Choosing LED Damp vs. Wet Rated Lights


The amount of water and moisture that occurs where you mount your LED light will determine whether you choose to purchase a wet rated light or buy a damp rated light. Examining your lighting product’s certification helps you buy a light fixture that is properly rated for your needs. Luckily for the modern contractor and homeowner, standards were put into place early on in the development of electrical engineering and product safety to confirm compliance with product standards.

The Underwriters Laboratories (UL) was founded it 1894 as the Underwriters Electrical Bureau. Among other safety certifications they offer, UL tests lighting products to indicate which environment suits them, then labels the product tested as “wet rated” or “damp rated” bulbs or lights. They do not have a financial interest in the products that they test for manufacturers.

Sunco indicates the UL Listing of wet rated or damp rated in the technical specs and elsewhere, so you know our products meet the set standards. While it might not sound it, UL or ETL moisture certification is very important to consumers.


Why does Wet Rated Matter?

Safety should be the main focus when you choose wet vs. damp rated products. Each lighting fixture is reliant on electricity to function, as you know. Since water is a conductor you want to eliminate the possibility of an accidental fire or electrocution so your installed light and the people who use it remain safe. Using UL Listed lights with the appropriate wet rating in areas where water is likely, or where it might accumulate, can help protect your home, office or clients.

Longevity of a light fixture also comes into play when you install it in a wet environment. If the fixture body is not water resistant, it will not survive well and can potentially cause damage or accidental injury.

Understanding how the industry defines damp and wet situations will help you decide what type of light you need.


What are Damp Rated Lights?

Damp rating refers to moist locations with no direct exposure to water. When a light is marked as suitable for a damp environment, it can be installed in areas like bathrooms (not in the shower or tub), basements, and some saunas. Use outdoor damp rated lights for porch lights that are out of the rain or wind, and also on decks with an overhang that does not allow water to seep through (otherwise you need wet rated).

What exactly is damp and what type of environment is that? A partially protected location where periodic condensation may form or a product might sweat, and areas that are humid and musty, are considered to be damp locations.

Large water sources like bathtubs, showers, and kitchen sinks will add condensation to a room. Even a laundry room lighting fixture may encounter some condensation in a closed space. Anywhere steamy or humid air exists inside would require a damp rated light instead of a dry rated light. Dry rated are used entirely indoors and in an area not normally damp. Saunas and steam rooms qualify as damp rated due to the condensation that forms in the room, but you can use wet rated here for longevity.

If you live in regions with humidity or where it rains often, inspect your walls and rooms for condensation moisture, then speak to a qualified electrician about what would be safe in your damp environment for rooms with exterior access.

You may run across some LED light bulbs or fixtures that do not include a UL or ETL listing. You can use those in dry locations, indoors where no water might be, like in your hallways, bedroom or an office.

What about using damp rated products outside? There are many outdoor lighting applications for damp rated LED lights. However, they can only be used in covered and fully protected locations where rain and other water runoff does not come into direct contact with the light fixture or LED bulb. You wouldn’t want a damp rated uplight in your outdoor landscaping or on the wall of an exterior pool shower.

Sunco recessed lighting cans in remodel or new construction styles are well suited to interior and exterior damp rated downlight positions. So are our recessed LED Slim lights, which fit in narrow ceiling spaces.

You can still use wet rated lights in damp rated locations, but a damp rated light cannot be used in a place where water will directly contact it. That is when wet ratings come into play.


What are Wet Rated Lights?

Wet rating refers to locations where your wet rated outdoor lighting fixture might encounter dripping water, rain, or other liquid that could flow or splash on or against your LED bulb or LED light fixture. When a light will come into contact with rain or snow outside, you want wet rated LEDs placed there. This includes the type of saturation found in yards, patios, walkways, steps, gazebos, and outdoor or exterior places where rain and other liquids will have direct contact with the product. You can also use wet rated products inside for bathrooms with enclosed showers to provide recessed interior lighting in wet zoned areas.

When a product is marked as suitable for wet locations you can use it inside or outside in wet environments.

Here are some of Sunco's Wet Rated LEDs:


Other Certifications

Some products will be listed with the Interjek ETL listed mark. They test UL certification standards before certifying a product. ETL and UL ratings on a product allow you to make informed decisions about which lights are suitable for specific environments. They help with buyer confidence.

UL and ETL certifications ensure that products are deemed safe for public use. The integration of the damp or wet rating allows you to make informed decisions about which LED light fixtures are suitable for your unique project and light position. Consult a qualified contractor or electrician, if you are concerned whether you might need a wet rated vs. damp rated light and are unsure about an environment at your site.

Taking the time to review a product’s UL Listing or ETL listing ensures you select the right product for each situation, and it keeps your family and business safe. We will shortly have more detail about certifications available on this website so you can check out the listing of certifications that we are compiling for your reference.


NOTE: This article has been updated as of November 13, 2019 with the latest information on wet rated bulbs. It was originally published on September 24, 2019.

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