Wet and wild: can LED lights get wet?

As an avid do-it-yourselfer, you’re always looking for ways to improve your home and save money. LED lights offer significant energy savings over traditional incandescent bulbs. However, you may have hesitated to use LEDs in wet areas like bathrooms, basements, or as outdoor lights due to concerns over compatibility with moisture.

This guide will walk you through how to choose the right LED lights for wet areas, recommended products, and proper installation tips to ensure safety and energy efficiency.

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Can LED lights get wet: the short answer

In short, LED lights can get wet, but there are a few factors to consider. The fixtures, circuits, and electrical components, that house the LEDs may not be water-resistant. For LED lights to be used in wet areas, they must be rated as either weather resistant or waterproof.

Weather resistant vs waterproof

  •  Weather-resistant or weatherproof. LEDs can withstand exposure to limited amounts of water, such as rain or snow. They have basic seals to prevent moisture ingress but are not completely waterproof.
  • Waterproof or submersible. LEDs are fully seaLED and can be exposed to water for extended periods without damage. They can even be fully submerged. Waterproof LED strips have watertight housings and waterproof sealant to prevent any water entry.

Important considerations for wet area use

When choosing LEDs for a wet area like a bathroom, basement, or outdoor space, consider the following factors:

  1. Ingress protection (IP) rating – choose LED fixtures with an IP rating of IP65 and higher, meaning totally dust tight and protected against low-pressure water jets.
  2. Quality and durability – invest in high-quality, waterproof LED strips from reputable brands.
  3. Proper installation – follow the installation instructions carefully.
  4. Ambient temperature – the area should not get too hot, as excess heat can damage seals and components. Most waterproof LED lights function best in temperatures below 95°F or 35°C.

By choosing waterproof LED lights rated for the intended location and installing them properly, LED lights can get wet and provide ideal illumination for any space.

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How does moisture impact LED bulbs and fixtures?

When using LED lights in wet, damp, or humid areas like bathrooms, basements, or outdoors, moisture can significantly impact the light bulbs and fixtures.

Water resistance ratings

LED bulbs and fixtures will specify an IP or ingress protection rating that indicates the level of protection from moisture.

Choosing moisture-resistant fixtures

Select fixtures specifically rated for wet conditions that are ul listed for damp areas.

For outdoor lights, look for fixtures rated for exterior use that can withstand exposure to severe weather.

Safety precautions

As with any electrical device, water and LEDs can be a dangerous combination if not handled properly. Be sure to turn off the power at the short circuit breaker before installation or servicing fixtures in damp areas.

Maintaining protection

Over time, the seals and gaskets in LED fixtures and light bulb can break down, compromising protection. Repair or replace compromised parts immediately to avoid the risk of electrical issues or bulb failure.

Following these guidelines will help ensure your LEDs provide safe and long-lasting illumination in even the dampest of places.

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Choosing the right LED bulbs and fixtures for wet areas

When selecting LED bulbs and fixtures for areas where lights get wet the most like bathrooms, kitchens, and outdoor spaces, it’s important to choose options specifically rated and designed for these environments. 

General LED bulbs and fixtures can short-circuit, spark, or become damaged when exposed to moisture.

Choosing wet-rated LED bulbs

Look for LED bulb marked as “wet location” or “damp location” rated. This light bulb has additional seals and gaskets to prevent water from entering the light bulb and housing.

Popular types of wet-rated LEDs include:

  • Br30 flood lights: used for recessed ceiling lights, pendant fixtures, and outdoor lights. Provide wide illumination.
  • Par spotlights: used for track lighting, recessed spotlights, and outdoor spotlights. Provide a focused beam of light.

It’s best to choose bulbs with an IP66 rating, indicating total dust protection and powerful water jets. Lower ratings like IP65 may not withstand direct exposure to water.

Outdoor LED lighting: special considerations

When using LED lights in outdoor, wet environments, several factors require consideration to ensure the safe, effective operation of waterproof outdoor lights.

First, verify the (IP) of any LED products before installation in wet areas. The IP rating indicates the level of protection from dust, water, and impact.

For outdoor use, choose LEDs with an IP65 or IP66 rating, meaning they are dust-tight and can withstand rain.

Next, select LEDs specifically rated for outdoor, wet area use. Non-rated LEDs can short-circuit, overheat or become fire hazards if LED lights get wet.

In addition, choose LEDs with corrosion-resistant, waterproof connectors, wiring, and mounting hardware.

With the proper selection, installation, and maintenance of LED strip rated for outdoor and wet area use, you can achieve energy-efficient lighting in spaces exposed to water and humidity.

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Kitchen LED lighting ideas for high moisture areas

When selecting LED lights for high-moisture areas like the kitchen, consider options specifically rated as damp or wet-location to ensure safety and longevity.

Choose LED fixtures with an IP or ingress protection rating of at least IP65, meaning they are dust tight and can withstand water jets.

For areas like under-cabinet task lighting where water exposure is more direct, aim for white light with an IP67 rating or higher, indicating the light is waterproof and submersible in up to 1 meter of water.

LEDs themselves are not waterproof, so look for fixtures with sealed housing to protect internal components.

Avoid exposed LED tape lights, as these do not protect you from moisture and water damage.

An opaque or frosted lens cover helps prevent condensation build-up inside the light fixture which can damage LEDs over time.

For under-cabinet lighting running on mains voltage, choose a transformer that is ul-listed and specifically rated for damp locations. A transformer converts 120V AC to 12V DC to power the LED lights.

