LED Retrofits for Neon & Fluorescent Lamps - Overlooked Facts
7 7

14 posts in this topic

THE BACKGROUND

 

So, as I mentioned in this thread I left the USSC

 

I was given this newsletter from Image 360˙.  From my understanding this is a newsletter for sign franchises and others such as Signs By Tomorrow.  This is your typical marketing point newsletter describing how greatly valued one light sources is (LEDs) compared to "inefficient" Neon & Fluorescent lamps. 

 

If you've been in this electric sign trade long enough you'll know that this is your typical mis-information marketing hype, brochure talking points, something we all read in our Brochure Trade Magazines, or are taught at Trade Show Seminars that does nothing other than mis-characterizes LEDs, Neon, & Fluorescent Lamps to something they are not.

 

I was asked to rebut this article and hit it hard.  I did.  It was soon met with apprehension by email which lead to conference call by committee.

 

We all know what happens, and how a decision by committee can go, as Sign Fabricators imagine yourself looking to get approval from a city design review board.  Everyone has an opinion, and soon it takes a tangent like, "Let's get the owner to add some green trees to the property too".

 

The feedback was both praise and deflection.  Some thought we should waste time in developing a relationship with image 360 "to better educate them", find some other way to combat this.  The thought of hurting those who are new to the trade, by franchise or otherwise came up. 

 

It would appear as if USSC was picking a side, or picking the side of electric sign shops over mom and pop shops/franchise shops that are looking into doing electric signs.  Then I had to remind the board that in most states you need to be a licensed contractor to fabricate & install electric signs and you can not just simply buy your way in to a trade.  Is the electric sign industry still a trade, or is it not?

 

I went into the fact that no other Association has ever protected, let alone rebut the typical marketing points that we all see on a everyday basis THAT we all know is wrong, and that it would take courage to do so.  I've been preaching the need to have courage to this association for some time along with the need to do what is right and NOT continue to always do only what is easy

 

I also reminded them that I am here with them to build an Association (by membership), and that I was NOT here to build a annual show.  The Electric Sign Trade has been looking for some kind of leadership and representation for as long as I have been around and no one has EVER been around to do that. 

 

USSC could have been the first to fill what this Trade, and members here have been thirsty for.....Real "Leadership"

 

The topic got batted around back and forth and it appeared to go south, then I asked "where is the courage of this sign association?" and "What have you done on this very topic in the last 12 years?"

 

Then, BOOM!!!

 

I'm getting threatened with "The next time I see you I'm going to kick your ass!".

 

I'm short tempered and can flip on a dime, anytime, anywhere, so......immediately I'm following up with "I'm going to kick your ass when I see you!"  followed by your mutual back and forth "Fuck you's, etc etc etc"

 

It got very High School, VERY fast.

 

Not your typical Sign Association Board conference call I'm sure.

 

BUT.....you can't accuse the USSC of NOT being passionate about the sign industry!

 

I'm not going to go into greater detail, or name names.  It's details the Association can deal with, it's inner family stuff.

 

I thought things could finally change for once when it comes to sign associations, I'm not surprised, but I'm defiantly disappointed.  I was hoping the "movement" would finally gain ground beginning with the USSC.

 

There are things I've mentioned in the past about Sign Associations, and nothing has changed.  It has to do with long time Board Members who float around either in the same association, or are concurrently in multiple at the same time.  After awhile long term relationships are built, ego's are developed, and the need to protect one's legacy evolves.  New people appear to threaten what some perceive as their territory.  It's just like our everyday politicians, they all start off with good intentions then sooner or later their hurting more than doing good.  A lot of newbies or quite types who join associations don't like to speak up, or engage what might be thought of as ruffling feathers or rubbing shoulders with those that have been in for some time.

 

This is the biggest reason why I never saw myself ever in a association, I like to act and execute, and "fuck 'em" if they don't have a sense of humor .

 

Look, I'm no different and I'm not going to paint myself as someone any different that can get used to my own ways .  BUT, I know there will come a day where it's just better for me to walk away from here, and not get in the way of others who could carry on and do a better job.  I hope I will know when that time comes myself, or at least hope someone will just tell me, "Erik, dude it's time to go, shut up and stop".  That time is not yet, because this industry has been losing, very badly I might add.

 

I told them I would continue to get this article out with them, or go it alone...which I have never had an issue with I think I was born this way. 

 

Obviously, it became the latter.  Their loss, and the loss for their members who have any care about the state of the electric sign "Trade"

 

The omission to speak out, or failing to do what's right for our industry in hopes of staying neutral, makes those just as bad as the party making the accusations who's spreading the mis-information and mis-characterizations. 

 

 

 

 

So...what was to be executed by USSC by means of newsletters, social media blasts, and PR Web, and possible trade magazine article is below...

 

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The Original 360˙ Image Article - March 2017 Issue

0_image360_mar2017_whitepaper-1.pdf

 

Which reads without Downloading Below
 

Quote

 

A brighter idea?
Converting fluorescent or neon signs to energy-efficient LED illumination

 

Depending on the type of your interior or exterior lighted sign, it may very well pay to update its illumination to energy-efficient light-emitting diodes or LEDs. Thousands have found the value in retrofitting, including one nationwide chain of thousands of convenience stores. But is it right for you? Here are some considerations.

