October 18, 2009


Let our experts explain the best techniques and practices for neon, LED and Cold Cathode products.

The best description of Neon and it’s advantages is found in this article from “The Neon Group” in response to a USA Today article from Oct. 2008:

Neon signs are not just for museums and collectors.  Presently, they make up a majority of retail signage in this country (whether they are the exposed, boxed or channel letters variety) and have been in use for 100 years. Although landmark neon signs are considered a treasured American art form worth preserving, let’s not forget that neon is still the best commercial lighting system on the market when it comes to brightness, energy-efficiency, durability and environmental impact.

Unfortunately, with the recent rise of other light sources such as LED and fiber optics, neon has been under attack with unsubstantiated claims that, due to a lack of an unbiased comparative studies, have been taken as fact. So when claims are made about neon, consider the source of these statements and their validity.

Brightness and Energy Efficiency
Most people don’t realize that the difference in energy consumption between neon and LED is minimal and, in most cases, non-existent. What is remarkably different is the brightness, measured in lumens, emitted from comparable LED and neon signs. For example, the best white LEDs produce 10-20 lumens for every Watt consumed while 6500K snow white neon produces 35-45 lumens per Watt, even up to 50-60 lumens depending on fabrication. To equal the brightness of 6500K snow white neon signage, the amount of white LEDs needed would actually consume 2-8 times more energy per linear foot, according to studies done by The EGL Company.

Durability and Environmental Impact
Let’s also consider how the standard life expectancy of LED compares to that of neon and the environmental impact of replacing and transporting LED lamps (often from overseas). The truth is that neon tubes burn without brightness or color degradation for up to 15 years, requiring very little maintenance or replacement.  In fact, the USA Today article “Save Neon Signs, Fans Urge” references signs that are 60- and 70-years old where, in some cases, the neon tubing has outlasted its metal housing. In the meantime, the LED industry struggles to pinpoint what the standard life-expectancy of its product should be, but has pinpointed how much degradation in brightness and degree of color shifting is acceptable before lamp replacement.1 This represents a great liability for retailers who have invested in LED technology to illuminate their signage and logos.

Cold Cathode
Like Neon, Cold Cathode Lighting has the advantage of Long lamp life that typically exceeds 50,000 hours or more and unlike fluorescent tubes, no loss of tube life every time the tube is turned on. In addition, there are dozens of colors and whites to choose from with lumen capabilities of up to 709. And are completely dimmable with standard controls.

Cold Cathode also has the benefit of being almost seamless with the use of butted ends and socket fixtures and can be shaped to practically any shape or detail. In addition, Ballasts or Transformers can be installed remotely thereby reducing or eliminating any noise.

With the trend toward “Green Technology” Cold Cathode can deliver as little as 7.5 watts per foot and when longevity of the tubes is taken in account, you end up with fewer replacements and fewer man hours to maintain the system. That can translate into huge savings across the board for you or your customers.

Light Emitting Diodes (LED)
Like any other new product we use, we find that the only way to protect the customer is to test and compare. LED’s have a proper place in the sign industry and we are always looking to find the right product for your project. For small channel letters, Interior signs or Lighting  with restricted space or stroke width LED’s, with their small size and remote power supplies can fit the bill. They enjoy low power consumption and brilliance while being very flexible and low profile. When determining the lighting source for your next project call us to schedule a Free Box Lunch with one of our In house Reps to help
You and your team to find the best solution.

Neon vs. LED
The great debate of LED technology over Neon has been driven largely by the tremendous marketing dollars poured into this product. To set the record straight, Spectrum Neon Co. has partnered with “” as a founding member in order to educate our customers and the public against the juggernaut of LED marketing. Check out the Light box demo clip at their website for accurate comparisons
Of the two products, you’ll be surprised.