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Weekly Whitepaper
Week #21

Outdoor Products – Design & Test Considerations

Outdoor products require additional environmental considerations when designing and testing theproduct. Outdoor products present special needs when sourcing enclosure materials, determining
gasketing needs, incorporating ventilation, and even when selecting internal components.

  1. Exposure to Dust: Is your product used outdoors, where it can be exposed to blowing dust?
    Is your product used indoors in a dusty environment? If so, your product may need an IP or
    NEMA Dust Ingress rating. The higher the rating, the more dust resistant the product. Dust
    testing can be performed to determine if your product is dust tight. The highest ratings are for
    products that can remain dust tight even with an internal vacuum drawn using a vacuum line
    during testing.
  2. Exposure to Water: If your product is used outdoors, it will need to be suitably protected from
    rain and/or immersion. Based on the level of exposure, the product may need an IP or
    NEMA Wet Ingress rating. Matching a suitable IP wet rating to your product’s intended use
    environment will help prevent serious safety hazards for electrical products, and
    unnecessary warranty returns for all outdoor products. Dripping, splashed, sprayed, jetted,
    and hose down wet testing options should be considered.

  3. Salt Spray/Salt Fog: If the product is used outdoors, it is likely to be used in a part of the
    country that is close enough to the ocean to expose your product to a salty air environment.
    Adequate corrosion protection is critical. It is especially important to test paint compounds,
    powder coating, dipping, and other corrosion resistance processes applied on metal
    components – not just the enclosure but also handles, hinges, and other miscellaneous
    exterior hardware and accessories.

  4. High Temperatures: The ambient temperature rating for the product should properly address
    the air temperature that the product will encounter. Many outdoor products have a 40°C or
    higher ambient rating. The product is then temperature tested in an oven set at the high
    ambient temperature rating. Temperatures are measured on components and materials to
    verify that they are used within their ratings while the product is used at the high ambient.

  5. Low Temperatures: Low temperatures are also important to consider, especially for products
    that incorporate plastics. Again, the products’ ambient temperature rating should address
    this. Many outdoor products have a 0°C or lower ambient rating (vs. a typical indoor product
    low ambient rating of 15°C). A cold temperature rating requires impact testing on plastic
    enclosures after conditioning in a freezer. Icing tests are also a consideration for products
    intended for extreme environments. Remember, if your product is left in an automobile or
    unconditioned storage facility, it could be subject to extremely cold winter temperatures.

  6. High Humidity: Many areas of the world have extremely high humidity during the summer
    months. Humidity can cause materials to absorb water leading to many potential problems
    including the risk of high leakage currents for electrical products. All products should be
    tested for extended exposure to high humidity.

  7. Solar Radiation: The effects of surface heating caused by solar radiation from the sun can
    cause some products to deform, have high surface temperatures, or worse. Solar radiation
    heating is important to consider for products that must not exceed surface temperature limits.
    This includes outdoor products such as park benches and playground equipment. This also
    includes products used in the presence of hazardous vapors or liquids where an overheating
    condition could cause a fire or explosion.

  8. Thermal Cycling: To address the effects of the product being repeatedly heated and cooled,
    thermal cycling tests should be considered (for product performance and reliability
    considerations). This is especially true for products that generate heat internally or, are used
    next to products that radiate or exhaust heat.
  9. Thermal Shock: If the product can be moved rapidly between environments, the effects of
    thermal shock should be considered for product performance and reliability considerations.
    For example, taking a portable product from an air conditioned office out into the summer
    heat/humidity may have a negative effect on the product’s functionality.
  10. Shock/Vibration Energies: Periodic or constant exposure to shock and vibration forces can
    dramatically shorten a product life. Most products are exposed to such conditions during
    shipping. Hand-held and wearable products must continue to operate in these conditions, as
    must products that can be used on a plane, train, or automobile.
  11. Impact: Impact forces are a common occurrence for many products. Size of the product and
    manner of use should be considered when determining the appropriate impact energies and
    impact points.
  12. Highly Accelerated Life Testing (HALT): Perhaps no test can provide as much benefit as a
    HALT test. This is especially true for outdoor products. Actual life testing is not feasible for
    most products as it would take years to reach a conclusion. HALT testing was developed to
    greatly accelerate simulated life testing. Products successfully completing HALT testing can
    be relied upon for long life with high reliability. Want to reduce your warranty liability risk?
    Want to increase customer satisfaction? Conduct HALT testing on all your products.
  13. Gaskets & Adhesives: All gaskets providing wet/dust protection must be subjected to a
    series of tests to insure that they will continue to provide weather protection through the life
    of the product. This includes gasket aging, compression, repetitive compression, and tensile
    strength tests. Adhesives relied on to secure a gasket must be suitable for both the gasket
    material and the adhered surface. This process includes adhesive aging and pull tests.
  14. Exposure to Heat – Plastic Enclosures: Mold stress tests are typically performed on products
    with a plastic enclosure. If a product is cooled too fast during the molding process, it can
    leave stresses in the plastic. Subsequent exposure to higher temperatures can cause the
    plastic to reflow at the high stress areas, causing openings to develop that could be a safety
    concern. The product is tested by placing it in the oven at a temperature set above the
    maximum enclosure temperature to verify that no such problems occur.

  15. UV: Plastic materials, paints, and powder coatings exposed to the sun need an adequate UV
    rating. And just as important, the UV rating needs to be for the color used. UV testing can be
    done if there is no UV rating or, if you would like to see the affects of discoloration due to UV.
    Some colors are more likely to discolor over time. Nothing looks worse in social media
    postings than a picture of your product looking faded and worn.
  16. Other: Unique product uses can require unique environmental simulation testing to insure
    your product will remain safe while continuing to operate properly for your customer. Other
    conditions to consider include Heated Water Spray (test for car wash/power wash), Flexibility,
    Stability, Altitude/Air Pressure, Seismic Vibration, Rodent Access, and Fungus Growth Testing

High volume and high cost products are especially important to be thoroughly tested to protect
against a warranty return disaster that involves a high percentage of units returned for repair,
replacement, or refund. It’s important to make it real so you don’t get caught by surprise!

CertifiGroup offers Expert Assistance and Environmental Testing Services.
CertifiGroup can assist you in developing your Test Plan.
CertifiGroup has a complete Outdoor Product Test Lab,
for all your Environmental Simulation Testing Needs,
located entirely indoor for year-round testing under precisely controlled conditions.

Experts in UL, CSA, CE, & International Regulatory Compliance

©2014-2020 CertifiGroup – complete copies of this document may be freely distributed

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