdoors in shipyards, marinas, and commercial production areas.


Type 5 denotes dust tightness and applies to enclosures that have been sealed with gaskets or through other methods that prevent any intrusion into the interior from fine particulates. Commonly used in industrial applications such as cement plants and rock processing.

6 and 6P

Type 6 and 6P denotes protection against temporary submersion at limited depths. Overall construction rating is dependent upon pressures and the length of time submerged and includes submersion in water and oil. Enclosures with this rating are commonly applied in mining and industrial utilities applications.


Type 7 denotes use in indoor Hazardous Locations including Class I, Groups A, B, C, and D environments.


Type 8 denotes indoor and outdoor Hazardous classified Class I, Groups A, B, C, and D.


Type 9 denotes indoor and outdoor Hazardous Locations classified as Class II, Groups E, F, or G.


Type 10 denotes MSHA compliance. These enclosures meet Mine Safety and Health Administration requirements under 30 CFR Part 18 “1978”.


Type 11 is a general purpose rating and denotes basic protection against corrosion associated with liquids and gases.

12 and 12K

Type 12 and 12K are general purpose types indicating indoor use with basic protection against dust, dirt and no corrosive dripping liquids. Enclosures of this type meet the minimum requirement of standard dripping, dust ingress, and rust resistance tests.


Type 13 is general purpose and indicates protection against dusts, light water spray. Amd non corrosive liquids/coolants. Enclosures of this type meet the minimum requirement of standard oil exclusion and rust resistance tests

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