By choosing LED lighting that is properly rated and designed for wet conditions, you can enjoy the energy efficiency and long life of LEDs even if LED lights get wet.

LED pool and spa lighting options

LEDs that are specifically designed for use in and around water will ensure years of bright, energy-efficient lighting without worry.

  • Submersible LED lights

Completely submersible LED lights are a popular choice for in-ground pools and spas.

  • Recessed LED lights

Recessed LED lights, also known as wet-rated LED lights or can lights, are installed flush with the surface of pools or spas. Recessed LED light strips are a discreet yet powerful option for pools, spas, and water features.

  • Considerations

When choosing LED lighting for pools, spas, or fountains, look for options specifically rated for submersion or damp locations. They should be UL listed and rated for at least an IP 65 water ingress protection.

  • Installing and protecting LED lights in wet areas

When installing LED lights where they can get wet like bathrooms, kitchens, and outdoors, proper precautions must be taken.

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Choose LEDs rated for wet spaces

Only use LED lights that are specifically rated and certified as ready to get wet. These LED strips have been designed and tested to properly seal out moisture and prevent electrical shorts. Using standard light strips in wet areas could lead to flickering, dimming, or complete fixture failure.

  • Seal and weatherproof fixtures

Even with wet location-rated LED strips, the fixtures and wiring must be properly sealed to lock out water. Take extra precautions in areas where lights get wet the most, such as directly above sinks, showers, or in frequently damp outdoor areas.

  • Use weather-resistant wiring and connections

Wiring and connections in areas where lights get wet the most require the use of components specifically rated for such environments.

  • Install an outdoor-rated power supply

For outdoor LED strip lights and other fixtures requiring an AC to DC power outlet, an outdoor-rated or IP65-rated power supply must be used in wet spaces. A standard indoor power supply should never be used in a wet environment.

  • Consider moisture sensors or timers

In some areas, the use of moisture sensors, timers, or occupancy sensors can provide an extra level of protection. These controls can automatically turn off the LED lights when a certain level of humidity is detected or after a period of inactivity. This limits the total time that the LED strips and power supplies are energized and exposed to moisture, reducing the chances of electrical issues developing over time.

Following these guidelines will help ensure safe, effective, and long-lasting LED light installation where they can get wet. Take the necessary precautions to properly seal, weatherproof, and protect all electrical components from water exposure and you’ll be able to enjoy the benefits of LED strips anywhere in or around your home.

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As you have discovered, LED light strips are an excellent choice because they can get wet when properly selected and installed. With their durable and water-resistant designs, LED light strips can illuminate bathrooms, pools, patios, and more without the safety risks of other lighting options.

However, not all LED strip lights can withstand exposure to moisture, so be sure to check the IP rating and choose fixtures rated for damp or wet locations. When installed and sealed properly according to the manufacturer’s instructions, high-quality LED light strips rated for outdoor and wet use can provide bright, efficient lighting for many years to come

FAQ: what to do if LEDs get wet?

Below are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about utilizing LED strips in damp or wet environments.

Can outdoor lights get wet?

LED strips themselves are waterproof and weather-resistant, meaning the diodes and components can withstand exposure to moisture and precipitation.

However, the fixtures, power supplies, and housings also need to be sealed with waterproof tape for wet spaces to be submerged or exposed to water.

Do LED lights need to be grounded?

Proper grounding is recommended for light fixture in wet spaces to prevent electric shock. LED strips drivers and power supplies should be grounded to reduce the risk of electrocution if lights get wet.

Consult an electrician to install a grounding wire for LED lights, especially if the area will be exposed to standing water.

Can LED strip lights be used outdoors?

LED strip light can be used in outdoor and wet locations if they are rated as exterior grade or have an IP of 65 or higher. Exterior LED strips are encased in waterproof coatings and casings to prevent water damage.

Interior LED strips will short out, overheat, or become damaged if used outdoors, so only install exterior-rated products for outdoor use.

What is the lifespan of an outdoor LED light?

High-quality exterior LED light can last 25,000 hours or more. The lifespan depends on the specific components and build of the LED strip.

Properly installed and maintained outdoor LED lights should last 10-15 years before needing replacement. This is compared to an incandescent bulb, which typically lasts around 1,000 to 2,000 hours. 

The light output may start to dim over time, but the LED strip itself does not burn out abruptly like incandescent bulbs.

Does LED light require maintenance?

LED light strips are low-maintenance, but still require some care to maximize lifespan. It is recommended to inspect outdoor LED strip lights periodically, cleaning off any dirt or debris, and ensuring all seals and connections remain intact.

LED strip lights drivers and power supplies may need to be replaced after 5 years. With occasional maintenance, LED strip lights can provide bright lighting for many years.

Can you get LED strip lights wet?

Light strip lights have been designed as a waterproof unit. The waterproof LED strips series is easy to mount and use if there are water hazards in the bathroom or kitchen.

Are LED lights rain proof?

LED lighting is IP65 certified, it protects it well against a wide more severe weather conditions, a variety of external aerators, and even sand and debris particles. If you are leaving your light in temporarily, be sure it has an IP65 or greater rating.

Can you put LEDs in water?

You may have LED light strips on in your bathroom. However, be sure to buy submersible light so you won’t get an electric shock.

Can you shower with LED lights?

Is it possible to use LED light strips in the showers? The short answer is yes. You just must have waterproof LED lights.