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Neon Sign vs. LED Sign – What’s the difference?

August 22, 2017 4 min read

Simply the best way to attract attention and custom to your business is by having a brightly coloured and well-lit sign outside to draw people in. Humans are visual creatures by their very nature and if you can catch their eye you are much more likely to garner their business. While neon signs have traditionally been the frontrunner when it comes to business advertising, the LED market is becoming more popular. However, we’ve seen many LED sign products that are being marketed as neon sign products, when they’re entirely different in composition. As such, this blog aims to educate you on the key differences between LED and neon, so you can be sure you’re buying the right product.

So how do they differ?



Neon sign

The most obvious differences between LED and neon lighting is that neon lighting comes in a hand crafted glass tube. The light is created from reactions with an inert gas that emit a fluorescent colour due to the release of energy. Neon glass tubes are beautifully crafted but they are very fragile and there is a risk of damage to the tube if handled incorrectly. If the tube does become damaged, then the sign should have open circuit protection, meaning that if the tubes are damaged then the current will automatically stop flowing to prevent any unwanted accidents. Because of this protective safety feature and their alluring display, neon sign products are by far the most popular choice for businesses of all sizes.


LED sign

LED lights and signs are created using light emitting diodes (LEDs) which are strung closely together so that the light they emit overlaps and creates a steady source of light. LED signs are usually lighter and more protected than neon lights as LEDs are often wrapped in their own polymer jacket to protect each diode from external damage. However, they can be incredibly fiddly and difficult to fix if broken as each LED needs to be manually fixed to the base, where only the glass tube needs replacing on neon signs. Another potential drawback is that LEDs can only really be fixed in certain positions and, so the lettering can often look clunky and unappealing. Not only that, but the colours emitted are solid, rather than being varied as is often seen in a neon sign’s glow.

Energy efficiency

If you are looking for the most energy efficient lighting or signage option then LED does use less secondary power than a neon light. Very large neon displays can sometimes use 15,000 volts to run (although this is very unusual nowadays) while LEDs need just 24 volts. If you are thinking about a large outdoor display and contemplating LED or neon then this could mean a big saving in running costs if you were to opt for an LED display. However, for a business sign or small light display, the actual cost of running neon and LED lighting is very similar so there isn’t much difference between the two. It is also worth considering that it is amperage that relates to energy efficiency, and a typical neon sign draws less than 1 amp. Ultimately, you should levy the running cost of your business’ sign against how appealing you think it will be to your customers, as a neon sign will be much easier on the eye than an LED sign.


When looking at the difference in cost between LED and neon signs, again it depends on the size of the light display you are creating. For big, outdoor displays LED works out around 10% cheaper than neon signs, but again, you should ask yourself is the cost saving is worth it. In regards to life span, a neon sign is much more likely to last longer than an LED sign without the need for repair or replacement of components, so you should factor this into your considerations when thinking about cost. When talking large costs, though, this may tilt the balance in favour of LED, but for smaller indoor signs the cost difference between neon and LED is very small. Read our blog on the average running costs of neon signs.

Curb Appeal

There is a reason that neon signs have remained so popular with businesses all over the world, as the light they emit is warm and welcoming. The neon light itself brings up connotations of old school glamour, locations such as Las Vegas and Tokyo, brand trustworthy and a nostalgia that few can resist. In comparison, LED lights are bright but can appear cold, rigid and harsh on the eyes. They are a modern concept and so throw out a much more futuristic feel, but not always in a good way so you should look for what offers you the most curb appeal.


In the end, it’s down to personal preference whether you think LED or neon signs are better for your home or your business. Additionally, consider the main advantages of both in order to make a well-informed decision, but ultimately, you should be the judge of which is best. If you purchase a sign and you’re not even enticed by it, then it’s probably not going to offer your customers anything either. As such, it’s probably best to see what you think is the most appealing from a design point of view, rather than shop on cost or efficiency. Contact us for advice.