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Who's pocket am I lining?

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Just had my neon guy drop off some glass. We were discussing the "State of the Neon Industry". The pros and cons of Neon vs LED. And my ratio of signs I build using LED's. The question he asked me was. Do I have more money in the bank from using LED's? My best guesstimate is no.

By no means do I consider myself a sign guru. I'm over 20 years in the electric sign business. I remember when LED's first started coming out. I have nothing against either product.

Our conversation turned to; quality, effective lighting, maintenance, and repair.

Quality, you get what you pay for. But Voltarc 4500 from different boxes looks and lights the same. Unlike LED's from a different batch.

Effective lighting can be accomplished with both types. LED's are a better fit in tight stroke letters in my opinion.

The maintenance and repair are about the same. (If you build a good sign).

As we were finishing our discussion, we discussed "Who's pocket am I lining"? I've never looked at this way. Neon is made by our local neon guys or in house. LED's are made in CHINA.

I prefer to keep my local neon guy in business. Just saying....

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So MANY variables with this when I think about it.

I use LEDs for tight stroke letters and stuff I have to send out, a difficult installation, or travel with to install.

The problem with LEDs is there's no standardization, yet. Or maybe never will since there is always revision of product? With Neon you always have consistency, but over long lengths of time time you won't with repalcement/maintenenace so can be the same as LEDs in this regard.

On the lining of pockets, well China will get their unfare share from us no matter what so as long as our manufacturing industry is highly restricted with the environmental, product safety movement that runs this country into the ground, and the bigger push to be "Green" that works as a cululative from our industry leadership.

China will get paid when you use neon too, sure the neon bender will get paid for labor and processing but neon consists of glass, electrodes, transormers and other components made over there. Grantite some glass is made here or Europe. Phosphors from the glass made in Japan (Nichia) and other countries.

Not much is made here anymore, we let a environemental wacky minority hi-jack this country, there is also a minority from within our own industry that enables this movement and prohibits incentive to "do" anything innovative.

It's no ones fault but our own, we need to be very careful and more informative about who we support, what causes WE enable that ultimately hurt us in the end. Look at U.L., we're making them a bigger giants who are making up their own standards outside what's required, look at their UL-E. I wish our MFG's would start going with alternatives like MET, that goes for the rest us as sign shops.

Who's pocket am I/we lining? A very good question, and where is it taking us?

I'm sure we'll all observe more and more Chinese booths this year compared to last years, and so on and so on for years to come. In order to stay competitive MFG's have to have their products produced offshore, and there is a quality control risk in doing so. Ask a MFG how often they switch Chinese companies.


You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life. - Winston Churchill

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Saving money is not the only reason for using Leds....

You never "break" an led unit.

Power supplys are 1/4 the price of

Neon transformers.

Code requirements are much less

No tube supports or boots needed

for leds....

When a service call is needed.. just grab some replacement leds and a power supply and hit the road..

With neon , you go to the job site and hope there is no bad neon unit.

Leds are mercury free...

And last buy not least.....no fickle

neon bender to deal with

As a former tube bender i hate to see the neon industry suffer.....but such is technology......We all saw how plotters and vinyl replaced the great hand letterers and painters...

Sent from My HTC EVO

Using Tapatalk for Android

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Saving money is not the only reason for using Leds....

You never "break" an led unit.

Power supplys are 1/4 the price of

Neon transformers.

Code requirements are much less

No tube supports or boots needed

for leds....

When a service call is needed.. just grab some replacement leds and a power supply and hit the road..

With neon , you go to the job site and hope there is no bad neon unit.

Leds are mercury free...

And last buy not least.....no fickle

neon bender to deal with

As a former tube bender i hate to see the neon industry suffer.....but such is technology......We all saw how plotters and vinyl replaced the great hand letterers and painters...

Sent from My HTC EVO

Using Tapatalk for Android

This is just me personally speaking with my own business experience. I'm not saying one light source is better than the other as they both have their place, and their pro's and con's. I love both!

LED PS's are about 1/2 the price, I see an average prive of about $50 (unless you're buying them from Axiom ($35.00+ shipping) for a 60watt if not higher, $97 for 15/30kv, less for smaller trannies. $50 for a 6000vSST tranny.

When it comes to a blind service call from a sign that is not yours you can't just grab LED replacements, you're going to be making a return trip just like neon. Also, once you find out what LED manufacturer you're going to be replacing, more often than not you're going to be having to buy a minimum box order, depending on the make that can be $300 to $1,000, so it can be a VERY expensive service call. Unlike neon, that wholesale price is usually $25 minimum per unit, chances are to 6500 voltarc will match that 6500 EGL. When it comes to red neon, red neon does not depreciate in light output because it's just glass and gas.

