How Neon Signs Work

Do you wonder how neon signs are able to deliver such vibrant colours?

Neon lit signs make the cities of the world come to life with bright, exciting colours. You’ll find these everywhere from outside restaurants at night, to the exterior of businesses on the streets, and even to the interior decorations of many locations.

Before diving into the specifics of how these signs work, it’s good to understand a little of its history.

George Claude first introduced neon lights in 1910 during the Paris Auto Show. By 1920s neon was a popular form of signage in the US and Western Europe. Later in the 1930s, it made its way to Australia through the Claude Neon Sign Company.

And now, it’s widely available for homes, businesses, and anywhere else you can imagine.

Traditional Neon Lights

Traditional neon lights are made out glass tubes which are filled with low-pressure neon gas. These gases are ‘noble gases’ which allow for the bright lights to be emitted. Some examples of noble gases include neon, argon, xenon, and more.

These noble gases are lighter than air, odourless, colourless, and only contain a single atom.

The tube that contains these gases, when switched off, causes the gas atoms to become inactive and emit no light. When the tube is switched on, electricity flows through the tube and the high voltage causes the gas particles within to energise. Depending on the gas that’s inside, a different colour will emit.

For example:

Helium will emit an orange colour, while argon will emit lavender. Some other colours that can be created include green, blue, grey, and more.

Alternatively, simply changing the glass tube where the gas is stored can also affect the colour. For example, you can use a blue-tinted tube to emit blue light, rather than using mercury vapor or other forms of gas. This is often a much more simple method of changing the colour emitted.

Traditional Neon Lights Dangers

As you can probably tell by now, traditional neon lights have a lot of chemistry going on. There are high voltages and potentially dangerous gases. In order to produce specific colours, you need to use dangerous gases such as mercury vapour.

What if you were to accidentally drop one of these? There could be dangerous gas escaping into the air you, your friends, and your family breathe.

But, modern neon lights are created using LED and are lighter in terms of weight and more protected than neon lights. LEDs are wrapped in a polymer pocket to protect each diode from external damage.

LED Neon Lights: The Safer And More Modern Alternative For Signage

Unlike traditional neon signs, LED neon lights don’t have dangerous gases inside them.

Because of this, they also have some added benefits that traditional neon lights don’t have.

Dim Neon Lights

For traditional neon lights, it is extremely difficult to change the output of light. This is because they require a high voltage with a low current. Otherwise, they will not emit light and won’t perform as desired. However, with the proper transformer and equipment, you are able to dim the lights to a small degree. This requires a lot of effort and is definitely not worth the trouble.

Modern LED neon lights can be dimmed using controllers that regulate the voltage coming from the power supply. By lowering the voltage that is put out, the lights begin to dim.

Avoid Burning Out

Traditional neon signs often burn out for two main reasons. First is when high voltage causes the wiring connected to the glass tube to overheat, causing a burn out of the wires. Secondly, is when the transformer fails or the gas tube is compromised. In both cases, the neon sign stops working.

However, modern LED neon lights are not prone to burn out. The only reason they won’t last their intended lifespan, will be due to severe damage to the polymer.

Are you ready to purchase a safe, modern LED neon sign?

Check out our range of ready-made neon signs here.

Or contact us today for a custom neon sign designed by a team of talented experts.

Author: Little Pineapple