10 or 15 years ago, a few of my National Clients all came to me at about the same time wanting to use the new LED technology. With me being in the industry already 25 to 30 years, I had real doubts that this new technology would really work in place of Neon. After all I have always used neon units in channel letters and to light cabinets and logos with oblique contours.
The first LED modules were big and we had to make a lot of adjustments due to hot spotting and areas where the light didn’t fully penetrate. Then about 10 years later when one of my clients wanted to upgrade a high-rise sign or two we already upgraded 10 years ago, I really noticed the advancements that have been made in the last 10 years. The Modules got smaller, brighter and you can have more of them with less power consumption.
I think it’s the power consumption vs the amount of light you get out of the newer LED modules that impress me the most. As a boy growing up making jacobs ladders out of old x-formers I would find lying around my dads shop or in our garage, the last thing I would have every expected was a sign that sips the amps and is still bright as can be. If you have ever made a jacobs ladder out of a 15/60 then you know what im talking about. Think about all that raw power surging though the veins of those neon units, all connected in-line forming that perfect loop. You can even feel the power without even touching anything, but just by being close. Then there is the sound, it’s the same sound the power lines make when they get damp, that electric sound. Finally there is the smell, yes smell, I’ve diagnosed more service issues by the sounds and the smell when neon was the main illumination method than I can remember.
The second thing that impresses me is the ease in which LED is populated into modern signage and the ease in which it’s installed. I always get a chuckle when some young installer comes in complaining how the building wall was concrete, and how it took forever. Well, to me drilling that concrete amounts to nothing more than a pilot hole where I come from, and only half of them to boot. Anyone that has spent days, weeks and months drilling for PK housings on a high-rise job, will totally understand. So, in my opinion the install portion has become much easier.
So far it sounds like LED is a real winner, its bright, costs little money, easy to install, easy to work with sounds like a home run. Then one day I saw that someone in the service department replaced the neon in an open-faced set of letters with LED module. Well, lets just say that didn’t turn out how they had expected, then another client with high-end retail started asking for LED signs that mimick old school bare unit neon signs. We found that you could put bends in some of the light stick type of products, but not as tight as you really need unless your making a 10 ft tall version.
That’s it… we are not at the point where LED can replace the actual resemblance of exposed bent neon tubes yet. Yes I said yet, as if we have come this far I’m sure someone is working on a way to solve this issue, and when it’s here some day, neon may finally be replaced. We are already using LED to do cornice, and border lighting and it looks good. But until that day, nothing can replace the look and feel of exposed neon. For now I feel like the old school is saved.
Jump in and tell us all how you really feel about some of the companies you worked for. An open and honest forum about this topic is healthy for both the employer and the employee. You can be anoymous if you like, but hearing gripes from both sides really helps us all to understand each other better, and mnake imporovenets to our work places.
Lets hear how you really feel.