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Neon Safety: A Typical Neon Sign Setup

July 12, 2017 4 min read

Since we have dubbed July as ‘Neon Safety Month’, we have developed a comprehensive Neon Safety Guide and complementary Infographic in order to educate our audience on how to be safe with a neon product. When looking to own a neon sign, there are a number of considerations that you should make when deciding on where to purchase it from and there are a number of things you should look out for to know you have bought a safe product. As such, in this blog, we detail exactly how your neon sign setup should look and what you should do in the event that your neon sign is/looks unsafe to operate.

Typical Neon Sign Setup

In a typical neon sign setup, the main components generally consist of glass discharge tubes, an inert gas (neon,­ argon, etc.), a transformer, an HT cable and wiring, and an electrical mains plug. As a standard setup, you should expect to see all of these components on your neon sign and if any are missing then it’s likely that the sign won’t turn on.

As shown in the typical neon sign setup above, there are only a few main components that are responsible for the operation of a neon sign, so it’s important to understand how they work on a more granular level to minimise all associated risks. For the purposes of the above diagram, the electrode is shown as exposed, but in reality, you should expect to see this covered.

Safety Considerations

– Check to see whether the sign conforms with the EN50107 regulation, which should carry both a sticker and markings to show this – unless it is a supply only product.

– For supply only, despite not needing to conform to the EN50107 regulation, it is essential that the sign is installed according to IET Wiring Regulations.

– If using indoors, then ensure the sticker contains; date made, where it was made, who it was made by, regulation compliances and safety information.

– In the event that you have discovered your neon sign isn’t working, do not attempt any repairs yourself and seek the help of an experienced professional.

Neon Sign Components

In order to reduce the risk of injury or damage to the sign, it’s important to understand more about the components and how to act in the event that you find either a component or the neon sign, in general, isn’t working. Listed below are the main components of a typical neon sign setup:

Gas-discharge (glass) tubes

Used for containing neon or argon gas and providing a closed environment to house the gas, gas-discharge tubes are basically the long glass tubes that illuminate to give the neon sign its appeal and have electrodes attached to either end. Since glass is a fragile material in its very nature, sometimes it may become damaged during transit or by accident so you should check each tube to ensure that they are all intact and not damaged in any way.

Safety Considerations

Glass breakages should be handled with the utmost care, with any broken glass shards being disposed of safely. In the event that you have found one of the glass tubes to be broken, you should refrain from operating and contact the manufacturer directly for further advice. 

Inert Gas

Neon gas, or any noble gas for that matter, is generally unreactive within the Earth’s natural atmospheric conditions and can only become reactive under extreme conditions – such as those within the glass tube. In theory, any inert gas may be used within neon signs, although neon and argon are used most frequently.

Safety Considerations

Any gas leakage will be non-hazardous, but if this occurs then it’s likely that the glass tube is broken or cracked so make sure that you handle with the utmost care.

Transformer or Electronic Converter

A transformer or electronic converter is responsible for powering the gas discharge tubes, enabling the neon gas to fluoresce. Though operated by an input voltage of 230v, the output voltage ranges from 990v to 10Kv and generally runs from 18mA up to 50mA, with them coming pre-wired onto a backing.

Safety Considerations

Check to see whether there is any damage to the transformer or electronic converter and if there is, then you should contact the manufacturer directly.

Electrical Plug

As a standard component on any electrical item, an electrical mains plug should be safely and securely connected to the electrical wiring to provide the circuit with a constant supply of 240v.

Safety Considerations

Ensure that there is no apparent damage to the mains lead and that there are no loose parts on the plug before switching the neon sign on.

HT Cable and Wiring

An HT cable (electrical wiring) is basically used to connect the electrodes at each end of the gas-discharge tubes. This wiring should be covered using end caps so that it cannot be removed without the use of tools. The HT cables should be separated and not touching to prevent the risk of the electricity arcing or potentially causing a fire if the transformer does not have open circuit protection. In order to conform to EN50107, the HT cables should be one continuous piece with no joins.

Safety Considerations

There should be no broken or exposed wires and they should be fixed in a tidy fashion, but separated and not touching. In the event that you encounter broken, exposed or touching wires, then do not plug in or operate the neon sign and contact the manufacturer immediately.

Upon review of this safety information, you should now have a better understanding of the general setup of a neon sign, including its components and any associated safety considerations you should make prior to operation. In short, if you purchase a genuine neon sign from a credible neon sign manufacturer, then you can be sure that you’ve bought a safe product that will last for years to come.


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