 

LED advantages over fluorescent lighting Some estimate that illumination via light-emitting diodes over fluorescent bulbs can reduce sign maintenance and energy costs by up to 80 percent. 

 

Begin by considering the expenses of repairs. As solidstate devices with no moving parts, filaments or glass, LEDs are remarkably durable and maintenance-free. Not so with fluorescent bulbs. They are significantly more fragile than LEDs—making them prone to breakage during transportation and installation or when exposed to strong winds or heavy storms. 

 

While the cost of a replacement fluorescent light is minimal, the sign owner must often not only pay for a service call and perhaps a bucket truck, but also for the environmentally safe disposal of the bulb, which contains toxic mercury. In the end, the expense of replacing just a single broken or burnedout fluorescent bulb can reach a significant sum! 

 

Then, too, there are factors including energy use, longevity and operating temperatures—all of which favor light-emitting diodes over fluorescent lights. 

 

LEDs consume just over one-third the electricity of fluorescent bulbs. They enjoy a lifespan that’s typically over five times as long. And their heat emissions are about two-thirds less, which is something to consider if you’re air conditioning an indoor space. Of course, all that’s not to mention an LED’s start-up is instant, unlike the maddeningly slow beginning flicker of a fluorescent light. 

 

Retrofitting from neon to LED illumination

 

Businesses or organizations with signage that’s illuminated by neon lighting will find many of the same advantages as those transitioning from fluorescent bulbs to LEDs.

 

As mentioned, light-emitting diodes are extremely durable and able to withstand shock and vibration. In contrast, neon, which is encased in glass, breaks relatively easily during transportation and installation, and is subject to the same hazards of wind and weather as fluorescent bulbs. 

 

Disposal, too, may be a concern. Neon signs contain mercury, which is hazardous to the environment. 

 

Then there’s energy use, which favors light-emitting diodes hands down. LEDs have a lifetime energy savings of up to 40 percent over neon!

 

One other factor gives the nod to light-emitting diodes over neon, and that’s cold-weather performance. LED modules stay brighter in cold weather, where neon sign brightness can drop dramatically when temperatures fall below 35 degrees Fahrenheit, thereby negating much of the value in illuminating your sign in the first place.

 

Making the switch: Is it the right move for you?


Retrofitting your fluorescent or neon sign to energy efficienct and eco-friendly LEDs will depend on a number  of factors.  How many signs do you have? Is the signage located indoors or out? Is it illuminated at all hours, or only when it’s dark or during times when your facility is open?  Are there state laws that apply to the sign’s energy use or environmental impact?

 

Finally, how old is your fluorescent or neon sign? Would a fresh replacement sign with a totally updated design in addition to efficient light-emitting diodes make more sense than a retrofit? Or is your current sign a relatively recent investment with a style that’s still relevant? 

 

For answers to these questions, sit down with an experienced signage provider to assess the advantages of one option vs. the other. You may just find that when it comes to illuminated signage, LEDs are indeed a brighter
idea!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image 360's "A Brighter Idea? - Converting fluorescent or neon signs to energy-efficient LED illumination"

 

ARTICLE COMMENTARY

 

More mis-infomration and mis-characterazation of light sources......so let's do this casually

 

Whether you are a light source user fabricating signs in the electric sign industry or the end user consumer there is a lot to know when it comes to light sources.

 

Mainly, ALL light sources whether it's Neon, Fluorescent, or LED, ALL have their strengths and weaknesses based on the application of your intended project.  Not ALL applications are the same, and the environment in which the light sources are in can play a key factor of success or failure. 

 

Those of us that have been in the industry for a period have all seen failure of components that never did live up to hype or the marketing claims on the manner on which products were pushed either by distributors or by what we read in trade magazines written my manufacturer reps.

 

What this article fails to tell the reader is, well...a lot. 

 

It's hard to tell whether it was intentional or regurgitation of marketing points done by others, in either case it's damaging to the electric sign industry, and readers should be cautioned.

 

So let's begin by breaking it down so we can separate fact from fiction and do good for the consumer who buys our integrated products used for electrical identification.

 

Ask anyone in this industry who has been around long enough to see trends,  and someone who is worth their salt will tell you, magnetic transformers, magenetic ballasts, or magnetic LED power supplies will last so much longer than solid state versions.  Yes, electronics are smaller, you will save over cord and coil, but magnetics are just simple without electronics and their just made up of coils, not a whole lot can go wrong with them.  Heat can play a big roll of failure when it comes to electronics because as we all know, electronics and heat don't mix.

 

One of the first claims to roll out of this article is "Energy Efficient"....."energy savings of up to 80%"  Nothing unusual about that, we see that in any trade magazine we pick up today and we've all heard the same point in just about manufacturer rep who might sit your company project managers down who buys you all lunch (to obligate you to buy from them) while they go on with their presentation.  No real big headlines here right?

 

First, let's put aside what we think we know about light sources used in the electric sign industry by what you were told, or what you may have read.

 

This is very important to remember.  When someone says that one light source is more "energy efficient" over another, then the two light sources must have equal light output and THEN one has to work at a lower cost of operation.  When the said product can, only then can we truly say a product or light source is more "energy efficient".  This is key!

