Whilst neon lights have plenty of positive connotations, in this LED Monkey blog we take a look at how they may need to embrace LED technology, and ask the question: Is LED the Future of Neon Lighting?

The mesmerising glow of neon has long been associated with the trendy bars, clubs and shops of mid 1900s America.

For many people, neon lighting evokes a pleasant sense of nostalgia, so it's not hard to understand why the public tend to form strong emotional ties to these signs.

Iconic Status of Neon in Seattle

Neon sign

Seattle is well known for their iconic use of bright neon in its signage. From making the ideal background spot to take an Instagram-worthy picture to acting as an important city landmark, neon has undoubtedly made a big impression on this Washington city.

One well-known neon sign is the iconic red 'Public Market Center' sign that lights up the centre of Pike Place Market. However, if you make your way around the area you might notice that many signs that were once constructed purely out of neon, have now been replaced with LED lighting.

Neon rocking horse

Before we try to convince you of the many benefits of switching to LED, let's first take a look back at neon lighting. We explore how neon lights work, when they were first used and why an LED equivalent may be better.

So, What Exactly is Neon Lighting?

Well, neon lighting is composed of electrified glass tubes or bulbs that contain rarefied neon or other gases. The high potential of several thousand volts is then applied to the electrodes which ionizes the gas in the tube. This process causes the tube to emit coloured light - the colour of which depends on the type of gas inside the tube.

Neon bar sign

By way of illustrating, hydrogen gives a red light, helium goes yellow and mercury turns blue. Made popular in the 1920s-50s, neon signage took off in America as it was adopted as a form of highly attractive advertising for shops. Throughout the 1930s there was an increased creativity with neon creating a plethora of interesting and eye-catching signage.

The Downside of Neon

Whilst neon signage has a distinguished history of advertising and is still used to this day, it does have its disadvantages. Sadly, neon signs need a lot of upkeep to maintain in good working order. Those that have not been replaced with LED equivalents seem to have fallen into an unkempt state. Left to deteriorate, neon signage can flicker in places and leave whole segments of neon tube unlit.

PI Globe

Above, you'll be able to see one of the few remaining examples of fantastic neon signage in the city of Seattle known as the Post-Intelligencer Globe. Erected in 1948, the globe weighs 13.5 tonnes and is almost 10m high! According to the Seattle Times, the globe was made a designated landmark by the Landmarks Preservation Board in April 2012.

However, several areas across the familiar icon have since darkened, making it look neglected. One of the main reasons that neon signs are left in this state is due to their fragile nature. As a result, the globe has been donated the Museum of History and Industry with plans to refurbish it.

Composed of 'gas in a glass' these tubes can often break and leave large areas of creative signage in the dark. Replacing neon can be costly as they cannot be simply patched up like LED lighting.

Neon Happy Hour sign

Why Choose LED Lighting?

Whilst neon lighting is fairly energy efficient, surpassing traditional lighting, it still isn't as efficient as LEDs. Alongside this major benefit, LEDs are also a lot less likely to break. And, if they do break, they can be easily replaced.

Not to mention, LED lighting is much safer as it doesn't get hot like neon. Neon is subjected to a harsh change in temperature. It gets hot when it's turned on and once turned off it naturally cools. This repeated process of heating and cooling causes the glass to become even more fragile over time.

In stark contrast to neon, LEDs are very durable. Made from plastic and light-emitting diodes, this technology is so efficient. This is because it channels any heat through a heat sink at the base of the bulb, which is partly why LED lighting has a much higher life expectancy than traditional lighting.

Can LED Accurately Replace Neon?

LED flexible neon lighting tubes

Now, you can even purchase flexible LED tube lights which mimic the fluidity that neon tubes feature whilst benefiting from the long lifespan, energy-efficiency and eco-friendliness of LED technology.

Not to mention, LEDs are also highly resistant to water and humidity. And, they can even produce lighting effects that traditional neon cannot. So, it makes sense to leave neon in the 1900's and move with the times towards a greener, more sustainable lighting option.

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