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IEC Protection Classes for LED Luminaires

IEC Protection Classes for LED Luminaires

This article discusses the IEC Protection Classes for LED Luminaires fixtures in detail. The LED luminaires that you select for your projects are primarily classified into four electrical classes according to their level of protection. Let us immediately begin.

1. General

Whether you are new to LED lighting or a seasoned pro, this essay will benefit you. We will cover electrical classes and how LEDs are categorized into four groups according to their level of protection. Additionally, this page discusses safety symbols, measures, and technical advice in the event of a calamity, such as short-circuiting or LED popping.

As we all know, LEDs are gaining prominence in the realm of lighting. This is because LEDs are both energy- and cost-efficient. Additionally, LEDs offer unequaled diversity and flexibility in terms of color, functionality, and applications.

Traditional bulbs, such as halogen and incandescent, squander over 80% of their energy through heat dissipation. Because the world is evolving toward more environmentally friendly options, traditional lighting is becoming outmoded, and for good reason.

LEDs are classified according to their level of protection, which dictates their intended use and application. As the number increases from 0 to 3, the LEDs' protection increases, making the luminaire safer to operate. Each luminaire falls within one of these categories. Let us delve a little deeper into the details.

2. What are International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) Protection Classes?

The IEC protection classifications indicate the degree to which an LED or luminaire protects a user from electrical shock. In general, a protection or safety class designates the level of protection provided by an electronic item to the person handling it.

The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) originally developed this standard, which is responsible for developing and establishing safety standards in the field of electrotechnology.

The protective levels are specified in the IEC 61140 standard report. These electrical classes are classified technically according to the demand for protected earth (PE) connections in the circuitry of a particular appliance.

IEC 60598 specifies the protection levels applicable to luminaires. You can review the document for in-depth technical information. However, we will outline each category here so that you are not required to read the entire document.

Electrical protection classes defined by the IEC are broadly classified into four categories:

Class 0

Class I

Class II

Class III

In general, if an electronic item is directly linked to the main power supply, it must be protected at level 2. Even if the first level fails, higher tiers ensure that the appliance is secured and does not affect the user.

IEC Protection Classes for LED Luminaires

class 1 class 2 class 3

3. Class 0

The most fundamental sort of insulation is found in Class 0 electronics. This basic insulation consists solely of the wires' PVC coating. Due to the lack of a PE connection on these luminaries, there is a substantial risk of electrocution and explosion if the wires are damaged or destroyed. Class 0 equipment is difficult to come by, as it is highly damaging to the environment. Between live conductors and metals, there is just one level of protection.

Such equipment is extremely rare in populated locations, such as houses and business places. One small error can have devastating consequences in the form of electrical shock, explosions, and fire. Due to the appliance's poor level of protection, it lacks the capability to sound an alert and notify consumers in the event of a catastrophic occurrence. This sort of protection does not utilize fuses or circuit breakers.

These appliances are so harmful that many governments have outlawed their purchase and sale. Additionally, there is no PE, indicating that the appliance's chassis is not grounded. In other words, if a class 0 appliance fails, nothing other than the surrounding environment may be used to mitigate the harm.

A typical example of a Class 0 electronic device is a two-pin plug soldering iron (without an earthing connection) and "old-style Christmas string lights."

4. Class 01

Additionally, Class 01 is highly risky. In comparison to class 1 appliances, these electronics permit connection to the ground. It would be a class 0 type without this electrical installation.

5. Class I

Class I contains an earth wire connector. Three pins are visible, one of which is connected to the building's earth wire. All metal components in this type of appliance are 'earthed,' and so protected.

Class I luminaires have two levels of protection, including basic insulation and an earth wire. This fundamental insulation includes the wires' plastic insulation. If there is no ground wire and the wire becomes damaged or destroyed for whatever reason, the user may receive an electric shock. The earth connection 'grounds' all conductors and ensures the safety of the users.

Typically, a fuse located in the plug, or the main fuse box protects the user by completely cutting off the connection and generating an alarm. In Class I luminaires, fuses, RCDs, or MCBs protect users from fatal mishaps.

Three-pin connections are used in class 1 electronics. The live wire is one, the neutral wire is another, and the ground connection is the third. Additionally, the plug will have a fuse. If a yellow/green wire is visible in a luminaire, this is the universal hue for the 'earth wire.'

A 1.5mm air gap and a creepage distance of about 2.5mm are required for Class 1 luminaires.

