Are There Alternatives to Neon Signs? How Do They Operate?
The following are some of the technical facets of neon signs that are covered on this page:
- How conventional neon functions
- How adaptable their functionality is—can it dim or change color?
- What sort of performance neon will deliver
NEON SIGNS: HOW DO THEY WORK?
If you look closely, you can see that every neon sign is made of a glass tube (or tubes) that have been cut into a specific shape.
- There is an electrode—one negative and one positive—at either end of the tube.
- There is a tiny amount of neon gas inside the tube. Neon is a noble gas, which means that only very energetic conditions, such as when it comes into touch with electricity, cause it to undertake chemical reactions. In any other case, it just floats aimlessly through the tube.
- The electricity produced when an alternating current is applied to the electrodes is sufficient to produce enough energy for the neon atoms inside the tube to split.
- Some release their electrons and change into positively charged ions, which move in the direction of the negative electrode.
- The liberated electrons are attracted to the positive electrode at the opposite end of the tube because they carry a negative charge.
- The energy of the neon atoms, ions, and electrons increases as they collide as they bounce around the tube.
- The ionized atoms produce a photon (particle of light) when they recapture their electrons to become neutral once more. Returning to their initial energy level, which is what causes them to emit a colored glow. Neon atoms return to their usual inert condition when the electricity to the sign is turned off.
ARE DIFFERENT LIGHTING FUNCTIONS POSSIBLE WITH NEON SIGNS?
THE COLOR OF TRADITIONNEON SIGNS CANNOT BE CHANGED
Neon can only produce a reddish-orange light when charged with an electrical current; it will never emit a blue or green light, for example.
Depending on how energized the neon atoms inside the glass tube become when electricity is sent through it, it emits various shades of red or orange.
Different gases must be used to make a sign that lights in other colors since their reactions to electricity vary.
In the glass tube, you can also mix them with neon.
The gases that generate which colors are listed in the table below.
Utilized gas type / Hue Of The Light
Neon / Red, or red and orange
Argon / Blue or Lavender
Helium / Yellow or Orange
Krypton / Green or Grey
Xenon / Gray or Blue
Radon / Purple
Mercury / Blue
Hydrogen / Red
Other methods for creating colored lights include:
- Coating the tubes with phosphor or fluorescent powder. which when activated will glow a specific color
- Putting colored fluorescent lights inside the tubes
- And utilizing tinted glass.
LED NEON SIGNAGE CAN VARIATE IN COLOR
LED neon signs can change color in one of two ways..
Use of an RGB (red, green, and blue) LED chip is the first and most popular choice. This contains three tiny diodes, one for each color.
The user can create a variety of colors by adjusting the strength of each red, green, or blue diode by connecting an RGB controller.
Red, green, and blue diodes are used in an LED chip in this as well.
The chip also has a "driver chip" attached, allowing the user to individually control each LED.
Because the controls are more sophisticated, they can create patterns and designs that are extremely complex.
NEON TRADITIONALLY DIMMED
A dimmable neon transformer that is sized for the voltage and current your sign consumes is required in order to dim a conventional neon sign.
You must select a transformer that is compatible with neon signs because they demand low current and high voltage to operate.
Use of an off-the-shelf light dimmer is NOT advised as they only control voltage and not current.
Utilizing one of these could result in significant harm or possibly a fire!
Keep in mind that you won't be able to entirely reduce the neon light; the lowest brightness you'll probably get is around 10%.
An LED neon sign like Neonrooms can be dimmed in two different ways:
DIGITAL OR ROTARY DIMMER WITH LOW VOLTAGE
These straightforward controllers are wired in on the low-voltage side and lower the voltage delivered to the LED by the power supply unit (PSU).
POWER SUPPLY UNIT WITH DIMMER (PSU)
The voltage inside the PSU is decreased by connecting one of them to a leading-edge or TRIAC rotary dimmer (the same type of dimmer you'd use to lower the lights in your living room or dining room).
As a result, the output voltage drops and the lights become less bright.
If you wish to operate the lighting through a lighting system, such as in a theater or retail mall, this is an excellent choice.
The use of various dimmable PSUs varies according on the situation, but they all effectively control or dim the light in the same way.
Both of the aforementioned choices enable users to lower an LED to 0%, typically while maintaining a steady and flicker-free illumination.
ARE THERE PROBLEMS WITH NEON SIGNAGE'S OPERATION?
BURN THEY OUT?
Burnout is regrettably a quite prevalent problem with neon signs.
In general, one (or maybe more) of the following reasons will cause either the entire sign or a portion of the sign to stop glowing:
- The high-voltage wire: that links the neon glass tubes frequently burns out. They could burn out if they overheat, which would stop the sign from glowing.
- Failure of the transformer: If the transformer that powers the neon sign experiences a problem, the neon sign will stop working.
- Failure of gas tubes: If the electrodes at each end of a glass tube don't work correctly, some parts of the tube may appear dull or not light up at all.
It goes without saying that using LED faux-neon almost eliminates the possibility of needing to send the sign back to the maker for burnout repairs.
ARE THEY HOT?
Because of the way neon signs function, the energy produced by atoms, electrons, and ions.
