Outdoor Neon Signs – The Ultimate Guide

An outdoor neon sign can be used for business and commercial purposes as well as for personal home decor or events.

In this article, I discuss the types of outdoor signs you can buy and the benefits, uses, and important aspects to consider when creating an outdoor neon sign—be it for business or personal use.

Let’s dive in.

  • Outdoor neon signs are weatherproofed to ensure they can withstand rain, ice, snow, and dust.
  • Weatherproofing of a neon sign does not negate the need for regular cleaning and maintenance.
  • Outdoor custom neon signs can have custom designs, colors, fonts, and features that can suit both business and personal decor uses.
  • Exterior signs come in many different types.
  • Outdoor signs can be used for business, home, or event decor.

Types of Exterior Signs

  • Traditional Neon Signs: These are made with glass tubes filled with neon gas that glows when electrified. They’re perfect for creating a classic, retro vibe.
  • LED Neon Signs: Utilizing LED technology, these signs mimic the look of traditional neon but are more energy-efficient and durable. They’re ideal for businesses looking for a sustainable and long-lasting option.
  • Open-face neon Signs: These signs have an exposed neon tube, offering bright and direct illumination. They are great for attracting attention in areas with high visibility competition.
  • Backlit Neon Signs: These signs combine a traditional or LED neon outline with a backlit panel, enhancing readability and adding depth to the design. Suitable for detailed logos or texts.
  • 3D Neon Signs: Offering a three-dimensional look, these signs provide depth and impact through layered or sculptural elements. They’re perfect for creating a standout piece with visual interest.
  • Animated Neon Signs: Animated neon signs incorporate moving elements or flashing lights. They are dynamic and can convey messages or create engaging visuals. They are ideal for promotions or eye-catching displays.
  • Neon Border Tubing: A continuous line of neon lighting that outlines buildings, windows, or architectural features enhances the structure’s design and draws attention to the premises.
  • Channel Letter Signs: Channel letter signs are custom-made three-dimensional letters often seen on the exteriors of businesses, including retail stores, malls, and corporate buildings. Each letter is a separate structure, usually made of metal or plastic, with separate illumination.
  • Light Box Signs: Light box signs are illuminated signage solutions with a translucent front panel made of acrylic or polycarbonate, lit from within by LED or fluorescent lights.

Neon Light Source Comparison – a Neon Sign vs LED Neon Sign

Each of the exterior signs mentioned above needs a light source. In this section, we compare the two main light sources: LED neon lights and more traditional gas neon lights.

There are good reasons LED neon signs have surged to the forefront.

Here is a comparison between Neon and LED neon:

Technological Superiority

  • Energy-Efficient: Energy-efficient LED technology lies at the heart of LED neon signs. Compared to their traditional counterparts, LED neon signs are energy-efficient and long-lasting. LED lights consume around 75% less energy and last for about 50% longer than gas neon lights.
  • Fewer Materials: LED lights require fewer components or materials in manufacturing.
  • LED lights are cheaper, easier, and faster to manufacture.
  • Brightness: LED lights are over 80% brighter than traditional gas neon lights.

Customization and Appeal

  • Design: Tailoring sign designs to mirror your brand’s unique persona is effortless with LED neon flex (the tubing used to make LED neon signs).
  • Colors: LED neon flex is available in 24 different colors, so we can closely match any color to any design option.
  • Fonts: Font options are nearly unlimited in LED neon signs. We design signs on the computer and then trace and match the font to the LED neon sign. This is very limited in gas neon signs, as glass bending is more of an art, time-consuming, and often cost-prohibitive.
  • Special Features: LED neon signs can be made with color-changing options, multiple colors, and even programmability. This makes them far more advanced than vintage neon signs from yesteryear, where color change isn’t possible.
  • Faux-Neon: LED neon is the modern equivalent of neon gas signs and can be made to look very close and similar to vintage neon signs. At a distance of over 16 feet, it would be very hard to distinguish a vintage neon sign from an LED neon sign.

Benefits for Business – Why Every Retail Store Should Have an Outdoor Neon Sign

Undoubtedly, the majority of signage bought is for commercial/business use. The commercial use of neon signs in business has always been, and will always be, the main market that we sell to and work with.

Here are the top 10 reasons why every retail store should have an outdoor sign on their brick-and-mortar business or retail location.