 

90% of the time we read these claims in a trade magazine, marketing ad, or by a manufacturer rep trying to sell us something.  Only to find if you actually took the LED product that only consumes .4 watts a module (we'll use JT LED as a example for our model below for visual purposes only) at 3 modules per foot put into a 2' long channel, 4" wide, 5" deep, a #7328 white acrylic face.  We'll use this as our ideal channel letter, because our standard for channel letters is, anything over 4" would require a second stroke of material, be it Neon or LED.  Let's compare it to another channel sitting side by side, which houses a 15mm 6500K neon lamp (we'll use a FMS Neon TC Lamp). 

 

The surface light on the Neon side would be overwhelmingly brighter, not much of a fair comparison, but this is what is always compared and the claim is "LED is brighter, better, etc etc".  How would you ever know unless you compared, these days not many have ever illuminated channel letters with Neon.

 

LED Channel 121 Surface Foot Candle Average

Neon Channel 191 Surface Foot Candle Average

 

The Neon channel is nearly 37% brighter than the LED

 

FMSvJT.jpg

 

Let's look at the cost of operation

 

An LED Channel with modules 3 modules per foot x 2' x .40 watts = 2.4 watts  (Electronic)

A Neon Channel 15mm 6500K 2' (15mm Hg - 3 watts per foot) x 3w = 6 watts (Magnetic)

 

Using LED modules you will save 60% in cost of operation over the Neon Channel.  Something to throw out, we could have used an electronic Neon transformer and saved about 30% but let's keep it extreme for sake of discussion.

 

So to save 60% in energy you must give up almost 40% of light, and depending on what LED you choose, how long would it last?  Most of the time you get what you pay more, but NOT always.  What would the lumen maintenance be of that LED product in say 3 years, 5 years?

 

What we see in the article is claimed savings, but what they are doing in reality is comparing a pen light to a mag light and telling consumers the pen light is more "Energy efficient" because their using smaller, less power batteries to operate under, leaving out the fact that the Mag Light puts out much more light.  Signs like advertising is about Competition right?  Light is also competition when a sign is sitting in a strip center or shopping mall.

 

Pen-Mag.jpg

 

 

Back To Reality...

 

The fair comparison is to step up the LED Module power to a 1 watt module or .92 watt module for a near equal light output comparison, if we're comparing LEDs to Neon

 

let's redo this with a .92 watt (using a NC LED module for example).

 

LED Channel 190 Surface Foot Candle Average

Neon Channel 191 Surface Foot Candle Average

 

The Neon channel is nearly .005% brighter than the LED, or nil to nothing, let's call them equal for sake of argument.

 

Let's look at the cost of operation again

 

LED Channel with modules 3 modules per foot x 2' x .92 watts = 5.52 watts  (Electronic)

Neon Channel 15mm 6500K 2' (15mm Hg - 3 watts per foot) x 3w = 6 watts (Magnetic)

 

Using LED modules you will save 8% in cost of operation over the Neon Channel

 

Is one more energy efficient over the other in this comparison....YES!  But not my much or as much as claimed. 

 

Mag-Mag.jpg

 

Like most instances you can use the lower wattage LED modules in channel letters or sign cabinets and sign suppliers and mfg reps will tell you, you can use less LEDs to stretch power supplies for "usable light".  That is true....and...well and good when you see these models on a show room floor, or at a convention for an "Ooooo and Ahhh".  The problem with that lays when you put that same sign out in a strip center or shopping mall and now it has to compete against other signs and light sources.  The customer will complain, you will bring that sign back into your shop and that three (.4w) modules, or one module (1w) per foot soon turns into 9 and 3 modules (sometimes tripling material) just so it can compete with conventional light sources already out on the field, the ROI just went up at this point for any kinds of savings in retrofitting or a project sold as "Energy Efficient"

 

Which can bring us to.... "Retrofitting". 

 

We as sign makers will make money on retrofitting.  It's the new profit farming idea out out from just about every LED manufacturer to motivate YOU to go to your customers or create new accounts with the idea of $$$-SAVING MONEY-$$$. 

 

I have personally seen the most outrageous propaganda, and I'm been nice in using that word because that's exactly what it is. 

 

It's shameful to know so many in this industry and to see quite a few trying to convince sign shops so much money can be made buying THEIR products and inspire/motivate you to sell consumer on retrofits.  Putting on presentations knowing full well Neon does not consume 10 to 12 watts per foot, especially clear red (Neon gas pumped).

 

As licensed Electrical Sign Contractors we must have our business ethics and sense of integrity, and it is not fair to unjustly convince a consumer to retrofit their existing Neon Channel Letter sign over to LED based on magic fuzzy math and figures.

 

We know from our own testing and evaluations which we won't go into here, that Neon & high powered 1-watts LED modules, their light output will degrade over time 30% to 40% over 40,000 hours of operation, or nearly 14 sign years if left on 8 hours a day.  One thing to stress, very few high powered LED's make it that long, and in our testing only two products made it that long, GE (Power Tetra MAX) being one of them.

 

Lower power LED's i.e .4 watt modules produce less heat, less stress, with lesser heat we can expect longer life, but more than not, even that is always not true.  A topic for another time.

 

Doing our own calculations without labor we've seen the ROI from 20 to 40 years just for the consumer to make their money back.  You have to ask yourself, did you pick the right components to last 20 to 40 years, how many times will you need to re-retrofit the retrofit?  Being in this industry we've seen many large sign programs fail and burn with utter disaster, resulting in thousands of locations needing a "re-change" over.