6. Class II

Two layers of protection are present in Class II luminaires. Therefore, these appliances are referred to as "dual insulated." These electronic devices do not require earthing. Rather than that, they are protected by a double layer of insulation material, or what is more commonly referred to as reinforced protection. The double insulation is provided by the plastic-coated wires inside and the luminaire's plastic casing.

Due to the lack of an earth connection on class II equipment, you'll notice a two-pin wire connection, one of which is live, and the other is neutral.

Such appliances will not fail if a single component fails. A single malfunction will not cause the person to receive an electric shock. Class II should not be confused with "Class 2," which is a separate category that has nothing to do with insulation. 

Cell phone chargers are typically classified as Class II. Additional examples include hairdryers, televisions, and photocopiers.

Class II Luminaire Requirements

For fixed-mount Class II LEDs, a 3 mm aperture and a creepage distance of 5 mm are required.

Class II lights are built in such a way that no wires or electrical components can be touched directly.

The following characteristics of a lamp designate it as a Class II luminaire:

1.  Except for metal plates, rivets, and the like, the luminaire's housing is comprised of a highly insulating material such as strong plastic. As a result, the housing is completely safe for the occupants. Additionally, the housing insulates all electrical components and wiring. This style of lamp fixture is referred to as an "insulated shell type I."

2.  A luminaire with robust metal housing and double-insulated components. These are referred to as metal housing type II.

3.  Class II luminaires are a hybrid of 1 and 2.

4.  There is another classification known as insulated shell type-n, which encompasses both reinforced and supplemental insulation.

5.  Certain Class II luminaires include earth connections to aid with the luminaire's initialization.

6.   A class II luminaire with reinforced lighting that has a ground contact is technically a class I luminaire. When installed in a loop, this type of luminaire may have an "internal terminal block." Throughout the class II insulating luminaire, these blocks are insulated from metal components.

7. Class III

Class III luminaires are powered by a specialized transformer that generates what is known as "Separated Extra-low Voltage" (SELV). This safety transformer operates at 50 volts alternating current, or 24 volts or 12 volts on occasion. This voltage is so low that under normal conditions, a user can come into direct touch without the risk of being electrocuted. This does not mean, however, that you should approach it without taking care!

Isolating transformer

Two windings comprise the transformer that supplies low voltage (as shown in the figure). The first is referred to as the 'primary winding,' and it is connected to the main power source. The other type of winding is referred to as ‘secondary winding,' and it is connected to the luminaire.

Both windings are present in a magnetic core in opposition to one another. Due to the fact that these windings are separated and do not touch, the transformer is referred to as an 'isolating transformer.' 'Induction' is used to transfer the voltage. This isolation between the windings offers the same level of safety as double insulation in other classes.

IEC Protection Classes for LED Luminaires

the isolating transformer

There is no requirement for an earth connection, as the safety transformer provides all necessary protection. This means that the safety insulations necessary for Class I and Class II do not apply to Class III, as the transformer performs all the work.

LED strip lights are mostly classified as a Class III product. They frequently necessitate the purchase of a second low voltage transformer (also known as LED Driver).

The Catch:

While Class III products are safer than Class II and I products, this degree of protection is insufficient for certain medical purposes. There is always a possibility of an accident. A computer, for example, is a class III machine. It charges its battery using SELV. However, if the battery fails and overheats, there is a significant chance of it bursting. Nothing is secure.

8. Symbols

The following table is a list of the symbols used to denote the classes.

IEC Protection Classes for LED Luminaires


9. Contrast the Classes

We've produced a comparison table to help you quickly grasp the different degrees of protection offered by the luminaires against electric shock.

Luminaire ClassProtection descriptionApplications
Class IClass I luminaires are equipped with rudimentary insulation and grounding protection. When the primary insulation fails, the grounding protection will prevent any mishaps.They are typically encased in robust plastic housing,   such as street lamps, LED lighting poles, traffic signals, shell lamps, and courtyard lamps. These incidents contribute to increased safety.
Class IIIn addition to the basic insulation, this class includes supplemental insulation such as reinforced or double insulation.This is the type of safety insulation that is typically found in lamps and fixtures that are frequently touched, such as table lamps and portable LED lighting.
Class IIIClass III fixtures are those that operate on the SELV   power supply (50 V). Due to the low voltage used, these are extremely protected.In sectors involving children, medical devices, or work situations, a high level of protection is employed.
Class 0The most basic degree of protection relies entirely on insulation. If the wires become exposed, the damage is likely to occur.These categories include chandeliers and ceiling lighting. These are employed in dry and dust-free areas.