  • Brand Visibility: An eye-catching neon sign helps a business stand out, increasing brand visibility and awareness among passersby. It’s an effective way to catch the eye of potential customers and make a strong first impression.
  • 24/7 Advertising: Unlike other forms of advertising that may have time restrictions, outdoor signs work around the clock to promote your business. They serve as a constant reminder of your presence in the area.
  • Cost-Effectiveness: Once installed, outdoor signs are a cost-effective method of advertising. They require minimal maintenance and no recurring fees, providing a high return on investment over time.
  • Directional Guidance: Outdoor signs can also be wayfinding tools, guiding customers to your storefront. This is especially beneficial in crowded shopping complexes or off-the-beaten-path locations.
  • Promotions and Sales: Outdoor signs are an excellent way to advertise promotions, sales, and special events. They can be updated or changed to reflect current offers, enticing customers to step inside.
  • Professional Image: A well-designed outdoor sign conveys professionalism and credibility. It tells customers you are serious about your business and committed to providing quality products or services.
  • Competitive Advantage: In areas with high competition, an outdoor sign can set your business apart from others. It’s an opportunity to showcase your unique selling proposition and attract more customers than competitors without effective signage.
  • Customer Convenience: Outdoor signs improve customer experience by making it easier for them to find your location, reducing frustration and enhancing their overall perception of your business.
  • Local Engagement: Outdoor signs can help build a local presence, making your business a recognized part of the community. This can foster local loyalty and repeat business.
  • Regulatory Compliance: In some cases, outdoor signs can also help businesses comply with local regulations by displaying necessary information such as business hours, licenses, or accessibility features.

Each of these reasons highlights how vital an outdoor sign is for the success and visibility of a retail store, making it an indispensable tool in today’s competitive market.

Ideas & Real-Life Examples of Outdoor Neon Signs

Considerations when Designing Custom Exterior Signs

Creating a custom-designed neon sign that is eye-catching and practical isn’t a simple process. There are several factors involved that need to be thought about before, during, and after the neon sign is created. We’ve broken down the considerations to personalize either a commercial or a personal neon sign.

For Business

  • Positioning & Location: How will the sign be positioned outside the store? What height and location will it be mounted on the actual building? Ensure that this is factored in early, as it impacts the design and type of sign you might use.
  • Weather Conditions: Outdoor neon signs are all weatherproofed, but necessary precautions must be taken for locations with more extreme weather, such as extreme snow and ice, or places with high dust levels. Factor this into the design of the sign.
  • Type of Sign: Light box, LED neon, or a backlit sign.
  • Size of Sign: The design, the height and position of the sign, and the type of sign are all considered when determining the size of the sign to ensure it stands out and represents the business well. Too small, and the sign will be lost; too big, and it’ll look cumbersome. Measure the location and share these details with your neon sign maker.
  • Special Features: Adding a vibrant touch with color changing, RGB, multi-colors, and Dynamic Neon are all options to liven up a neon sign and provide animation.
  • Logo & Branding: Will the sign have the business logo or brand? Are there particular colors or fonts you want to use? Sharing your brand guide will be useful for the neon sign manufacturer.

For Home or Event Decor

  • Type of Sign: This type of neon sign is a simpler design created for outdoor decor or use in an outdoor space. These are perfect for more light-duty outdoor locations – usually with less extreme weather – while still creating a focal point.
  • Naming & Design: Will the sign have the wedding couple’s surname and the family name for home decor, or maybe a neon name sign? Or maybe it will be a sports team logo or something more elaborate, which is either fully exterior or semi-exterior on a terrace or outdoor event space. Also, consider the colors and fonts used in the sign.

Placement and Installation of a Neon Sign Outdoor

When placing a neon sign outdoors, several factors need to be considered, most importantly the height and exact placement. We’ve also broken this down into commercial and personal use segments.

For Business

  • Height: The sign likely needs to be safely out of reach, mounted high enough to be out of reach, and safe from knocks
  • Positioning: Will the sign be front-on (flat to the wall), angled (somewhere between 0 and 90 degrees), or fully perpendicular (fixed 90 degrees) to the store? What offers the best visual impact?
  • Power: This has far less of an impact on businesses. Usually, the new sign replaces the old sign, and there is already power to the location on the wall. An electrician will face fewer challenges in this scenario.

For Home or Event Decor

  • Positioning: Where is the neon sign best placed to offer the most impact in the decor or wedding event? For home decor – we suggest plain flat walls, textured walls, and brick walls, which are the best for outdoor mounting of a neon sign. For weddings and events – we recommend setting up a green wall, with the sign mounted in the middle, as a vibrant decor backdrop for photo opportunities.
  • Mounting Type: We tend to think of outdoor signs as fixtures, but this might not be the case. The two best options are to mount them to a wall using metal pins or hang them from a ceiling. Mounting to a wall would be more likely for permanent or semi-permanent mounting, whereas the hanging option might be used for temporary arrangements.
  • Power: Outdoor signs for a home or event usually have more power problems because they will often be mounted in a location that didn’t have a previous sign or electrical need in that location. We provide a power adaptor and everything needed to plug the sign into a regular wall socket.

