Luminaires & Distribution
Last Update: October 30, 2010
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Exterior Luminaires

Exterior luminaires need to be moisture, dust, and insect-resistant, or they will rapidly become dirty and corroded. Recessed outdoor luminaires need to be UL Listed for “Damp Locations” at the least. Luminaires exposed to direct rain should have a housing design and gasketing that keeps water and water vapor out, even with the internal air pressure changes that come from normal temperature expansion and contraction when lamps are cycled on and off. 

The International Protection (IP) rating system (also called Ingress Protection rating), defined by standard IEC 60529, provides a way to classify luminaires according to their resistance to intrusion by dust, water, solid objects and human contact. Note that it does not address the luminaire’s relative level of protection against corrosion; this and other aspects are covered in the NEMA 250 product standard.

The IP basic rating includes two numbers. The first indicates rated degree of protection (0-6) against hazardous parts such as electrical conductors and solid objects such as hands, tools and dust. The second indicates rated degree of protection (0-8) against moisture, from dripping water to full immersion. The higher the number, the better quality the protection. Additional letters may be attached to the two-digit IP rating, which may be used to indicate protection against access to hazardous parts by fingers, hands, tools and wire, and which may provide additional information, such as “device moving during water test.”

Check with the manufacturer to ensure the materials and paint processes will hold up in the environment in which it will be operating, particularly if it involves salt fogs along highways, or corrosive marine environments. Also note that some materials corrode more quickly when mounted to concrete structures.  Follow precautions from manufacturers in order to preserve the performance and appearance of the luminaire over time if it is in direct contact with concrete or alkaline materials.

Exterior — Ceiling Recessed & Semi-Recessed
Exterior ceiling recessed and semi-recessed luminaires are suited to exterior ceilinged applications where direct lighting is needed, such as canopied fuel islands at gas stations.
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Exterior — Ceiling-Mounted & Suspended
Exterior ceiling-mounted luminaires are suited to exterior ceilinged applications where recessing the luminaire is difficult or impossible, such as some canopies or parking structures.
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Exterior — Wall-Mounted & Wall-Recessed
Exterior wall-mounted and wall-recessed luminaires are used for a variety of purposes, from articulating and beautifying architecture to communication to wayfinding.
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Exterior — Pole-Mounted
Exterior pole-mounted luminaires are used to mount the luminaire over an open area, typically for the purpose of large area illumination. Common examples include roadway, pedestrian area, parking lot and recreational sports luminaires.
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Exterior — Ground or Grade-Mounted
This category of exterior luminaires can include landscape lighting, building façade lighting, well lights, drive-over lighting, etc.  Most are in direct contact with earth or concrete or pavers, and need to be resistant to water and dirt infiltration, potential snow loads, leaf collection, corrosive soils or concrete, damage from string trimmers and mowers, and frequent expansion/contraction from temperature changes.
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