Comparison Of the Classes

Video from Youtube about "Appliance Protection Classes 0, I, II, III"

In conclusion, class 0 provides the least amount of safety. The level of protection grows in direct proportion to the number, with Class III providing the maximum level of protection. Since 1973, countries such as the United States have prohibited the usage of class 0. China, on the other hand, has no such restriction. The utilization of luminaires of various classes is determined by their design, location, application, environment, and installation. 

Class III LED luminaires are mostly used outdoors, where they must withstand harsh weather conditions. On the other hand, class I and class II bulbs are primarily intended for interior use, such as in warehouses and retail.

10. How Can You Avoid Being Electrocuted?

LEDs are now exceedingly safe and secure to handle. The only way to be electrocuted is to insert your finger into the socket. Apart from that, if you install or replace LED lights, you risk receiving an electric shock.

Replacing the Bulb

While changing the bulb, you run a significant chance of receiving an electric shock. The primary reason is that if your fixture is on and you change the bulbs with your bare hands, you risk receiving an electric shock. The solution is quite straightforward:

1.  Ascertain that the switch is switched off. Verify that the LED fixture is switched off.

2.  Alternatively, you can utilize the circuit breaker.

Even if the fixture is turned off, you may still be at risk since the connection may be active because of power spikes or faulty cables. However, you can use a voltmeter to check for voltage surges in the fixtures. 

You will not be shocked in any manner if you utilize a circuit breaker. This is the most effective technique to avoid any dangers.

Outlets That Are No Longer Available

Another potential source of electric shock is worn sockets and switches. There is no third prong for grounding wire on two-prong outlets. Ground wires give safety in the event of an unstable electric current. This ground wire directs this current to the ground rather than electrocuting you.


Electricity in Contact with Water

Water and electrical wires do not mix well. If your hands are wet or if the electrical components become damp for any reason, there is a considerable risk of electric shock. Water is extremely conductive. This is typically a concern when replacing or installing LED underwater lights or LED fountain lights. Prior to installation, ensure that the pond is completely dry.


Electricity Mismanagement

Electricity is extremely dangerous to experiment with. Always observe safety protocols and precautions when working with cables and fittings. The best course of action is to have a skilled electrician handle your LEDs. Bear the following recommendations in mind to avoid any danger:

1.  When touching electrical outlets and LED fixtures, ensure that your hands are fully dry.

2.  Always wear Personal Protective Equipment such as insulating gloves and aprons. It is preferable to be safe than sorry!

3.  Keep a safe distance from live wires. In any case, avoid touching them.

4.  Keep outlets out of reach of children. Rather than that, encase them in plastic. Maintain a dry and water-free area around the fixture. When working with LED underwater lights and fountains, ensure that the area is completely dry.

5. Always seek professional advice.

11. What Causes LEDs to Explode?

Let us investigate what could possibly cause an LED luminaire to explode. This will give you a better understanding of how an LED works and so help you avoid such problems in the future.

Electrical and thermal stressors are the two most likely causes of an LED exploding. 

Electrical Tensions

Electrical components and LED lighting operate at low voltages of 2 or 4 V. However, in most regions, the LEDs used in your projects are connected to the mains voltage of 120 V. Capacitors are used to lower the voltage of an LED. When a malfunctioning or low-quality capacitor is used, it can become over-stressed and cause difficulties.

Due to voltage variations, the capacitor may occasionally fail and allow the full current to flow through the LED. The LED will burst in a fraction of a second.

This condition is referred to as electrical over-stress, and the primary cause is the LED fixture's poor or damaged capacitor.

Thermal Constraints

Thermal stress can accumulate in the LED components if the bulbs lack adequate heat sinks and heat dissipation mechanisms. Heat accumulation results in thermal expansion of the LEDs' internal components, resulting in structural strains. Expanded components collide with the casing and eventually fail.

There will be a loud bang and fragments of the LED fixture will fly throughout the room. To avoid such issues, always use high-quality bulbs equipped with enough heat sinks.

The Explosion of LEDs in Enclosed Fixtures

LEDs in an enclosed fixture are typically used underwater to keep water out and prevent the fixture from failing. Do LEDs spontaneously combust when encased in a fixture? Indeed, they do. This occurs mostly because of heat accumulation and thermal stressors. Due to the lack of an outlet for heat in enclosed fixtures, heat accumulates inside and gradually loses efficiency.

This issue can be resolved by using enclosed fixture-rated LED fixtures. Additionally, high-quality LEDs feature a built-in heat dissipation mechanism that considerably decreases heat buildup. The fixture remains reasonably cool, which reduces the likelihood of malfunction.

