Sign & Digital Graphics

September '14

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S I G N & D I G I T A L G R A P H I C S • September 2014 • 85 continue to embrace it. This will also result in faster advances inside and out of the sign industry. The change from LEDs to fluorescent will most likely happen much faster than with neon. LEDs were a new technology when sign shops transitioned from neon. Today, sign makers are familiar with LED technology and understand many of the advantages of LEDs in general; making this transition should be smoother and faster as a result. Sign makers have even become con- noisseurs themselves on LED lighting. They now have an understanding of the monochromatic nature of L E D s, effects of viewing angles, advantages of leg lengths, and benefits of selecting one color temperature over another. They learned hard lessons during the Great Recession, a time when many sign makers sought out ways to cut costs and become more competitive. Some pushed the envelope hard looking for cheaper LEDs, but soon discovered that all LED systems are not created equal. Reputable sign shops have stayed with or returned to high-quality LED systems, made by manufacturers that stand behind their products. Keeping these standards high is equally important when making the move from fluorescent to LED. Cost Savings When you compare the cost of an LED system to a fluorescent system, the resulting sticker shock is to be expected; however, when you look at the sign as a whole, the cost difference becomes much less apparent. And as LED tech- nology increasingly becomes part of the mainstream, the savings will continue to improve. If you compare the lower energy costs, generous warranties (five years for LEDs versus 90 days for fluores- cent lamps), and faster installation times on a new cabinet you realistically can see an ROI of less than three years. Easy to Install At first the thought of changing a fluo- rescent lamp does not appear difficult—a little pressure or twist at the lamp-holder and the tube pops right in—however, if you are looking at the new construction of a sign cabinet, you need to look at the sign as a whole. Wiring of ballasts and transformers take more time because of more complex wiring. Sign shops expe- rienced with working with L E D s for channel letters are able to quickly wire up systems. Some lighting manufacturers have created fluorescent replacements that look and feel like a fluorescent lamp and fit into the existing sockets, like a patch for the fluorescent habit. When it comes to a new build, the ROI will be seen much faster since LEDs are easier to install over fluorescent. Several manufacturers have created fluorescent alternative systems to work with a variety of sign applications. SloanLED illustrates the ease and time savings of LED installa- tion compared to fluorescent lamps in a large sign box in a time lapse video avail- able on YouTube ( com/watch?v=DFfh8t5_Fk8). The video features Robert Mongiello of Vogue Signs of Ventura, Calif., doing a side-by- side installation of an LED system and a fluorescent system. Mongiello shows how the faster install translates into reduced labor costs for the sign shops in addition to the quicker turn-around. When you view the tape you can see that although Mongiello has been working with and installing fluorescents for many years it takes him longer. This is due to the more complex wiring of the ballast and transformer because of the high voltage they need to be concealed in a wire-way. Many of the LED solutions for cabi- nets are designed for retrofits and new construction. The durable natures of these fluorescent alternatives make them easy to transport versus lamps that are fragile. Most systems use common tools, making it easy to retrofit, making an old sign look new again. Because LED solu- tions are low voltage they are also safer to install. Most LED solutions are customizable and are great for cloud signs and unique shapes and are easier to customize then a fluorescent lamp. For narrow applica- tions, side-mounted LED systems are a great alternative by washing the light across the second surface. Function and Appearance One of the advantages of fluorescent lamps is they offer a 360 degree view- ing angle. LEDs on the other hand have limited viewing angles. This makes LEDs advantageous for illuminating single- sided applications, poster boxes, menu boards, awnings, wall washes and soffit lighting. LEDs focus light only where it is After nearly an hour, you can see that LED lighting is a much quicker install. As LED technology increasingly becomes part of the mainstream, the savings will continue to improve. You can realistically see an ROI of less than three years.

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