For decades – actually, for nearly a century – business owners looking for a way to advertise their establishment have chosen neon technology as the traditional type of illuminated signage. Neon signage has its benefits; one being that since it is a technology that has been around a very long time and used throughout the world, it is well known and finding knowledgeable sales people, great craft persons to construct them and service techs to keep them alive is an easy task. Since the technology has been around for so long, the bugs have been worked out of it and it is very reliable. There certainly is the school of thought that considers the neon lighting a much more aesthetically pleasing light with its warm glow and romantic touch. Hollywood has always glamorized neon signage with sets and location shots on streets that are heavily populated with colorful neon signs. However, when compared to the potential of LED signage, those attributes are about all neon lighting has going for it.
The first advantage when considering LED signage is, of course, the energy savings. LED lighted displays will consume energy at a rate of between 5 and 10 times less than a comparably lit neon sign, leading to huge potential for long-term savings. In regard to initial cost, the two – at a size similarity - are fairly comparable so that shouldn’t even be a real consideration, but the LED costs are becoming lower as technology progresses, so that advantage will, at some point, likely favor LED displays. On the other hand, with all the potential customization available with LED signs and the installation possibilities, options will surely increase the cost. For those customers who want the best and want to get a custom look, the process of getting the desired effect is easier and much more flexible than the neon technology.
The adaptability factor is something to consider, as a neon sign is a non-changeable item but LED signage is designed to be changeable and gives LED technology a great advantage, being able to easily update and otherwise alter the display. The computer control potential of LED signage is something that puts it in a class of its own and the possibilities are limitless. The use of digital LED signage technology can bring about many benefits that neon technology can’t touch. The ability to make the wanted changes in a sign display, including lighting brightness and coloration and the change of messages, including the ability to display photographic images, slide shows, videos, and broadcasts are features which will only evolve even further as time passes.
The maintenance factor has neon lights needing to periodically have their tubes refilled with gasses and, although it may be many years before such maintenance is necessary, when it is needed it is quite costly. The power transformers used with neon signs are also maintenance issue items which can add to the overall operation costs. The fact that neon signage is made of glass is a drawback and if the glass tubes are broken, they release noxious gas. So, in the case of neon sign breakage, there will be repair or replacement cost issues and potential environmental and health complications. Although LED signage technology does have the possibility of being broken, the displays are not constructed of glass and do not contain hazardous materials. The life span of LED signs will generally be in the area of a decade with the probability that there will be minimal to no maintenance issues in that period. One instance of maintenance that will be a probable necessity at some point in the life of an outdoor LED sign will be the maintenance of any filters that might be associated with the ventilation system.
There is one thing that needs to be taken into consideration with LED signs that is not an issue with neon lighting. To avoid thermal problems, LED signage firstly needs to be designed so there are proper heat dissipation systems through natural ventilation and application of circulation and cooling fans. Heat is a real enemy of LED lighting – LEDs like to live at about room temperature - and the cooling system must be thermostatically and/or computer controlled and the addition of thermal controlled dimming apparatus would be an option for help in further cooling. The signs must also be carefully placed in order to avoid direct sunlight, not so much to avoid wash out of the sign, as LED lighting can be bright enough to be visible in direct sunlight, but in order to avoid heat that can cause solar loading and damage the system. As long as the LEDs and transformers are protected from excessive heat problems, the LED systems will easily live up to the life expectancy that will be stated by the manufacturer.
It is clear that digital display signage has greater usage numbers than the neon counterparts. Now that the digital signage is possible with LED lighting, it is a transformation that is being made by many businesses, or a step that many businesses are considering taking. Once the decision has been made to go the route of LED signage, the first considerations to be made are the potential brands of the complete sign itself, and the company reputations, or the components to be used by a custom sign company in the construction of a completely tailored system – as opposed to a generic, digitally controlled system. Just as with anything else, the proper engineering and use of high grade components will result in the best possible finished product and in the satisfaction that the project was done correctly and will give a long life of energy and maintenance savings. Just as it should be.
Despite the fact that LED signage has many benefits and is the true future of business signage, you can bet that because of the rich tradition of the neon sign and the equally rich art of neon sign making, unless the technology is completely banned for some reason, there will always be customers for neon signage. Many would cheer for that, as the neon sign, no matter how many more advantages LED signage may have, will always have that visual and romantic essence that just can’t be duplicated.
As always, if you have questions in regard to any of your lighting projects, please feel free to call Polar-Ray at 303-494-5773 to speak with a lighting consultant. Thank you for perusing our web site.