Myths About Neon Signs
19 June 2019 By Jessica Jones
We are increasingly being faced with misconceptions about neon, particularly from some companies promoting LED products, who choose to do so by publishing incorrect information about neon. We would like the opportunity to provide correct information; to give buyers the opportunity to make up their own minds about which product is best for them, as opposed to being scared away from using neon by companies that do not work with the product and are not clear on the facts.
1) Myth: The term neon light and LED neon light are used interchangeably and mean the same thing.
Fact: Neon signs have been in existence for more than 100 years and are entirely hand crafted, relying on the skills of a neon glass bender to form the glass tubes into shape over a hot flame. There is no such thing as LED neon! LED signs are made up from lots of tiny individual bulbs (or light emitting diodes), and plastic/acrylic, and are mainly produced by machinery, which cuts the plastic to shape from a computer programme. They are then finished by hand.
Our advice when obtaining quotations for neon or LED alternatives, always make sure you know exactly what you are going to get. There are lots of companies who advertise their product as neon, when it is in fact LED, and they don’t mention this anywhere on their websites, or make this information very difficult to see.
2) Myth: Neon signs contain toxic chemicals and gases.
Fact: Neon tubes are filled with either neon gas, argon gas, or a combination of both. Both of these gases are found in the air that we breathe. Argon filled tubes do contain a very small amount of mercury vapour, which someone would only be exposed to if the neon tube broke. Exposure to mercury vapour only becomes harmful if it happens over a prolonged period of time. At Neon Creations, we ensure that any broken tubes containing mercury are recycled, as opposed to being thrown away.
There are certain companies that try and promote their LED products by scaremongering about neon signs containing dangerous gases or chemicals. However, a study in 2010 actually found that LEDs contain lead, arsenic and other potentially dangerous substances.
What’s more, LED lights are a source of harmful blue light; exposure to which can increase your risk of developing eye diseases. Repeated or prolonged exposure to LED light sources can have a negative impact on your heath, including irreparable damage to the retina of your eye.
3) Myth: Neon signs are not as environmentally friendly as LED signs.
Fact: All components of a neon sign can be recycled. Most of the internal neon signs that we produce run at less than 100 watts of illumination, so whilst they do require more power to run than an LED sign, they are not as costly to run as some sources make out.
Therefore, unless you are talking about a really large neon display, the running costs of the smaller type interior neon signs that we specialise in, are not much higher than for an LED sign. It is also worth considering that much production of LEDs takes place in the Far East, so there is the environmental impact of importing such products to consider.
4) Myth: Neon signs are high voltage and therefore dangerous.
Fact: Whilst the neon signs that we supply are typically run from an 8,000 volt electronic convertor (also referred to as a transformer), the convertors are self-calibrating and only use as much voltage as is necessary to power the neon sign. For example, the neon sign might only need to use 6,000 volts of the 8,000 volts available. Yes this is still a high voltage, but they are only 20mA current.
The convertors and transformers that we supply with our neon signs are fitted with open circuit and earth leakage protection, meaning that if the neon tube gets broken, the power is automatically cut off, hence no risk of electrocution.
5) Myth: Neon tubes get very hot.
Fact: Absolutely not true! They may get slightly warm to the touch but would not burn you. If a neon sign has been manufactured correctly, and supplied with the correct size of transformer for the amount of neon tubes, then the tubes should not get hot.
This neon sun might look scorching, but it’s far from!
6) Myth: Neon signs are dangerous as the tubes are made from glass.
Fact: It is correct that the neon tubes are glass, and are therefore in their nature fragile. However, if they are handled correctly and carefully during transportation and installation, then there is no reason at all why the glass will get broken. We encounter glass products throughout our daily lives without any fear that they will get broken, so there is no reason to think of neon signs any differently.
7) Myth: LED signs are brighter and last longer than neon signs.
Fact: LED signs are probably brighter than neon signs to begin with, but in our experience, LED signs fade over time, whereas neon stays bright for years. LED signs are made up from tiny individual bulbs, so if any of these bulbs fail, the LED sign ends up with dull spots on it, and ultimately the whole sign would need to be replaced.
Neon tubes are indeed a circular tube, and therefore emit a 360 degree light. The LED alternatives to neon that are available are only lit at the front, and half of the sides, and sometimes the back.
8) Myth: LED alternatives to neon have a wider range of standard colours available.
Fact: We have access to around 40 different colours in our neon range, whereas LED alternatives to neon offer around 8 different static colours.
9) Myth: Neon signs are more expensive than LED alternatives to neon.
Fact: This will vary widely between manufacturers for both neon and LED. We believe we offer a high quality neon product, and don’t cut any corners in production and finish. This is also true of the supplier we use for requests for LED alternatives. In our experience, the prices for each product are very similar, with the LED coming out a little more expensive most of the time.
10) Myth: LED alternatives to neon are better than real neon.
Fact: This will always be a matter of personal preference and be project specific. Obviously as a neon manufacturer we would always say that neon is best (and we do truly believe this), but there are instances where a client may be restricted or prevented from using real neon.
In these instances we are able to source a high quality LED alternative, but we do not manufacture this in-house. The product that we source is certified as CE compliant by the British Standards Institute.
11) Myth: A fireman’s switch is necessary for neon sign installations.
Fact: A fireman’s switch is only required when a neon sign is hard wired into the mains electricity, or when the neon is for permanent use and is more than 100 watts of illumination. Many exhibition venues insist on a fireman’s switch being used with a neon sign, but this is not the requirement by law, just a rule that they wish to enforce in their venues.