Alternatively, integrated LED fixtures can be used.

Socket Connections That Are Too Loose

Occasionally, loose socket connections can generate a spark, ignite a fire or cause an explosion. A loose connection indicates that electrons are unable to move in a straight line, and hence begin leaping from one spot to another. This generates considerable heat in the environment. Additionally, as previously stated, heat stress might cause the bulb to explode.

Inadequate Insulation

A low-quality bulb will lack adequate insulation at the base, resulting in bulb malfunction. As a result of the significant heat accumulation caused by electrical tensions, the metal base of the lamps melts.

Incorrect Voltages

LEDs are rated according to their wattage. Additionally, LED fixtures are designed to operate at the same wattage. If the wattage is incorrect, the fixture may overheat, resulting in the bulb exploding. You may view the bulb's label and determine its wattage.

The primary cause of the LED malfunction is electrical overstress (EOS). Excessive current or voltage can severely harm the structure of the LED chip. EOS can be caused by a variety of internal and external variables, including the work environment, extreme conditions, collisions, human interaction, low-quality components, and voltage and current mismatches.

You should be aware that EOS does not typically cause immediate damage. Rather than that, it produces micro-damages that accumulate over time, to the point where the LEDs cease to function after several hours of operation.

The Cause of Fire

LEDs seldom cause wire. Electrical lines and internal circuits, on the other hand, can malfunction and cause a fire. LEDs do not generate enough heat to start a fire.

12. Is Dimming LEDs Dangerous?

After a period, your LEDs will begin to dim and lose brightness. This can result in internal failures and dangerous events such as explosions and electric shocks. Several factors contribute to LEDs losing their brilliance over time:

Overloading the Circuit

If you observe that LEDs are flashing over time, you should turn them on; there is a good chance that the electric circuit is being overloaded by heavy appliances. Ascertain that your connection is isolated from any large appliances. You'll notice your LEDs dimming and growing dull as a result of the insufficient power supply.

The excessive load might result in explosions and electric shocks. Rectify it immediately upon noticing flickering.

Grid Issue

Occasionally, the grid has difficulties because of the excessively high demand for electricity. This could be caused to inclement weather or a transformer malfunction.

The Lamp's Life Expectancy Has Been Exceeded

If your bulb is malfunctioning, it is possible that your lamp has reached the end of its useful life. Replace it with a newer, higher-quality light. Old lamp fixtures and sockets often have deteriorated wiring and melted components, which can be hazardous.

13. Symbols of Safety

We've included a list of some of the safety symbols that may appear on the label of LED bulbs and fixtures. It's critical to understand what each symbol symbolizes to make the best selection of LED for your application.

This is the ENEC abbreviation (European Norms Electrician Certificate). The VDE certification mark denotes that the luminaire and its components have been tested and approved by the "VDE institute for testing and certification."

IEC Protection Classes for LED Luminaires

ENEC symbol

This mark denotes that the recessed luminaire is not appropriate for installation in combustible ceilings or walls.

IEC Protection Classes for LED Luminaires

recessed luminaire

This sign denotes that the surface-mounted luminaires are not suitable for use with combustible ceilings or walls.

IEC Protection Classes for LED Luminaires

surface mounted luminaires

The CE mark certifies that the manufacturer's product complies with European Union standards.

IEC Protection Classes for LED Luminaires

CE symbol

The CE symbols with numbers show that the product has been inspected in accordance with the requirements.

IEC Protection Classes for LED Luminaires

CE symbols with the numbers

This symbol indicates that the operation of the luminaire is permitted at the specified ambient temperature.

 IEC Protection Classes for LED Luminaires

temperature symbol

This sign denotes that the luminaire should be kept away from items that provide thermal insulation.

IEC Protection Classes for LED Luminaires

thermally insulating symbol

14. Conclusion

Electrical classifications of luminaires describe the type of luminaire that is best suited for a certain application. Typically, the LEDs you see are Class III luminaires, which offer the maximum level of safety and protection against electric shock. Class 0 luminaires are used in extremely remote places. Additionally, class I and II luminaires are frequently used in lighting installations.

It is critical to have some understanding of the protection levels provided by luminaries. We've also discussed alternative strategies to avoid being electrocuted in this comprehensive guide. When and how do LEDs become capable of delivering an electric shock or exploding.

Always seek the advice of a professional while working with LED fixtures. Additionally, always use safety equipment when working with electrical components, particularly when installing, repairing, and replacing LED bulbs.

For further information, contact MKLIGHTS lighting!

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