Can Neon Signs be Used Outdoors in the Weather?


When a business owner is advised to use neon signs to advertise his business, one of the first things that would come to his mind is whether he can use them outdoors in the weather. When an individual invests in a business, he would want to ensure that the investment will be worth it.

You mostly see neon signs being put up in front of the restaurants and bars. Because of their attractive design, colors, and lighting effects, you tend to notice them easily. These signs play an important part in getting new customers inside a store. That is the reason a lot of effort is being put into designing them.

Even a neon sign made for outdoors is not completely weather resistant. It will resist condensation but could still be negatively affected by cold weather depending on the gas used inside the neon tubing. Neon gas tends to be more resistant to cold weather, however, argon and other gases will experience a decrease in brightness level.

While neon signs are used outdoors, there are a few things you need to keep in mind. Before understanding the precautions you need to take while using neon signs outdoors, it is important to know some facts about them.

The Way a Neon Sign is Designed is NOT 100% Weather Proof

A neon sign is an illuminated and brightly lit sign that is made with the help of electrified tube lights that are filled with rarefied neon or other kinds of gases. Neon lighting is widely used in making neon signs. A neon sign usually contains a small portion of gas under very low pressure.

How Does A Neon Light Work?

Can Neon Signs be Used Outdoors in the Weather

Knowing how a neon sign works will help you understand why it isn’t necessarily “weather proof”. A neon light works on the strength of either DC (direct current) or AC (alternating current).

Most people prefer to electrify the tubes with AC current because when DC current is used, it is observed that the tube lights get lit up only partially.

When electricity is made to pass through the terminals, a sufficient amount of energy is supplied to ensure the removal of an outer electron from the atoms. This process will happen only in the presence of sufficient voltage.

Cations are the positively charged neon atoms that move towards the negative terminal. The free electrons drift towards the positive terminal. These charged particles are referred to as plasma and they play a vital role in the completion of the electric circuit present inside the lamp.

Modern technology has enabled people to put up fake neon signs but they do not produce the kind of dazzling effects a genuine neon sign produces. Neon lights feature a glass tube that is stuffed with neon gas in small quantities.

How Does a Neon Sign Produce Different Colored Lights?

Another thing to note is the way a neon sign produces different colored lights. This technique is actually negatively affected by cold weather.

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Atoms within the tube are constantly moving from one direction to another. In this process, they hit each other frequently. When this happens, they transfer heat and energy to each other. Though some electrons do not come in contact with their atoms, there are many that accumulate energy through this process. This energy is released in the form of photons, or light.

The color produced by a neon sign depends on the gas with which you have filled up the tubes. You could use one gas to produce a singular color or use a variety of gases to produce a mix of vibrant colors.

If you use helium gas, the neon sign will glow with a bright pink color. Similarly, argon will produce a bluish effect and krypton is synonymous with green color. When more than one gas is mixed, you would get to see intermediate colors.

Another technique of producing colors is to cover the glass with a layer of phosphor or some other chemical substance that would be able to produce a color when electricity is made to run through it.

Due to the large number of artificial coatings that are available these days, many modern lighting systems use fluorescent lamps (instead of neon). Another method of changing the color is to regulate the amount of electricity provided to the light.

How Durable and Weather Resistant Are Neon Signs?

A good quality neon sign should last for at least 30,000 hours, if not more. Usually, most manufacturers make their neon signs go through a series of quality tests conducted by Underwriters Laboratories to receive a UL listing.

To ensure further assurance about the safety of the product to the consumer, companies are recommended to adhere to the guidelines laid out by the National Electrical Code.

Neon signs that are placed outdoors must abide by the building codes while constructing the signboards and putting together the electrical wiring. The manufacturer has the option of getting their neon tubes tested in-house or hiring an independent agency to do the testing.

How Does Weather Impact Neon Signs?

When the temperature drops or the weather becomes quite cold, there will be a decrease in the brightness level of the neon signs. If the weather is very rough and the cold wind is blowing heavily, the neon signs could lose their attractiveness to a great degree.

Cold temperature has a direct impact on the state of gas inside the tube. However, as neon happens to be an inert gas, it does not get hugely affected by this.

Most people use neon signs because of their vibrant appeal and attractiveness. Neon signs are affected by cold weather only when different kinds of gases are mixed with neon.

When the temperature drops below the freezing point, you would find the neon sign or the light emanating from it looking distorted or unpleasant to look at. Tubes that are filled with neon or red-colored gas do not reflect any irregularities but the ones which consist of other kinds of gases get affected very quickly. 

Two gases that are most commonly used to make neon signs are argon and neon. While neon has certain properties that make it immune to cold temperature, argon reacts quite easily when it comes in contact with cold weather. So, when neon signs use argon or some other gas, it could experience a decrease in the brightness level when the weather is cold.

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Gases that are used to add color and vibrancy to the neon signs work well when they are exposed to warm temperatures. When gas stuffed inside a tube comes in contact with electricity, it leads to the formation of one or more colors. Interruption happens in this process when the weather outside is cold.

How To Protect Neon Signs From Rough Weather?

The sign industry classifies neon signs into three different parts based on their usage. 

  1. Dry and non-condensing device that is suitable for indoor use. 
  2. Those that can be used outdoors, can withstand condensation but not weather-proof. 
  3. Those that have the ability to withstand rain or water.

When you install the sign, make sure it is grounded properly. It is also important to check the electrical conditions regularly. If your business is situated at a place that is known for frequent rainfall, it would be advisable to invest in neon signs that are designed to withstand rain.

Instead of opting for outdoor protection to prevent your neon signs from getting affected by turbulent weather, rain, or lightning, you can opt for outdoor-weatherproof transformers that would stay the course.

You can also use appropriate outdoor hardware so that the sign can withstand extreme cold, fluctuations in temperature, and moisture from rain or snow.

Finally, you should monitor your sign once in a while to spot and prevent any potential damage. If you hire a reliable lighting company, they will take care of all the maintenance-related activities your neon signs require.

Conclusion

You should not panic when your neon signs start flickering or get dim due to cold weather. You must always remember that as soon as the weather gets a little warm, this problem will get solved automatically.

These days, one can buy neon signboards featuring very useful dim sign cabinets. These cabinets feature fluorescent lamps which work towards providing warmth to the signboard when it gets exposed to cold temperatures. 

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