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How to choose the right camera housing for extreme weather

How to choose the right camera housing for extreme weather
Industrial IP cameras that can withstand high temperatures are available in the market but are relatively niche products, used for example in industrial furnaces. Rugged commercial security camera housings are designed for tough, hazardous or corrosive outdoor surveillance applications.
Recent heat waves have made life difficult for people all over the world. According to the NOAA National Center for Environmental Information, the years 2013-2021 all ranked among the ten warmest years on record. If current weather patterns continue, outdoor security CCTV cameras would need to be equipped with heat-resistant camera housings to withstand rising temperatures.
 
Typical IP cameras are designed to work in a temperature range of -20 to 60°C. This summer, Taipei temperatures (where asmag.com is based) reached almost 40°C. In other countries like India or UAE, temperatures can reach as high as 45°C in the summer. Cameras installed inside a metal housing that is continuously exposed to the sun could easily heat up to a temperature of 70°C.

While many electronics are designed to withstand heat up to 80°C, the recommended upper limit is 35°C. Consistent high temperatures can lead to permanent damage to electronic devices (you can read more about electronics in extremely hot weather). Video security systems may or may not work properly when faced with extreme elements.
 
The same is true for cold weather. Temperatures below -20 also impact security camera performance. Battery-powered cameras for example would not hold a charge or stop working altogether.

Industrial IP cameras that can withstand high temperatures are available in the market but are relatively niche products, used for example in industrial furnaces. Rugged commercial security camera housings are designed for tough, hazardous, or corrosive outdoor surveillance applications.

IP camera housing types and options for extreme weather

Camera enclosures are to cameras what shells are to turtles. However, different environments will require different considerations, as one will definitely not fit all.
 
There are three main types of camera housings for adverse environments: ones that can withstand extreme atmospheric conditions (excessive heat and cold); ones with explosion-proof housing; and cameras with pressurized bubbles.  
 
The terms heat resistant and explosion proof cannot be used interchangeably. Heat-resistant housing allows cameras to operate in temperatures ranging from approximately -30 up to 150°C. Explosion-proof camera housing, on the other hand, is designed to be intrinsically safe against sparks, making them ideal for highly flammable environments such as oil and gas and refineries. As such, they must be certified in conformity with specific NEMA and UL standards (click for equivalency chart).

Site assessment: Camera housing and accessories for extreme conditions

Before deciding which camera housing to use, it would be wise to do a site survey and assess the environment for factors that could potentially compromise the security camera setup.

Will the cameras need to operate under extreme temperatures?

As environmental conditions vary widely from project to project, the characteristics of the site must be accounted for. CCTV housing designed for extreme temperatures usually come equipped with a sun shield and blower. A sun shield can protect the camera from sun or rain and help reduce the temperature by 3 to 5°C. Blowers kick in at a preset temperature (usually 35°C) to help dissipate the heat and switch off automatically at 25°C.
 
For extreme cold weather, cameras can be equipped with a heater that turns on at 15 degrees and turns off at 25°C. Cameras with heaters can stretch their working temperatures to as cold as minus 35°C. However, moving parts like fans or heaters are prone to failure. If your outdoor security camera will be exposed to extreme temperatures, consider a fan less design with a wide temperature range.

Will the cameras be exposed to corrosive conditions?

For projects that face corrosion and extreme weather conditions, like seaport or aboard ships, the enclosure can deteriorate quickly and cause the camera view to be compromised, the housing mounts to be altered or the wires to be exposed. All these may lead to countless issues, such as falling housings or loss of video.
 
Protecting the inside of the housing is just as important, through added pressure using dry nitrogen or other types of gas. When the inside pressure is greater than the outside pressure, outside elements can't enter the inside, effectively protecting it from harm. The biggest issue for pressurized housings, or housings that are intrinsically safe such as explosion-proof housings, is maintenance.

Will the cameras be exposed to dust?

A pressurized dome camera in an environment with a lot of dust will need the typical cleaning, wiping down and pressure cleaning as any other appliance. However, the internal structures do not necessarily need maintenance. If it's pressurized, the camera tends to be more stable than its non-pressurized counterparts since no outside elements can find their way into the components. If there is something wrong with the camera, or if you need to do something to the camera itself, you need to depressurize the housing.

Frequent maintenance is necessary for really adverse environments. It only takes a few weeks before cleaning maintenance is required, properly scheduling maintenance and purchasing the needed cleaning tools are often overlooked. Products designed to safely clean all shapes of exterior lenses and camera housings from ground level are available.

To find out how strong a product is against water or particles, it is better not to rely on generalized terms such as “waterproof” or “dustproof” but instead refer to the product’s Ingress Protection (also known as International Protection) rating, for example, IP55, IP67 and IP69K.

How to interpret IP rating codes

IP codes consist of two primary components: solid particle protection (first number, 0-6) and liquid ingress protection (second number, 0-9). Rule of thumb is: the higher the number, the more protected the device.

The first digit indicates solid particle protection:
0: No protection
1: >50mm; protection from solid objects
2: >12.5mm; fingers or similar objects
3: >2.5mm; tools, wires
4: >1mm; wires, screws, large ants
5: Dust Protected; thorough but incomplete protection from dust
6: Dust Tight; complete protection from dust and contact

The second digit indicates liquid ingress protection: 
0: No protection
1: Protection from dripping water
2: Protection from vertically dripping water, tilted at 15 degrees
3: Protection from spraying water up to 60 degrees
4: Protection from splashing water, all angles
5: Protection from water jets, projected by a 6.3mm nozzle, all angles
6: Protection from powerful water jets, projected by a 12.5mm nozzle, all angles
7: Immersion up to 3 feet
8: Immersion beyond 3 feet (hermetically sealed)
9K: Protection from close-range pressure and high temperatures
 
So what does IP67 mean? The unit is completely protected from dust and may be immersed in water up to three feet or one meter.

CCTV camera housing manufacturers for extreme temperatures

In the past, asmag.com covered several companies that make specialized camera enclosures that can withstand extreme weather conditions. Several years ago Hikvision introduced its own special line of heat-resistant cameras and housing. Our Secutech Taipei trade show featured Taiwanese manufacturers Cammax and Massload. Other companies in the field include San Diego-based Dotworkz, and Italian manufacturer Videotec (Videotec is now part of Motorola Solutions).

Explore other explosion-proof products available with asmag.com's product directory here.
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