On the Mercury issues, LEDs do produce mercury depending on where their manufactured, China coal plants? In reality, mercury is not an issue for the environment, it's more a marketing statement and something our bureaucracies have gone crazy, and out of control with. As a Environmental scientist put it when it comes to LEDs and Neon, "do you want it up in the air as with LED production, or do you want it contained in a glass?" It also takes more energy to produce an LED lamp system, sort of the saying, "it takes 50 watts to save 5 watts"

One volcanic explosion like we had recently in Greenland that no one can pronounce, put up more merc vapor into the air and into the environement than the span of mans existence or man's folly to deny. Forest fires put merc into the air. It's not pure merc "quicksilver" that we have to worry about, it's when it seeps into he ground above a underwater well, there's plenty of underwater volcanism too.

Both light sources have their advantages, and as sign makers we'd have to be fools to think or use just one light sources for all phases. There are so many important factors to consider beside the individual pro's and con's of a particular light source like temperature and environment being just being two. Cold for LEDs benefit, warm for CCFL's benefit.

Now some people just have shitty neon benders and I can't blame them for using LEDs for everything, and some people use some real shitty LEDs and go back to Neon. Bad experiences change what we buy.

As the world turns!


You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life. - Winston Churchill

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I see your points...

I just think it's a technolgy change thats going to improve efficiency and cost... And standards are being developed as leds take their place in the industry.

Just a few years ago leds were very expensive and all over the place as far as different voltages and power supply requirements.

Many manufacturers have continued to standardize color temps as well as power requirements.

As far as min. Box order for service calls, l think $300.00 is way high.

Some companys sell by the foot and most sell by the box.

Pricing by the box starts at $39.00 and up for 6500 whites.

Several companys offer 60 watt power supplys at $25 dollars.

Neon will always be special to myself and many others. But i think it's days of dominance in backlighting are over.

Edited by Westcoast Sign Guy
too small to read

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Here’s something else which I didn’t hit on when it comes to LED vs Neon Power sources. With average costs coming from sign suppliers

Let’s take hypothetical channel letter sign. A 9 channel letters sign composed of 5’ each of neon lamps.

NEON

When it comes to neon loading you have to add 1 ft. for electrodes per unit. So for this channel letter sign we’ll say 6’ per letter bringing that sign to a total of 54’.

Scenario 2

Let’s say we want to compare equal light output light sources for this quick mockup.

We’ll use 15mm white and mid sized modules, the foot candle reading is close. We;ll take a brand X from our Project Tighty Whitey who specifies 3 modules per foot which comes out to 1.3 watt a foot (3 mods per foot)

1 - 15kv tranny will load 72 feet max, being argon you can load that pretty close but we’ll stick to 54’ for this.

1 - 15kv tranny cost $97.00, one can be used for this sign. A 60 watt PS will load safely 50 watts

60’ Neon x 1.3watts per foot of LED = 78 watts or 2 LED power sources 2 x let’s say $45 per LED power source = $90

Scenario 2

13mm Tri White Neon vs High Brightness White LEDs. For a comparison we’ll use a LED from our Great White Hope that’s comparable in light output. 60’ max load for 13mm, 50 watts max on a 60 watt PS

This sign will have 9 letters of 5 linear feet per letter + 1’ per letter for electrodes. That comes to 54’ of load for a single $97 transformer for this channel letter set.

HB LED’s are 2.8 watts per liner foot of neon. 2.8watts per foot x 54’ = 152 watts / 50 per PS = 3 PS x $45 = $135.00

Scenario 1 Power Sources

Neon Transformer = $97

LED PS = $90

Scenario 2 Power Sources

Neon transformer = $97.00

LEDs PS = $135

In our testing we have just about every LED manufacturer there is. Most of these I have to buy minimum boxes, and that price is all over the scale, but you are correct some are priced low, some like GE can be $1,000, minumum.

******I'm leary of low cost Power Sources except Axioms $25 beacuse we test those here about 25 of them with over 25k hours cycled twice per day. Just my own personal and business experience. Axioms are manually voltage adjustable, perfect for constant voltage LEDs where you can make sure it's exactly 12 volts. Other PS's are not adjustable and can vary from 12.10 to 12.56 volts, if the LEDs are not constant current these PS's can kill the LEDs. I've had 12.25 volts rapidly kill some constant voltage LEDs in less than a month 30% light degradation. My preference to LEDs are CC systems

Edited by Westcoast Sign Guy
*****More to add

You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life. - Winston Churchill

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I don't trust the lower cost power supplies as well....But they are out there and many will use them just based on cost..

I have many customers who buy our power supplys to replace the economy junk that last a year or so...

In our standard Led Projects... We can use a single stroke of 6500 white in a typical 5" stroke. And our Modules allow 60' per 60 watt Power Supply. We use only Meanwell CEN series 110-277 volt. All parts are UL48 and the standard 5 year waranty.

There are of course many options and many very worthy led products by many manufacturers. It's seem that lots of companies like sticking with what they have trust and confidence in. Quality is the Main thing to focus on...and price is a close second..

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Saving money is not the only reason for using Leds....

You never "break" an led unit.

Power supplys are 1/4 the price of

Neon transformers.