 

If the Environment plays a big key for you into choosing the right light source.  Something else omitted from this article.......

 

 

TEMPERATURES

 

Quote

One other factor gives the nod to light-emitting diodes over neon, and that’s cold-weather performance. LED modules stay brighter in cold weather, where neon sign brightness can drop dramatically when temperatures fall below 35 degrees Fahrenheit, thereby negating much of the value in illuminating your sign in the first place.

 

Yes, correct.  Standard 30ma Neon systems do not like cold weather and are affected because the mercury (Argon fill) inside condenses up in the cold.  BUT, if you're using a red Neon lamps, clear with Neon gas and no mercury, light output is not affected by temperatures because it's just glass and gas. 

 

In most cold regions shops will bump the 30ma system to a 60ma doubling the cost of operation for cold weather purposes for heating up those lamps.  But these days unfortunately, there aren't that many 60ma Neon Magnetic Transformers still being produced, namely only electronics which can limit jobs in cold weather for exposed argon filled lamps because GTO cannot touch metal surfaces.  With cooler temps Neon and Fluorescent lamps will dim, and LEDs will prosper.

 

The Flip side.  (There's a what?)

 

Neon & Fluorescent lamps are brighter in warmer climates, and LEDs dim in warmer weather, LEDs can catastrophically fail in these conditions because just like computers and electronics, they hate heat.  Temperatures cannot make Neon lamps catastrophically fail.  

 

This is what separates one LED mfg from another, how is it dissipating heat, can it dissipate the heat?  This is for another discussion.

 

It should also be noted, companies like Voltarc make a double insulated T8 Lamp for cold weather, this means the temperature won't affect the light output much.

 

This is why it's important as a sign producer, we must ask ourselves, where is this sign going?  Somewhere extreme like Minnesota cold or Arizona heat?

 

Some big banking sign programs that have catastrophically failed have learned from their big failures and have hybrid system in place.  Based on sign sizes of geographical location will be specified with Neon or LEDs

 

 

THE ENVIRONMENT

 

Quote

Disposal, too, may be a concern. Neon signs contain mercury, which is hazardous to the environment.

 

This is nothing other than good fear marketing, and a good way to sell based on guilt and create headlines where there are none.

 

The truth is mercury is a natural element, and it's everywhere naturally....Streams, Volcanoes, in the forests and it's released naturally....there is no escape!

 

The mercury in a lamps is it's purist form (quicksilver), and unless you decide to open a vile of mercury and inhale the vapor, the world will still keep on spinning as far as our industry is concerned with it.  Most environmental groups are extreme and work against out industry under an assumption "a rogue Neon bender could simply pour mercury down the drain".  Believe me, I know....I've had these conversations with them and when they see these fake headlines it peaks their interest and it's ammo for their cause.

 

Neon & Fluorescent Lamps are 100% recyclable.  LEDs are not.  What???   LEDs have a lot of metal toxic content, something left for another topic.  So it's best not to sling mud at one industry when your backyard can be just as messy and controversial.

 

The average home consumer will throw out Hg (Mercury) lamps and think nothing of using a recycling center.  As professionals in our industry we dispose of these lamps commercially, we don't just simply toss in a waste bin somewhere. 

 

Which begs the big question about LEDs, what to do with those since they are composed of toxic metals?  Landfill???

 

Most LEDs today are come from China like just about everything else, China has coal plants....not exactly the best clean coal plants to date.  What do coal plants put into the atmosphere?.....Mercury.

 

If environmental impact is a large concern to you like it was in this article, would you rather buy a product that has mercury trapped in glass, that is energy efficient or one that puts it into the atmosphere? 

 

Burn a 1000 watts to build a product that uses 5 watts???

 

DirtyChina.jpg

 

Something to note if the 'Green" movement appeals to you.  U.L. or Underwriters Laboratories, and most all know them in our industry if you produce electric signs, UL lists Neon as a "Green" product, and has a Green Product listing.  Something we did not see in this article, we only read the words "hazardous".

 

 

PRODUCT AVAILABILITY

Quote

While the cost of a replacement fluorescent light is minimal, the sign owner must often not only pay for a service call and perhaps a bucket truck, but also for the environmentally safe disposal of the bulb, which contains toxic mercury. In the end, the expense of replacing just a single broken or burnedout fluorescent bulb can reach a significant sum! 

 

Mis-information.

 

The replacement of a single Neon unit or Fluorescent Lamps is much more inexpensive than having to replace failing LED modules. 

 

Lets think for minute. 

 

We've all seen failures of Neon, Fluorescent and LED signs all around town.  You can take just about any 6500K lamps whether it's Neon or Fluorescent and replace it, and match up isn't that bad unless it's had years of lumen maintenance.  Those conventional light source component manufacturers have not changed that technology or products much and you can expect what you'll get from them. 

 

The Hg Lamp industry has a better more solid standard than LEDs at the moment.  Those lamps and glass are they same as they were 20 years ago.

 

With LEDs, not so much. 

 

As we walk into the next big sign convention we can expect to see the new LED modules by our choice vendor 10.0, next year will be 11.0, 12.0 after that.  When a LED fails and even in a short few years, your chances of finding that LED can be next to impossible leaving you with the choice depending on how much failure to replace the whole existing sign.  Cross your fingers you're not mixed up into a major sign program and replacing thousands!

