We’ll be covering some technical aspects of neon signs in this article.
- How traditional neon works
- How flexible are they regarding functionality – can they change their color or dimming?
- What performance can neon deliver?
We also talk about alternative technologies to neon such as LED acrylic lights (also known under the name “faux Neon”). This is NeonPlus.
How does neon work?
- Any neon sign will have a glass tube.
- An electrode can be found on either side of the tube. There is one negative and one positively charged.
- A tiny amount of neon-colored gas is found inside the tube. It is a rare gas called “neon”. This means that it undergoes only chemical reactions when exposed to high-energy sources like electricity. Otherwise, it just floats through the tube doing nothing.
- Apply an alternating charge to the electrodes. This creates enough electricity to enable the tube’s neon atoms to separate. Some of the electrons that are shed become positively charged particles, which move toward the negative electrode.
- The free electrons, which have a negligible charge, are drawn toward the electrode at the opposite end of a tube.
- As the electrons and ions of neon bounce around the tube in a circle, they collide with one another, increasing their energy.
- When the ionized molecules are returned to their initial energy level, they release a photon. This is what causes them to glow with color.
The neon atoms are returned to their inert states by cutting off the electricity supply.
Can neon signs perform different lighting functions?
Old neon signs cannot change color
If it is charged with electricity, neon can produce only a reddish or orange light. It cannot glow blue or green.
The color it produces will depend on how hot the electricity runs through it. See.
Using different gases, it is possible to make a sign glow in other colors. These react differently to electricity. You can also mix them with neon inside a glass tube.
Below is a table showing which gases produce which colors.
LED neon signs CAN change color
The two main ways LED neon signs like NeonPlus can change color include:
The RGB (red, green, and blue) LED chips are the most common and popular choice. This small chip houses three diodes. One of each color is included. By connecting an RGB controller, the user can adjust the intensity for each red, blue, or green diode in order to get a wide range.
It also incorporates red, green, or blue diodes into an LED chip. However, the chip has an additional ‘driver chip’ that allows you to control each LED individually. Because the controllers allow for more complex patterns, designs, and effects, they are much more powerful.
It is possible to dim an old neon sign. However, you will need a dimmable fluorescent transformer that is sized according to the voltage or current used by your sign.
A neon sign for sale requires low current and high voltage to work. Therefore, it is essential that you choose a transformer that matches them. Do not use an off-the-shelf lamp dimmer. They only regulate voltage, and not current. This could lead to serious damage and even fire.
Remember that you won’t be able to dim the neon lights completely. Your best chance of dimming it is probably around 10%.
There are two options for dimming an LED neon sign like NeonPlus (r):
Low-voltage rotary or electronic dimmer
These simple controllers are wired on low-voltage and reduce the voltage coming out of the power supply unit (PSU).
Dimmable power supply (PSU)
One of these can be attached to a TRIAC rotary dimmer. This will reduce the voltage inside the PSU. This, in turn, decreases the output voltage of the PSU and dims the lights.
This is a good option for lighting systems that require the use of lighting, such as those in shopping centers or theatres. There are many types of dimmable PSUs. The use of each one depends on the context, but they do the same thing: dim the light or control it.
These options allow users to dim the LED up to 0%. This allows the light to remain consistent without flickering.
Are there any problems with neon signs’ performance?
Do they become stale?
It is quite common for neon signs to suffer from burnout. Either the whole or a small portion of the sign will stop lighting up. This will usually happen for one (or more!) of the following reasons.
- Fired wires–most fires are caused by the high-voltage wiring between the neon tube tubes. They can also burn out if they become too hot and cause the sign to stop fighting.
- Transformers going out of business – If the transformer that lights the neon sign isn’t working, the sign will just stop working.
- Gas tubes failing – If the electrodes on the ends of a gas tube stop working properly, parts of the tube could look dimmed or not glow at all.
It is unlikely that LED faux-neon will cause you to have to return your sign to the manufacturer in order to get burnout repairs.
Do they get hot?
How neon signs work Often, the energy created by atoms/electrons/ions colliding inside the tubes can occur as light or heat.
However, no matter how hot the neon sign releases–especially if it has narrow glass tubes- -it shouldn’t cause skin irritation. This is why you should not be concerned that neon signs could cause burns, or become dangerous.
Neon sign makers commonly use rubber caps to cover the electrodes of the glass tubing. These caps protect the wires and prevent them from getting wet.
Are they hazardous?
The most dangerous risks that neon signs can pose are:
- Use of noble gases–it’s claimed that they can be harmful if released into the air through a damaged pipe. However, signs are designed so that any such damage is prevented
- The glass tubes heat up. They might release some heat, but nothing that is enough to burn.
All neon signs other than those in red contain a small amount (a poisonous substance) of mercury. This is how they get their particular color. There are steps being taken to ban mercury-containing neon signs. These measures, if implemented, would limit neon signs to the following colors: red, pink amber, purple, or violet.
However, neon signs are a classic design that has been in use for decades.
How much electricity are they using?
Because of their brightness, neon signs are extremely energy-efficient. Modern signs include a 240v converter and require about the same amount as a single light bulb (60W to 100W) in order to work.
A typical LED neon sign consumes only 15%-20% of the power that traditional neon uses for a similar job. However, fluorescent and incandescent light will require much more.
How long will they last?
A traditional neon sign’s longevity will depend on how often it is used and how it is maintained. Neon signs typically last between 8 to 15 years. But many neon signs continue to operate for much longer.
Signs left on longer periods of time can damage their lifespan and increase the risk of it overheating.
Is it necessary for neon signs to be compliant with specific regulations?
Yes. All neon signs must conform to BS EN50107. This British Standard outlines how luminous light tube installations (like neon lights), must be manufactured.
Neon signs must also comply with the IET Wiring Regulations, another British Standard called BS 7671. These regulations set out specifications for the wiring of these types of electrical installations.
Be sure to check that the sign is marked and signed before you purchase.
It is legal for businesses to do regular fire-safety risk assessments and to take precautions to reduce any possible dangers. While a neon sign may be checked as part of a risk assessment, it is likely not to cause a fire.
Are there alternatives to neon?
Yes. LED neon–also known as “faux-neon”, is an alternative. This uses LED technology, which replicates traditional neon’s look without any of its drawbacks.
Below, we examine the differences between LEDs and neon and discuss the pros and disadvantages of each type.
Neon and LED neon
The biggest difference between the two is their ability to generate light.
Where neon relies on a chemical reaction between gases and an electrical current, with LEDs (light emitting diodes, in full) the reaction occurs when electrons pass through a semiconductor, which is typically a material known as aluminum-gallium-arsenide.
When used in signs, LEDs are placed near each other to produce a constant source of light similar in effect to neon gas glowing within a glass tube.