Hitting with one another inside the tubes occasionally manifests as heat in addition to light.
However, whatever heat the neon sign does emit especially those that use relatively narrow glass tubes shouldn't be too hot to touch.
Because of this, you shouldn't be concerned that neon signs might be harmful or result in burns.
The electrodes at either end of the glass tube are frequently covered with rubber caps by neon sign producers.
These caps shield the exposed wires, keeping them dry and guarding against accidental contact that could result in burns.
DO THEY PRESENT A RISK?
No. As long as they are made correctly and maintained in good shape, neon signs are absolutely safe to use.
The risks that are most frequently associated with neon signs include:
- The use of noble gases, which are said to be dangerous if they leak into the air through a damaged tube, but signs are designed to turn themselves off in the event of damage;
- The glass tubes becoming hot; they may emit some heat, but not enough to burn
Any neon sign that isn't red has a very little quantity of mercury a poison in it since that's how they get their unique shade of light.
As of April 2019, plans are on to outlaw the use of mercury in neon signs, which, if implemented.
Would force the usage of neon signs only in the colors red, pink, amber, or purple.
However, neon signs have been used for a very long period, and they are currently designed and produced with all safety issues in mind.
Including the requirement to meet rigorous quality standards and to utilize mercury in a safe and responsible manner.
WHAT AMOUNT OF POWER DO THEY USE?
Despite how brightly they glow, neon signs are actually highly energy-efficient and use much less power than you might imagine.
Most contemporary signs use a 240v transformer and require roughly the same amount of electricity as one standard household light bulb (60W–100W).
While fluorescent and incandescent lights will use substantially more energy than a conventional LED neon sign.
It will only need 15%–20% of the electricity that a classic neon sign would in order to perform the same task.
WHAT DURATION DO THEY HAVE?
A typical neon sign's lifespan is influenced by how frequently it is used and how well it is maintained.
The typical lifespan of neon signs is eight to fifteen years, while many remain in operation for considerably longer.
A sign's lifespan can be shortened by leaving it on for extended periods of time, which also puts it at risk of overheating or being damaged by electrical surges.
ARE THERE ANY REGULATIONS THAT NEON SIGNS MUST FOLLOW?
Yes. The British Standard BS EN50107, which specifies how luminous discharge tube installations (such as neon lights) must be produced, must be followed by all neon signs.
Neon signs must also adhere to the IET Wiring Regulations, which are outlined in BS 7671.
Another British Standard that specifies the standards for wiring these kinds of electrical installations.
Always make sure a sign has been stickered and labelled to demonstrate compliance with the requirements before purchasing it.
Businesses are required by law to conduct frequent fire safety risk assessments and take action to reduce any hazards as much as practicable.
Neon signs would be examined as part of any study, although they would probably be found to pose little risk of starting a fire.
DO NEON USEERS HAVE OTHER OPTIONS?
Yes. The primary substitute is LED neon, sometimes known as "faux-neon."
Which employs LED technology to mimic the appearance of conventional neon without any of the cons.
Below, we evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of both types of illumination while examining the distinctions between neon and LED.
LED VS NEON VS NEON
The way the two produce light clearly distinguishes them from one another.
Neon relies on a chemical reaction between gases and an electrical current, whereas in LEDs (light emitting diodes).
The reaction takes place when electrons pass through a semiconductor, often an alloy called aluminum-gallium-arsenide.
The LEDs are positioned closely together when they are used in signs so they may create a constant source of light that resembles neon gas shining within a glass tube.
CONS AND PROS OF NEON
The advantages and disadvantages of choosing neon signs are displayed in the table below.
- Many people choose neon's warm glow over LED light because it is more solid.
- Longer anticipated lifetime
- Gases must occasionally be refilled, and glass tubes occasionally need to be replaced.
- Not susceptible to damage from power surges
- Considerably more energy to operate than LED
- Potentially heated to the touch
- Risk from flying glass or leaking toxic gases
- Once in functioning, light cannot be manipulated in any way—only slight dimmering, no color shifts
- Vulnerable to breaking while being installed and transported
- Upcoming limitations on the production of neon
PROS AND CONS OF LED NEON
The benefits and drawbacks of choosing LED neon signs like NeonPlus® are listed in the chart below.
- Much less energy than neon
- Does not emit heat
- Less expensive operating costs for huge displays
- Kinder to the environment because there are no possibly hazardous gases
- Compared to neon, it is brighter, more uniform, and visible from a farther distance.
- The ability to dim, flash, or change color
- A lot more durable than glass
- Designed to last for five to ten years
- May travel the world via courier in safety
- Simple to fit and wire together
- Able to accurately copy company logos
- The only LED neon of its sort that is CE-certified and supported by BSI is NeonRooms.
- They are less aesthetically pleasing to certain people.
- If the acrylic housing needs to be replaced or engineers need to fix
- The LEDs themselves, maintenance can be expensive. LED light
- Needs to be dispersed because it can be hard on the eyes.
- Power spikes can harm electronics if there is no surge protection in place.
As a final recommendation, you can discover more about how to take care of your neon sign in our previous blog: How Long Do Neon Signs Last? – Guide to Longevity.
To discover more about the history of neon signs. SEE HERE