Maintenance of External Neon Signs

Dealing with the maintenance of exterior signs needs some special consideration. When we assess a maintenance operation, here are our main thoughts and considerations:

Height and Access

Many neon signs are installed at significant heights or in locations that are not easily accessible. Safety and the right equipment are paramount. Using appropriate equipment like ladders, scaffolding, or even cherry pickers may be necessary to reach these signs safely.

It’s important to assess the accessibility of the sign to plan the maintenance operation effectively, ensuring that technicians can access the sign safely and efficiently.

Checking for Issues

This step involves thoroughly inspecting the neon sign to identify any potential problems. Look for signs of wear and tear, such as cracked tubes, flickering lights, or parts of the sign that are not illuminating.

Electrical connections should be checked for safety and functionality. This proactive check helps catch issues early, prevent more significant problems, and ensure the sign remains in top condition.

Cleaning

Neon signs accumulate dust, dirt, and grime, affecting their brightness and overall appearance. Cleaning involves carefully wiping the tubes with appropriate cleaning solutions and materials that won’t damage the neon or its components.

It’s also a chance to clear away any debris that may have gathered around the sign, ensuring nothing obstructs the light or poses a fire risk. Regular cleaning maintains the sign’s aesthetic appeal and can extend its lifespan.

Scheduling and Notes

Regular maintenance should be scheduled to ensure the neon sign remains in optimal condition. Keeping detailed records of each maintenance session, including what was done, any issues noted, and when the next check-up is due, helps plan future maintenance and identify recurring problems.

Establishing a routine maintenance schedule prevents the sign from deteriorating unnoticed and reduces the likelihood of emergency repairs, which can be costlier and more complex.

By addressing these key areas, businesses can ensure their neon signs continue attracting and dazzling passersby, maintaining the vibrancy and effectiveness of their outdoor advertising or decorative displays.

Conclusion

In conclusion, for businesses, outdoor neon signs serve as a modern-day nexus between the brand and their audience. Offering a compelling way to attract and capture new customers to your brick-and-mortar store – And a distinct way to outshine your competitors.

For home and event decor, outdoor neon signs offer a vibrant and colorful way to enliven a space. They are eye-catching and create a well-lit, warm atmosphere.

Our creative team specializes in taking ideas for an outdoor sign and turning them into waterproof neon signs – we create amazing and fun signs for a pop of color in your office, space, garden, backyard, bar, or wedding. They can be used to illuminate or bring more attention to a display of products, brighten a room, or enhance the mood at an event.

For a fun way to complete your space or retail setup, please talk with our team today about custom neon signs!

FAQ

What should a business consider when buying an outdoor neon sign?

  • When a business is looking to buy an outdoor neon sign, it should consider local Government requirements, permits, the sign’s design, colors, fonts, branding, graphics, and whether the business wants its logo in neon. See Los Angeles County sign compliance documentation.

How much maintenance does outdoor neon signage require?

  • Neon signs require dusting and cleaning every few months. They should also be checked regularly for obvious issues. A well-maintained neon sign will last at least ten years of operation.

How much should you pay for an outdoor neon sign?

  • The price of an outdoor neon sign will typically range from $700 to $2500 – this price is based on our experience, given the complexity of designs people usually want, the size, and the features.

Can neon signs be used outdoors?

  • Once a neon sign is weatherproofed, it can be used outside. Neon signs require special waterproofing and an outdoor-specified power adaptor.

Do neon signs work in cold weather?

  • Neon signs should be appropriately weatherproofed to work properly in cold weather.

Does hot weather affect neon signs?

  • Neon signs can be affected by extreme heat – to prevent any issues, consider getting the sign weatherproofed.

What are the disadvantages of neon signs?

  • Neon signs are fragile, use gas, are expensive to run, and have a relatively short life span compared to LED neon signs.

How long do neon signs typically last?

  • A neon sign will typically last 10-15 years of normal use.

What lasts longer, neon or LED?

  • LED neon signs last 15-20 years, or 40,000 to 100,000 light hours. Traditional neon gas signs last 8-10 years, or 30,000 to 50,000 light hours.

Is neon cheaper than LED?

  • LED neon signs are cheaper to make than traditional neon gas and glass signs.
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Author

Christopher is our main author, with over 10 years working with businesses and consulting online.  Christopher has a deep understanding of LED lights, LED neon flex, and neon signs and how they can be best used to help business, home, and event decor.

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