Illuminated signs have become very common. In addition to the numerous marketing and brand awareness benefits, illuminated signage has a number of practical benefits including that your sign is visible and readable during the day, the night, and all weather conditions. In fact, the average business has 1.71 illuminated signs that run for almost 14 hours a day, about 3 hours longer than the average hours of operation*. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the upkeep and maintenance of illuminated signs is also a very common concern. Understanding how your illuminated sign works will help you understand the common maintenance issues you may encounter and how they can be fixed.
How Signs Are Illuminated
Signs are generally illuminated by one or a combination of three basic methods**:
1) by lamps mounted outside the sign and oriented to shine on the sign’s face, i.e., external illumination,
2) by internal illumination that shines through the sign’s face, or
3) by visible illuminated elements such as exposed bulbs, LEDs, or neon-style tubing.
The lights often receive their power supply from a driver. One illuminated sign can contain multiple drivers that pass along the electricity from bulb to bulb sequentially. When an illuminated sign is on or off is often controlled by a timer that is set during installation to turn power supply on and off at fixed times of day. A photocell may also be used in conjunction to the timer (e.g., on at dusk, off at midnight).
Why Your Illuminated Sign Isn’t Working
There are four common reasons why your illuminated sign may not be lighting up properly:
1) The illumination element (bulb, neon, LED) has failed.
2) One or more drivers or power supplies have failed.
3) The timer is not properly set.
4) There are short circuits or wiring issues.
The Illumination Element Has Failed
If an illumination element has failed, the fix is simple: replace the element. Since illuminated signs are often located up high or in difficult to reach places, this process can require equipment to access the sign and replace the element. If the sign uses LED lighting, this problem will occur far less often than other with other lighting options.
A Driver or Power Supply Has Failed
If the driver or power supply has failed, a portion or all of the sign will not be illuminated. The Los Golondrinas sign (shown below) is a good example of this problem. To fix this problem, the non-functioning driver needs to be replaced. And in fact, while servicing the sign, it is sometimes a good idea to replace all drivers at the same time.
Early generations of LED drivers were of particularly low quality, and sometimes lasted less than a year. The good news is that higher quality LED drivers are now available, and Starfish Signs only installs drivers that have a 3 or 5-year warranty (depending on the application) saving you in the long run.
Although access to the sign and power supply can sometimes be a challenge, the repair is relatively straightforward, and in nearly all cases, we are able to diagnose and repair the problem with just one visit.
The Timer Is Not Properly Set
The timer is often setup and programmed during the initial installation of the illuminated sign. After that point, most business owners generally don’t adjust the timer ever again. As a result, it is common for people to forget that they have a timer. Occasionally, something will happen that causes the timer to reset (for instance, the power goes out for an extended period of time). When the timer resets, it may result in the sign going on or off at the wrong times. In this case, the timer just needs to be reprogrammed with the times to turn on and off to start working again.
There Are Short Circuits Or Wiring Issues
Due to recent advances in LED technology, when an illuminated sign that relies on incandescent, fluorescent, or neon light goes bad, it often makes more sense to update the sign to LED lighting rather than repairing the sign as is.
LEDs have many advantages over incandescent light sources, including lower energy consumption, longer lifetime, improved physical robustness, smaller size, and faster switching from one message to another.
While there is an initial investment required to retrofit your sign to LED lighting, this cost is quickly recovered from reduced electricity and maintenance costs after the retrofit. The payback period for these projects can be two years or less.
Planning for an Illuminated Sign
It is important to note that your community may have specific rules, guidelines, and ordinances in place for illumination and for signage. Always check before purchasing a brand-new sign. Starfish Signs is experienced at navigating the permitting and approval process and we can help design a sign that complies with your community’s regulations.
If your sign is not illuminating, is only partially illuminated, or is not as bright as needed, call us. We are experienced and licensed to service and repair all types of electrical sign problems. And we are very bright!
*Statistics are based on research that was completed by Villanova University and made publicly available by the Sign Research Foundation. http://www.signresearch.org/wp-content/uploads/Illuminated-vs-Non-Illuminated-Signage-Economic-Impact-of-Illumination.pdf
** The Right Sign for Your Business, International Sign Association, http://www.signs.org/Resources/Signage101/TheRightSignforYourBusiness.aspx