In the vast world of architectural and display lighting there is an ever growing list of unavoidable and arguable comparisons. However, if you begin climbing this list, near the top you will undoubtedly find yourself dodging punches between the proponents of LED lighting and its well seasoned opponent, Neon lighting. In an effort to provide clarity between these two powerhouses, I have decided to write a series of quick articles listing out the pros, cons, and comparisons.
To kick-start this topic and possibly make a few quick friends (and undoubtedly a few enemies), I would like to jump into three key areas that emphasize the benefits of LED lighting over neon in an architectural or signage application. The comparison will contrast overall versatility, power consumption & efficiency, and maintenance.
Versatility: One of the biggest advantages of LEDs over neon streetlyte is their flexibility. LED technology offers an array of products suitable in range from the smallest interior illuminated displays to the sometimes giant color changing systems used to light up entire building exteriors. The use of Neon, however, is far more limited due to several factors.
1) Because it emits a great deal more heat than LEDs, neon is not a good solution for small displays where ventilation is limited.
2) When attempting to illuminate a large space or display, a considerable number of neon tubes (or “strokes”) will be necessary, while there are LEDs that can be used which are more than ten times as bright as standard neon and thus reduce the amount of units needed.
3) Neon is available in many colors but does not have the ability to change colors. Over the last several years, programmable color changing LEDs have hit the market and are becoming increasingly popular with architects, designers, and builders – presenting design possibilities previously impossible to achieve.
Power Consumption: LED signs use very low power, requiring in some cases only one-tenth the wattage for a similar light output to an equivalent neon sign or light source. This low-power usage also makes LED signs safe and cool to the touch. Low-power usage also means considerable cost savings to operate your LED sign, therefore making the life-cycle cost a very attractive token for consumers. Lighting consumes up to 30 percent of the nation’s energy budget, with much of this still being consumed by older and less efficient neon lighting. The use of LED lighting can create brighter light sources with far less consumption of energy. Additionally, LEDs have much longer life spans than their neon equivalents, reducing waste and the need for landfill space when they are no longer in service.
Maintenance: LED signs have far less maintenance than their neon counterparts. LED’s are small, extremely bright, individual light nodes that will, in comparison to neon, eliminate gases, glass tubes, and argon or mercury problems. Neon signs will gradually lose the neon inside the glass tubes while LEDs dim at a much slower rate. Neon bulbs are made of narrow glass tubes; their fragility requires signage to be created in bulky protective packaging and often results in broken parts and service calls. LED lights are much smaller and sturdier and can be packaged in far smaller housing.