Do Neon Signs Burnout? How to Make Them Last Longer?

Neon signs are signs that run on electricity with the help of luminous gas discharge tubes containing neon or other gases. Compared to other light sources, they provide a very distinct type of colored lighting in the dark, making them ideal for night-time use. Brands and businesses often use neon lighting to display their signage due to their striking visual quality.

However, neon signs are also notorious for their burnout rate. This leads to signs often stop glowing part by part over time. This can be a significant problem for business owners as it reflects badly on their business or brand. Luckily, there are ways in which one can prolong the life of neon signs and make them last significantly longer.

Before we get to the solution, it’s important to know about how neon signs work. By doing so, you will be better prepared to face any challenges or issues that may appear in the future.

How Do Neon Signs Work?

Neon signs are made by bending glass tubes into different shapes as per the design. The neon tubes are usually made out of 4 to 5 feet long straight hollow glass sticks which are sent to neon shops where they are assembled into custom designs.

Do Neon Signs Burnout How to Make them Last Longer

The wall of most tubes come with a thickness of 1 mm while their diameters range from 8 to 15 mm. The inside part of the tubes is also usually coated with a phosphorescent coating with the help of a binding agent.

It is then filled with a gas mixture that gets ionized when a high voltage is applied to it. A single tube can have multiple colors by having different phosphor-coated sections butt welded together.

Contrary to popular belief, these signs don’t use only neon gas but a variety of other gases as well. Pure neon gas can only produce a few types of colors such as different shades of red, orange, pink and so on. To get a full spectrum of colors in the neon sign, other gases have to be used.

In most cases, the addition of inert gas, argon, and a drop of mercury allows various other colors such as shades of blue, yellow, green, violet and white to be displayed.

Related article: Why do Neon Signs Cost so Much?

What are the 3 Main Issues that Cause Neon Signs to Burnout?

Although neon signs are made to last for a long time, they do suffer from burnout over time. While the entire sign may not stop glowing at once, separate sections of it can stop if necessary steps aren’t taken.

This is very important to do as neon signs are substantially more expensive than other forms of signage due to their custom designs and the visual flair they provide.

There are usually three reasons why neon signs burnout and they are as follows:

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1. Gas Tubing Issue

As neon lights use an inert gas and mercury inside their glass tubes for displaying colored lighting, sometimes the mercury can get heated up. At a certain temperature, the mercury will evaporate into vapor which significantly dims the intensity of the color and light.

2. Electric Wire Issue

Approximately 80 percent of neon signs burnout due to electrical wiring. As neon signs require a high amount of voltage to be pumped into it, the temperature inside can get very high.

This extreme heat can lead to the wire getting damaged which in turn leads to either that particular section or the whole signage not lighting up.

3. Transformer Issue

This one is pretty straightforward. Neon signs use a transformer to get lit and sometimes it may stop working if the transformer is damaged.

All the above issues will require you to either repair or replace the defective part. If you don’t have experience in the area, it would be wiser to always call a professional for help.

How to Make Neon Signs Last Longer?

Here are some ways in which you can prolong the life of a neon sign:

Regular Cleaning

Like everything else, even a neon sign has to be cleaned regularly to ensure that dust and grime won’t build up over time. As they are mostly used outdoors and near traffic, they can get dirty very quickly.

Therefore, it would be wise to clean it once every week or at the very least, every two weeks. Before you clean it though, do remember to always turn the power off and unplug it.

To remove dust efficiently, you can use a small vacuum cleaner and different brushes to get rid of the dust. When it comes to grime, you have to use an ammonia-based cleaning agent and wipe the required section with a soft cloth.

The glass tubes in neon signs are often delicate so make sure you don’t press down hard while cleaning it.

Watch for Insects

Bugs are always an issue when it comes to outdoor or indoor lighting. No matter how much you try to get rid of them, sometimes they just keep coming.

It won’t be feasible to take care of this problem on a day to day basis, so you should always use either traps or electric zappers at the source. To find out the source, you may have to observe where most of the insects are coming from and lay down the trap there.

Keep it on

Although this may sound strange, neon signs last longer when they aren’t powered on and off constantly. By doing so regularly, the transformer will eventually get worn out and stop working.

A single foot of traditional neon light consumes about 20 watts of electricity per hour which is more than LED neon signs but still somewhat tolerable. To get the best value for money over time, you should always go for LED ones.

Say “no” to Blinking Lights

Neon lights that blink often have a shorter lifespan than ones that stay lit constantly. So unless you absolutely cannot do without blinking neon lights, go for the normal ones.

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Regular Maintenance

If you feel that the lights are getting dimmer than usual or if certain sections are not staying lit constantly, get a professional to check it out. As a rule of thumb, you can get small maintenance checks every 6 months or so to ensure that you can stay ahead of any potential issues that may come.


Like any other electrical object, neon signs are also subject to voltage fluctuations, inconsistent power supply, and wear and tear. With regular cleaning and maintenance, you will be able to make them last longer and enjoy the benefits they provide to your business. Well-lit signage that looks unique and colorful will always attract customers and help you grow your business over time. 

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