Neon signs are as iconic as they are effective. Bright, flashy, and colorful lights have been an essential staple in world advertising and brand awareness. From Las Vegas to New York, neon signs have been a cultural landmark in the United States for over 100 years!
While they do, in fact, do the job when it comes to pulling in recurring and prospective customers into an establishment, it is worth knowing how they work in order to bring all the attention possible to your business and skyrocket revenue.
The Pharr commercial signage experts of HiWay Neon Signs know a thing or three about how neon signs work, are made, and
But First, a Brief History of Neon Signs
Neon signs made their first debut in 1910 when Georges Claude, a French engineer and inventor, initially molded the idea of using neon lighting for commercialization. When studying noble gases, he discovered that by having neon react to electricity, it could cause a bright, glowing reaction if enough voltage was transmitted.
After testing his thesis out in various scientific forms and demonstrations, he discovered that the possibility of bending glass tubes and neon can be used for commercial purposes, thus, creating neon signs as we know them today.
While Claude made neon lights a major success in France, they did not make their way to the United States up until 1922 after a Los Angeles-based agency adopted this new, unique way of advertising.
The Science Behind Neon Signs
Neon signs are sparked by a combination of electricity and noble gases in a low pressure environment. The atoms of the neon used have a filled electron shell, and this causes the atoms to not react to other atoms within the glass tube.
Because of this, however, it takes a lot of energy–around 15,000 volts–to remove the electron from the atoms in order to ionize them. These ions are then attracted to the terminals, completing the circuit within the glass tubes. As these atoms become more excited, light and heat is generated, and as the atoms calm down, that light is released.
Neon signs get their unique hues by using or combining certain gases within the glass tubes. A quick glimpse of these gases and what colors they produce can be viewed right here:
- Neon = Red
- Argon = Lavender
- Mercury Vapor = Light Blue
- Xenon = Grey/Blue
- Helium = Orange
- Krypton = Grey/Green
A phosphor or other chemical coating on the glass tubes can also produce colors when the power is turned on. Because of the range of coatings that are available currently, a lot of newer neon signage is produced by using a mercury/argon discharge coupled with a phosphor coating.
A Glimpse Into the Creation Process
The art of making neon signs is a very delicate, handmade process that takes a fair amount of time to bring to life. When a potential client inquires about a customized neon sign for their business, and to get the right structure created, the following steps must be completed:
- Tubing: The business signage idea is usually sketched out first on a fire-resistant sheet in order to get an approximate scale of how the neon tubes should be formed and segmented to get a proper flow of gases across them. They have a lifespan of anywhere between eight to 15 years.
- Heating: Once the initial design has been put in place, glass must be heated and air blown to form the shape of the tubes. Any imperfections or impurities within the tubes are removed before filling them up with the gas it needs to light it up.
- Adding Voltage: Once the shaping process has concluded, a drop back is added for support, offering the piece a structure that allows it to be hung up and held together. A transformer is then added in order to fuel up the electrical energy it needs to light up, which usually takes 2-3 weeks to perfect.
For over 70 years and counting, HiWay Neon Signs has provided the entire Rio Grande Valley with beautiful, state of the art, commercial neon signage. We pride ourselves on making the perfect signs for your business that best serve your needs at a quality you can’t find anywhere else in the Valley!