 

LEDs are exactly what their touted, technology.  Technology always changes.  You can walk into any sign supply house and buy a few feet or single lamp for service, with LEDs you must purchase by the Tray or box, sometimes a carton, a much higher cost just for a simple maintenance job.  A cost that must be passed off to the consumer, who might not the that happy when sold on 50,000 to 100,000 hours of dependability

 

 

FLUORESCENT LIGHT SIGN CABINETS & RETROFITTING

 

Sometimes old technology gets better. 

 

Most run of the mill Fluorescent HO (High-Output) lamps are inexpensive and their usually a single halo-phosphate lamp. 

 

Lamps do improve. 

 

Just like Neon and Fluorescent Lamps, their both also available in high light output lamps, or Tri-Phosphor Lamps.  Tri-Phosphor lamps are a brighter white lamps, that last longer, and stay white much longer over time than conventional single halo-phosphate lamps.

 

Companies like Voltarc who specialize in premium light source products have even gone so far as to improve the HO Lamp electrodes for longer life.  Voltarc lamps are specified out in many large sign programs and for good reason.  Their Tri-phosphor lamps, T-12 & T8's are rated for 60,000 hours of operation, and it goes against the marketing of LED manufacturers that claim HO Lamps will often only last 5,000 hours of operation, need to be changed out often, "buzz and blink" not that they ever did anyway.

 

This brings us to our finale and final project we will share with you the industry.  We can all plug away with products we all use to see if Retrofitting Sign Cabinet's to LEDs is truly worth their claim. 

 

Don't get me wrong, under the right circumstances it can be!

 

This is a project that we did on The Sign Syndicate a few years back to study Retrofitting and possible ROI (Return on Investment).  It's just casual and not concrete, we do leave a few things out that's up to you.

 

 

RETROFIT PROJECT

SS MONUMENT .jpg

 

A customer calls you up and wants to know when they can expect to reach their Return On Investment for possibly retrofitting their T12 Pylon Sign to LEDs as an option, because they always read about energy saving using LEDs. 

 

You discover the sign specification below after a survey

 

Current Sign Specifications

• 24 - T1296F Conventional single halo phosphate Lamps

• 4- old 48' Magnetic Ballasts

• 48 - Rude looking HO Lamp Sockets that have seen better days

 

You have a couple of choices. 

 

Go LED or consider using an improved conventional light source system, HO Lamps and Electronic Ballasts because Magnetic Ballasts are not really being manufactured anymore.  An improved Fluorescent HO Lamps system means "energy efficiency" because for the same power you're getting a brighter longer life lamps going from single halo-phosphate to tri-phosphor for the same cost of operation, and you're also saving from going magnetic ballast to electronic ballast. 

 

Let's look at a few products to choose from for this quick project/discussion

 

Voltarc

8' - T12 HO Tri Light Max (Tri-Phosphor) Lamps - 6,190 Lumens, 67 Watts Each

8' - T8 HO Tri Light Max (Tri-Phosphor)  Lamps - 7,467 Lumens, 74 Watts Each

 

GE (Double Sided)

8' - Line Fit LED- 5,760 Lumens, 57.12 Watts Each

 

Principal LED (Double Sided)

8' - Qwik Stik (Double Sided) 4,316 Lumens, 42.4 Watts Each

 

 

LIGHT OUTPUT

 

Voltarc T8 - 7,467 Lumens

17% Brighter than a T12

23% Brighter than the GE Line Fit

42% Brighter than the Principal LED Qwik Stik

 

Voltarc T12 - 6,190 Lumens

7% Brighter than the GE Line Fit

30% Brighter than the Principal LED Qwik Stik

 

GE Line Fit - 5,760 Lumens

30% Brighter than the Principal LED Qwik Stik

 

 

ANNUAL COST OF OPERATION

What it costs to run each system annually

 

HO Lamp Proposal 1 - T12 (6,190 Lumens)

T12 Lamp Retrofit

24- Tri-Phosphor Lamps, & 4- Electronic Ballasts, 48 HO Sockets

 

24 Lamps x 67 watts = 1,608 Watts

24 Lamps x 10 Hours a day x 365 Days a Year x $.12 KWH/1050 (Power Correction) = $670.76 Annual Cost of Operation

 

HO Lamp Proposal 2 - T8 (7,467 Lumens)

T8 Lamp Retrofit

24-Tri-Phosphor Lamps, & 4- Electronic Ballasts, 48 HO Sockets

 

24 Lamps x 67 watts = 1,776 Watts

24 Lamps x 10 Hours a day x 365 Days a Year x $.12 KWH/1050 (Power Correction) = $740.84 Annual Cost of Operation

 

 

GE Line Fit (5,760 Lumens)

24 LED Line Fit Lamps, 8- 180 Watt LED Power Supplies, 24 Rails, 48 End Caps, 48 Sockets

 

24 Lamps x 54.2 Watts = 1,300.80 Watts

24 Lamps x 10 Hours a day x 365 Days a Year x $.12 KWH/1050 (Power Correction) = $542.62 Annual Cost of Operation

 

 

Principal LED Qwik Stik

24 Qwik Stik LED Lamps, 12- 120 Watt LED Power Supplies or 6 - 264 Watt LED Power Supplies

 

