Why Do I Need to Know the Difference Between Wet and Damp-Rated Lighting Fixtures?

As we learn at a young age, water and electricity don’t play nice together. In fact, water is a conductor of electricity. This means “you can become electricity’s path to the ground if you are touching water that touches electricity,” warns the electric utility Edison International, adding, “It’s important to keep all electrical appliances away from water, and to make sure your hands are dry, and that you are not standing in water when you touch anything electrical.”

Beyond that basic safety advice, there are other reasons you want to be careful when selecting lighting fixtures or ceiling fans for any room that may occasionally have moisture — such as bathrooms (steam counts as moisture), spa rooms where steam might be present, as well as covered patios, porches, pergolas, and outdoor living spaces including exterior lanterns.

In addition to the risk of electric shock, electrical wires that are exposed to any form of water can corrode, causing a faulty connection, which then becomes a fire hazard.

Besides those critical concerns, the presence of moisture can also affect the appearance of the lighting fixtures and ceiling fans you choose for these areas. The blades of ceiling fans that are not specifically marked as “damp-rated” or “wet-rated” can warp and lighting fixtures’ finishes may become pitted, tarnished, or discolored due to moisture.

Why Do I Need to Know the Difference Between Wet and Damp-Rated Lighting Fixtures? - LightsOnline Blog

Wet vs. Damp Listing

First of all, you’ll want to select a ceiling fan or lighting fixture that carries safety certification from a reputable testing agency such as Underwriters Laboratory (UL) or Intertek ETL. These products will be clearly marked on the physical package as well as in the online description as being safe for operation in “dry” locations, “damp,” or “wet” locations — and that distinction is important.

Lighting fixtures and ceiling fans that are marked “suitable for damp locations” are approved for areas that are regularly exposed to moisture and condensation, such as:

  • bathrooms
  • unfinished basements
  • utility rooms
  • laundry rooms
  • covered outdoor porches and patios

The “damp” certification means the products can safely handle limited amounts of moisture on, in, and around their electrical components as well as areas that are partially protected from water.

Why Do I Need to Know the Difference Between Wet and Damp-Rated Lighting Fixtures? - LightsOnline Blog

It is not safe to install a damp-rated fixture or ceiling fan in an environment where there is direct water contact from rain, snow, lawn sprinklers, or other water sources.

Many lighting fixtures, portable lamps, and ceiling fans on the market are rated for damp locations. While there historically has not been as many options rated for wet locations, that has been slowly changing. With the growing popularity of outdoor kitchens and living rooms, there has been an increasing demand for products that can handle complete exposure to a wet environment.

Lights that are “Suitable for Wet Locations” can be installed anywhere that liquids might come in direct contact with the electronics. It could be a slow drip, a strong flow or anything in-between.

These lights are typically used outdoors for things such as site lighting, wall packs, open-air decks, walkway lights, gazebos, signs, and holiday lights. Indoor uses range from enclosed showers and pool areas to refrigerators or freezers as a safeguard in case of power failure.

Why Do I Need to Know the Difference Between Wet and Damp-Rated Lighting Fixtures? - LightsOnline Blog

Outdoor lanterns and landscape lights have long been wet location-listed, but now manufacturers are creating full-size decorative chandeliers, ceiling fans, portable lamps, and pendant fixtures that are wet rated too. These products look as aesthetically pleasing as their indoor-only counterparts, allowing homeowners to truly create an outdoor living space that can be as attractively furnished as an indoor room.

You can find a full array of damp- and wet-location listed lighting fixtures and ceiling fans at LightsOnline.com! You may also be interested in learning more about how to find outdoor lights that are built to last.

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