Neon lights have been used in signage for over a century and are still popular today, thanks to their unique look and ability to grab attention. In this article, we'll cover everything you need to know about using neon or neon-effect lights in your signage, including how they work, the pros and cons of using them, and modern and sustainable alternatives to neon.
Illuminated signage refers to any sign or powered advertising display that incorporates lighting within or behind the display. There are many different types of illuminated signs, from traditional large-scale neon signs (think 1980s Piccadilly Circus and Madison Square Garden) to more modern, and often more understated LED displays. And while neon has been the go-to material for illuminated signage for many years, LEDs are quickly becoming a popular alternative thanks to their energy efficiency and eco-friendly credentials.
Neon lights are made up of glass tubes filled with neon gas. When an electric current is passed through the tubes, the gas is ionized and produces a bright light.
Even though LEDs are gaining popularity, neon – or lighting that imitates the colour and style of neon lighting – is still occasionally used in public-facing commercial signage, especially when it comes to more traditional attention-grabbing advertising applications. There's just something about a bright, colourful neon sign that can't always be replicated with LEDs in a hectic public space.
In the UK, the Restriction of Hazardous Substance (RoHS) regulations introduced in 2018, outlawed the use of mercury in neon lighting – a ban that primarily affected smaller-scale, low-voltage signage displays that depended on mercury-containing cathode lamps. Large-scale installations and high voltage displays, of 1000 V or more, however, were not covered by the regulations and can still be commissioned through some suppliers due to this legal loophole. The mercury ban also affected the range of colours that could be used in neon signage, restricting most neon signs to purple, amber, pink, or red.
There are both pros and cons to using neon lights in your signage. On the plus side, neon lights are very bright and can grab attention from a distance in busy and low-light conditions, e.g., in a city at night. They're also very durable, so they can withstand weather and other environmental conditions as part of outdoor displays.
However, there are numerous drawbacks to using neon lights as well. For one thing, they're not very energy-efficient, so they'll add to your electricity bill each month. Additionally, they can be difficult and expensive to repair if they break, especially for lighting displays installed at height.
LEDs are quickly becoming the preferred choice for illuminated signage thanks to their many benefits. Not only are they more energy-efficient than traditional neon signs (meaning they'll save you money on your electricity bill), but they're also much better for the environment since they don't contain any toxic materials. LEDs are also much more versatile than neon tubing, so you'll have no problem finding a style that fits your business perfectly.
Image Technique does not produce high-voltage neon installations. However, our bespoke illuminated signage solutions can replicate the glamour and bold colours of traditional neon signage with sustainable LED lighting arrays – which not only look attractive but also save you significant electricity expenditure when compared to true neon lighting. If you're interested in exploring the possibilities of LED illuminated signage for your business, Image Technique offers a wide range of high-quality options to choose from. Click here to learn more.
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