24 Lamps x 54.2 Watts = 1,017.60 Watts

24 Lamps x 10 Hours a day x 365 Days a Year x $.12 KWH/1050 (Power Correction) = $424.48 Annual Cost of Operation

 

 

COMPONENT COSTS

 

 

 

Fluorescent Lamp Retrofit

 

Voltarc TriLightMax T8 Lamp $22.10 Each x 24 = $530.40 (7,467 Lumens)

Voltarc TriLightMax T12 Lamp $25.54 Each = $612.96 (6,190 Lumens)

48' Ballast $69.00 Each x 4 = $276.00

HO Lamp Socket $1.19 Each x 48 = $57.12

 

T12 Tri-Phosphor Lamp Retrofit total cost of components $946.08 (6,190 Lumens)

 

T8 Tri-Phosphor Lamp Retrofit total cost of components $863.52 (7,467 Lumens)

 

 

LED Retrofit

 

GE Line Fit

8' Lamp $180.00 Each x 24 = $4,320.00

180w GE Power Supply $97.14 Each x 8 = $777.12

8' Rails Each x 24 =

End Caps Each x 48 = 

 

Total Cost of Components = $5,097.12 (5,760 Lumens)

 

Principal Qwik Stik

8' Lamps $89.99 Each x 24 = $2,159.76

6 Principal LED 264w Power Supply $157.65 Each x 6  = $945.90

 

Total Cost of Components = $3,105.66 (4,316 Lumens)

 

 

RETURN ON INVESTMENT

 

This is a calculation of annual energy cost saving vs upfront initial cost investment.

 

GE Line Fit (23% Dimmer than the Voltarc T8) (7% Dimmer than the Voltarc T12)

 

How long would it take for a Retrofit package using a GE Line Fit System to break even using the initial annual energy consumption savings versus the initial cost, and how many years would it take to make that back?

 

Initial Cost $5,097.12 / Savings using Fit Line over T12 = $128.14 Annually= 39.77 Years (145,160 Hours)

Initial Cost $5,097.12 / Savings using Fit Line over T8 = $198.22 Annually= 25.71 Years (93,841 Hours)

 

 

Principal LED Qwik Stik (42% Dimmer than the Voltarc T8) (30% Dimmer than the Voltarc T12)

 

How long would it take for a Retrofit package using a Principal LED Qwik Stik System to break even using the initial annual energy consumption savings versus the initial cost, and how many years would it take to make that back?

 

Initial Cost $3,105.66 / Savings using Fit Line over T12 = $246.28 Annually= 12.61 Years (47,121 Hours)

Initial Cost $3,105.66 / Savings using Fit Line over T8 = $316.36 Annually= 9.82 Years (35,843 Hours)

 

 

In most cases when it comes to retrofitting, it won't make business sense to spend the upfront cost.  For this project the sign shop can spend less than $1,000.00 in material and simply swap out old sockets, add new long life lamps rated for 60,000 hours and ballasts.

 

What we did not add in is labor, and small component parts needed for the LED systems, this will bump those figures up because with an HO System you're replacing four ballasts, with the LED systems you're adding in more, in some cases 6 to 8 power supplies.  This is just a generous / casual comparison and calculation and factors you can add in for yourself

 

 

CLOSING

 

I know that it may appear as if I'm hammering LEDs, or am bias in some way. 

 

I am not.

 

I am merely only filling in the holes created by Marketeers, low information manufacturer reps who probably have never touched, let alone ever measured a Neon Lamp, and also from sign suppliers who only pass on what they are told to tell you from upstairs coupled with Sign trade magazines who's only purpose is to fill headlines and create content with exciting claims/headlines.

 

Truth be told, I am a user and seller of all three light sources.  My goal in this trade is quality and longevity, and I've always been VERY picky with what I use because I practice what I preach and put my own money where my mouth is with 5 year worry free electrical warranties to my own customers

 

In closing I will say again.....ALL Light sources have their pro's and con's, strengths & weaknesses all according to a number of factors and applications we NEVER hear about.

 

Not all sign shops have access to good Neon benders and processors for electric signs.  Not all sign shops have the "know how" to install or integrate Neon properly, so the LED alternative is attractive.

 

For the sign shops who do know how to handle Neon there is no reason why sign shops who do cannot give at the very least....a 5 year worry free electrical warranty to the consumer.

 

LED's are also very attractive for signs that are produced and shipped.  Small channel letters that can be packed up and shipped via FedEx, or UPS without the worry of glass breaking.  5' glass sticks are not always easy to ship in case of breakage and not everyone has access to a Neon Bender to make those needed repairs from travel.

 

When it comes to difficult installations & maintenance access it's much easier to used LED's over Neon at times.  But again, a good properly process neon lamp can last 20 years, even longer for Neon filled which is just glass and gas.  I myself have some channel letters out on the field that have never had a call going on 20+ years

 

For Neon you also need a certain clearance to work with and keep space clear, and why for smaller Channel Letter jobs, once again LEDs are a better choice.

