Weather Protection for Outdoor Installations

There is a lot that goes into ensuring AV will work properly when installed outdoors. From proper location and mounting to ensuring the equipment is safe to use and secure from theft, there are a lot of things to consider. In fact, Commercial Integrator recently released a whole whitepaper solely on the proper approach for installing weather-protected displays—and that is just one component in an outdoor installation!

One of the key steps to ensuring a successful outdoor AV installation is looking for outdoor-rated equipment, as most AV integrators agree that you should never install indoor-only equipment in an outdoor environment. To gauge how effective the device will operate in outdoor environments, you can look to the device’s IEC rating. Equipment suitable for outdoor installation is rated and classified according to the International Electrotechnical Commission’s 60529 standard (known as IEC 529). This standard rates the device’s “ingress protection,” meaning how much the device protects against dust and water getting into the device and causing damage, and under what conditions.

IEC 529 device ratings are typically shown with the letters “IP” followed by two digits. The first number is related to the dust rating for the device, while the second is related to the water rating. The higher the number, the higher the protection. For example, a rating of IP 11 would only protect against objects larger than 50 mm and damage from water condensation, while objects with IP 68 could be completely submerged in water in lower depths for extended periods.

Most outdoor applications don’t require AV equipment to remain submerged under water, but the device’s EC 529 protection rating should still fall on the higher end of that scale if you are going to permanently install it outside. A rating of IP 55 (the rating for JBL’s “WRC” line of speakers) would protect against jets of water hitting the speaker from any direction or protect against any harmful dust deposits. This rating level is perfect for speakers in covered outdoor installations and should prevent harm from rain or dust blowing in from a storm and damaging the speaker.

Device manufacturers achieve their protection rating by using additional protective materials in the device’s design to prevent the “ingress” of water or dust. JBL WRC speakers protect the speaker and the speaker box by combining weather-protected drivers with a DuraFlex™ finish on the outside of the speaker box and a water-resistant wood sealant on the inside.

The level of protection your device requires depends on the application. The JBL WRC speaker line was designed for use in spaces with some level of architectural protection, so the IP 55 rating should be more than sufficient if installed under eaves or an overhang. However, devices designed for direct exposure to the elements or for use in extreme elements may require even higher protection. JBL’s “WRX” speakers, for example, employ fiberglass around the outside (including all corners) and the interior is sealed with gelcoat. This beefs up the protection rating to IP 56, ensuring the device will be protected from the sort of high-force water jets that a speaker might encounter in a storm. You can find more information about the two lines and their differences here.

Of course, having a weather-protected device is just one step in the process for an effective outdoor installation. Designing AV for an outdoor space is not the same as designing for an indoor space. There are a lot of unique concerns for outdoor AV, from amplification concerns in open spaces to visibility issues for video. That is why it is important to ensure the entire solution comes together to meet the specific needs of the outdoor space. However, knowing that your device will continue to work in your space goes a long way to ensuring the installation will be a success.