Code requirements are much less

No tube supports or boots needed

for leds....

When a service call is needed.. just grab some replacement leds and a power supply and hit the road..

With neon , you go to the job site and hope there is no bad neon unit.

Leds are mercury free...

And last buy not least.....no fickle

neon bender to deal with

As a former tube bender i hate to see the neon industry suffer.....but such is technology......We all saw how plotters and vinyl replaced the great hand letterers and painters...

Sent from My HTC EVO

Using Tapatalk for Android

"no fickle neon bender to deal with" Really ? That's a new one .

If you really "hate to see the neon industry suffer" you wouldn't make bogus BS statements like that one . Keep it simple and stick to the standard "green" marketing BS . : )

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Sorry you took offense, but after forty years in the sign business it is a well known fact that many neon benders can be difficult to work with.

It's not a blanket statement since i know many great people who are neon benders.

This is an opinion forum...it's ok to disagree.....

Sent from My HTC EVO

Using Tapatalk for Android

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I use the Advance 12 watt and 60 watt units. I pay 39.00 for the 60 watt. But, I do buy a lot of them. I use US LED and typically buy them by the case. But, they can be purchased by the foot.

I have to agree on the neon benders. Most that I have dealt with over the years are not your average employee or vendor. I am sure there are many professional neon benders. It's just been my mis-fortune to not be able to find them.

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I use the Advance 12 watt and 60 watt units. I pay 39.00 for the 60 watt. But, I do buy a lot of them. I use US LED and typically buy them by the case. But, they can be purchased by the foot.

I have to agree on the neon benders. Most that I have dealt with over the years are not your average employee or vendor. I am sure there are many professional neon benders. It's just been my mis-fortune to not be able to find them.

That is unfortunate Gerald . Maybe Sean knows a quality guy up there in your area.

Every market place and industry (neon and led included) has its low quality shit manufacturers to contend with.

It's too bad your experience with neon has been with what I expect is the part time hack that works for beer.

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I use the Advance 12 watt and 60 watt units. I pay 39.00 for the 60 watt. But, I do buy a lot of them. I use US LED and typically buy them by the case. But, they can be purchased by the foot.

I have to agree on the neon benders. Most that I have dealt with over the years are not your average employee or vendor. I am sure there are many professional neon benders. It's just been my mis-fortune to not be able to find them.

I hear you... Thats been my experience as well...

You can find Good and Bad in Any Product.... And as far as tube benders go...Well... I was one for many years and knew many others....and for some reason quite a few were very hard to deal with......Maybe it was Mercury exposure...I don't know...But even the ones that were hard to deal with were usually very good benders....

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You guys seem to be comparing switching LED supplies with large Magnetic neon transformers. The cost of electronic (switching) neon supplies is pretty close to the LED supplies you guys are quoting. And of course, there are the "cheap" neon electronic supplies as well that are in the $25 range. But a quality neon switcher is pretty comparable to a quality LED switcher - especially when you consider the lumens delivered per dollar (or per watt for that matter).

I'd also argue with the statement that LED's are a "change" in technology. They are a "different" technology, not an evolution or improvement upon cold cathode. Neon, cold-cathode, and LED's are all continuing their march towards improvement. The rare-earth whites, blues, and greens now widely available and used are superior to the staples of 10-15 years ago. Like LED's, cold cathode has evolved and upped the bar along with every other change in either light source.

Edited by megavolt512

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I love the wink and a nod comments like "Not your average employee" or "Difficult to work with" whilst still maintaining your deep repsect for "Professional Tubebenders". How generous, and let me say as a Professional Tubebender that I have done more work for hack shop owners (Who I suspect may be on the hooch) than I can shake a blowhose at. While I'm sure that there are many reputable shop owners, I found many, very hard to deal with. Back before their conscinece hit em,they would bring in a busted 30 yr. old unit, covered in dirt, mercury, and tell me to fix it(No longer),then bitch about the cost of repair (which hasnt changed in years). It's funny, now that I think about it, the same people who came to me to repair their mercury units never spoke about their worries concerning contamination and cheerfully broke up their mercury units in our dumpster when a full changeout was needed. Now of course these same folks are "Enviromentally Friendly" and like to trot out the Neon/ Mercury problem as a dirge against a fine product. We have disposed of our mercury units for over 20 years by sealing them in approved containers then paying hefty fees to properly dispose of them. Meanwhile, were currently working on some cold cathode for a Church who, for the first time in 50 years, needs a couple of units made. 2 units. How many LED's would I be changing out in the same time frame, and tossing into a landfill where their various toxic componets would slowly leak into the ground water? Don't mean to stir the S__t pot, but smarmy comments about a trade I practice and respect from people who most likely have left a sizable mercury footprint in their many years of buisness, need to look up hypocrisy in the dictionary. Sorry for the diatribe, probably Mercury exposure.

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There was no wink and nod on my part.

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Like I said....Some Tube Benders get a bit Testy.....

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No, just a kick in the shin to an industry already down.

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