 

When it comes to red channel letters it should be noted.  15mm Clear Neon red is 3.6 watts per foot, red LED modules are usually .48 watts a module and space 3 per foot for 1.5 watts per foot.  Behind your standard #2283 Red acrylic there is very little difference in surface light, one does not appear to be brighter than the other.  So you do see significant savings using LEDs, and it's over 50% in cost of operation BUT....the flip side is.......red clear Neon lamps do not degrade in light output (just glass and gas) whereas red LEDs do.  There is a price to be paid for the 50% savings in cost of operation. (Pro's and Con's)

 

This industry will always have failures from light sources, sometimes it's inferior products, a lot of times their just not installed right due to not enough "know how".  Poor installation and in house fabrication/integration will affect all light sources with quicker breakdown.

 

The biggest part that kills our industry and rots our trade from the inside out is the wrongful intention of marketing mis-information & mis-characterization of ALL light sources we use in our industry.  Neon & Fluorescent lamp manufacturers have paid the biggest price from this in the last decade and it's any wonder their still around. 

 

Like all trends and cycles, things go away and have a way of coming back again.  Neon is slowly making a comeback, not by the demand of sign shops, but by the consumers themselves who want back that unique look only Neon can offer. 

 

It will be a task for most shops if they can fill that demand which is now a premium project, or will they have to pass it on to someone else who possess that knowledge because they choose the easier path of peel and stick?

 

 

 

- Erik Gastelum

Administrator of The Sign Syndicate

Former Technology Leadership Team of The United States Sign Council

 

 

 

 

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Great article, well thought out and written.   I agree on the shipping portion as neon is always a issue in shipping.  Also the amount of qualified neon shops has diminished by 80+ % or more.  I also think as time goes on fewer shops will be able to diagnose and repair neon fluorescent and HID signs. Eventually it will be so bad that some towns wont have a way to service anything but LED's.

As we have spoken about before I have wondered if light degradation and the importance is a huge issue.  Not that it fixes the problem but likely most storefront shops wont survive 5 years, will have moved or have rebranded.  Lastly I agree wholeheartedly about trade mags and associations.  Harder to stand up to your friends then enemies.  

2 people like this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 4/14/2017 at 8:59 AM, UFB Fabrication said:

Great article, well thought out and written.   I agree on the shipping portion as neon is always a issue in shipping.  Also the amount of qualified neon shops has diminished by 80+ % or more.  I also think as time goes on fewer shops will be able to diagnose and repair neon fluorescent and HID signs. Eventually it will be so bad that some towns wont have a way to service anything but LED's.

As we have spoken about before I have wondered if light degradation and the importance is a huge issue.  Not that it fixes the problem but likely most storefront shops wont survive 5 years, will have moved or have rebranded.  Lastly I agree wholeheartedly about trade mags and associations.  Harder to stand up to your friends then enemies.  

 

Thanks Steve!

 

The idea was to smack them in the face with a 2 x 4, then continually put out some hard info in multi-sub categories at the same time building actual cabinets and testing initial brightness of various light sources, sort of what we have been doing here on the Sign Syndicate for years. 

 

Only difference would have been the test wouldn't go for measuring lumen maintenance.

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Great job E!  I have yet to take the plunge into any sign trade organization.  I have my personal reasons, no need to go into those details.  We're still building plenty of evil neon, and fluorescent signs here at ALLTEX!  We're actually re-branding a chain restaurant group, with exposed neon building signs.  Triple, and double stroke letters, and border accents. 

 

We'll also be building an amazing neon sign project (2,500' border), plus the largest neon building sign, and pylon sign I've ever been associated with. ( In my 26 years in the sign biz. )  This is for a different customer.  You will actually be able to drive under this sign.  I designed it as a feature piece.  The city actually signed off on it.  This location will also have 10' tall neon channel letters mounted above the building.  We're all really pumped about this job/opportunity.  It's a real blessing to have loyal customers, who have vision, and trust in the, "old school" technology.

1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

"Having worked for an SBT that turned Image 360 I can tell you that they don't give a crap about permits, legality or having a qualified or licensed installer for their electric signs.

Thanks for this post as it highlights a major issue with the indust
ry across the nation. As an advocate for neon I am shunned by those who "know better" but resort to threats and personal attacks when I question them in public. I even have suppliers who wont talk to me because when they did their pitch I asked technical questions and embarrassed them in front of their peers." - FC

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
10 hours ago, alltex said:

Great job E!  I have yet to take the plunge into any sign trade organization.  I have my personal reasons, no need to go into those details.  We're still building plenty of evil neon, and fluorescent signs here at ALLTEX!  We're actually re-branding a chain restaurant group, with exposed neon building signs.  Triple, and double stroke letters, and border accents. 

 

We'll also be building an amazing neon sign project (2,500' border), plus the largest neon building sign, and pylon sign I've ever been associated with. ( In my 26 years in the sign biz. )  This is for a different customer.  You will actually be able to drive under this sign.  I designed it as a feature piece.  The city actually signed off on it.  This location will also have 10' tall neon channel letters mounted above the building.  We're all really pumped about this job/opportunity.  It's a real blessing to have loyal customers, who have vision, and trust in the, "old school" technology.

Hopefully you'll post those pics when you're done, that sounds like a huge undertaking and a LOT of Transformers!

 

I would suggest Franceformers!  :P

1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Too bad they didn't have the huevos to follow through sign guy, that would have been something to see for once.  

 

Nice write up and very informative with some calculations that are easy to follow.  We don't support sign associations for our own reasons but this could have been one we would have even so far away.  It fizzed and couldn't make it past the finished line it seems lol.  

 

They could have learned from you.  Oh well, their loss.

 

Cheers!

1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Have you ever done any calculations with the T-5s? We do a fair amount of interior lighting using them, but haven't encountered them in any outdoor sign displays as of yet.....

 

They may be too bright that without a diffuser would be more likely to create hot spots.....

 

Anyone else have experience using them in a sign application?

1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Very well thought out and great explanations.    I'm guessing a few were pissing themselves at the thought of this going to print.

1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Great article.

 

I've had issues with LED retrofits in lighted sign cabinets because the LEDs will cast shadows on the faces if there is anything at all between them and the face, even a frame for a flex-face sign.  That's not a problem with fluorescent tubes because of the way they cast light in all directions.

 

1 person likes this

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Nice job Erik.  Couple of comments on the above.  A. If you are in cold weather and using Argon gas for Mercury tubes, why not just throw them in the dumpster first.  Anyone in cold weather that wants the mercury filled tubes to light uses K-4 gas otherwise even a 60ma tranny may not light bright.

B. All this retrofit talk failed to mention the listing already on the sign letters. Parts of our state are already requiring permits for the retrofit of letters or cabinets to LED.  I doubt this will hit the boonies as hard as metro areas but beware of code enforcement.  I didn't see that in the Image 360 bullshit. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks again everyone. 

 

@Mad Scientist 

A. Yep, Yep, Yep, one day maybe we we should combine a few minds and write a long detailed book for the industry and consumers.  Something that's always been on my mind.  Aimed more for the consumers & large retailers, because their the ones getting all the incorrect information by the ill advised/educated in our industry

 

B.  Starting to see that more.  Everyone's looking to put their hand out so they can get "their$"  Not seeing it here in my neck of the woods.

 

 

On a side note.  This article made 600+ reads in less than 48 hours.  A lot of reads were by large retailers who read/follow this site often.  :thumbs:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@southernsigns  I did not nor have not.   I'm not aware of anyone using these for outdoor applications but because their such a small diameter I imagine based on typical cabinet depths you would need to space them pretty close otherwise a lot of hot spots and you're limited to use based on their length.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now
7 7



  • Topics

  • Posts

    • @southernsigns  I did not nor have not.   I'm not aware of anyone using these for outdoor applications but because their such a small diameter I imagine based on typical cabinet depths you would need to space them pretty close otherwise a lot of hot spots and you're limited to use based on their length.
    • Thanks again everyone.    @Mad Scientist  A. Yep, Yep, Yep, one day maybe we we should combine a few minds and write a long detailed book for the industry and consumers.  Something that's always been on my mind.  Aimed more for the consumers & large retailers, because their the ones getting all the incorrect information by the ill advised/educated in our industry   B.  Starting to see that more.  Everyone's looking to put their hand out so they can get "their$"  Not seeing it here in my neck of the woods.     On a side note.  This article made 600+ reads in less than 48 hours.  A lot of reads were by large retailers who read/follow this site often. 
    • Primary responsibilities include designing and creating professional creative drawings for interior & exterior signs Able to translate conceptual designs and customer specifications into presentation layouts and production drawings for manufacturing, incorporating best practices and engineering concepts.
      • Maintain good customer relations with potential and existing clientele.
      • Proficient in Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Onyx Rip etc
      • Mechanical and structural knowledge of sign materials, lighting and Installation methods is a plus
      • Previous sign design experience    Please email info@beboldsigns.com
    • Nice job Erik.  Couple of comments on the above.  A. If you are in cold weather and using Argon gas for Mercury tubes, why not just throw them in the dumpster first.  Anyone in cold weather that wants the mercury filled tubes to light uses K-4 gas otherwise even a 60ma tranny may not light bright. B. All this retrofit talk failed to mention the listing already on the sign letters. Parts of our state are already requiring permits for the retrofit of letters or cabinets to LED.  I doubt this will hit the boonies as hard as metro areas but beware of code enforcement.  I didn't see that in the Image 360 bullshit. 
    • Triangle Sign & Service       Triangle Sign & Service, a Baltimore based national manufacturer of signage is seeking a dynamic Sales Professional to join our organization.   Since 1931 Triangle Sign & Service has been building a reputation for doing signs right. Our custom made signs grace major sport complexes, direct travelers through busy airports and attract shoppers to well-known retailers across the country. From our offices and manufacturing facility in Baltimore, Maryland we design, fabricate, and manage projects for a wide variety of clients.  The ideal candidate will have at least 3 years of prior sales experience in the sign industry selling to National Accounts.  Salary will be a draw versus commission program and company offers extensive package of benefits including fully paid health, dental and vision care benefits along with 401K matching contribution.  In addition, we offer fully paid travel expenses. Job Description: To establish long term relationships with national retail accounts in order to sell illuminated, non-illuminated and digital signage products.  Additional responsibilities will include:  Draw up and execute an aggressive sales plan to promote year over year growth Develop sound product knowledge Requirements: Must have 3 years of experience in the sign industry selling to national retail accounts Solid and proven record of sales Must have competent demonstration skills Must have strong written and verbal communication skills Additional Details: ·         This is not a remote sales position as the candidate must be located within the Baltimore area or within commuting distance of our manufacturing facility. Interested parties should email resume to Jim DeStefano – Human Resources at:   James.destefano@trianglesign.com  
  • Who's Chatting

    There are no users currently in the chat room

  • Latest Videos