N.B. – All references to Neon within this document unless stated otherwise are in regards to the real glass neon product, not any LED alternatives.
One topic people ask us about a lot when enquiring about neon signs is their use externally. Questions such as:
- Can Neon signs be outside/outdoors?
- Can Neon signs be in the cold?
- Will Neon signs freeze?
- Can Neon get too hot?
- Can Neon signs get wet?
The versatility of neon means that the answers to these questions are often the opposite of what people believe when asking. Below is a comprehensive Q&A that should shed some light on the potential of Neon signs.
Can Neon signs be outside?
This is quite an open question with various different points to consider, based on your specific needs. However, the short answer is yes, neon signs can be used outside as long as you have been provided with the right transformer. All neon glass is suitable for use outside, if you live in a particularly cold area (North Scotland for example) then you may need your tubes pumped with a certain mixture of gas, but generally the only thing deciding the sign’s use is the transformer it comes with.
Can Neon signs be in the cold?
Neon signs are usually pumped with either pure Neon, pure Argon or a mixture of the two. These give you all the different colours you normally in a neon sign.
When a sign is going outside, it would be pumped with either pure Neon or a mixture of Argon and neon. This mixture allows for the sign to operate in the majority of temperatures here in the UK.
If your sign is going to be exposed to particularly harsh weather, then it will need to be pumped with a different combination of gas, with a higher ratio of Neon to Argon.
Put simply though, your neon sign will withstand anything the Great British weather throws at it.
Will Neon signs freeze?
The gas inside a Neon sign will not freeze. If water is on the outside of a tube and is exposed to a cold enough temperature, then this can freeze and can potentially damage / break the sign.
However, provided a sign is kept running it should generate enough heat at the electrodes to keep the gas ignited and should help prevent the tubes from becoming cold enough to allow ice to form.
Can Neon get too hot?
Provided a neon sign is manufactured and installed correctly, there is no reason why your neon sign would get too hot from being on.
There is not any ambient temperature, under normal weather circumstances, that would cause a neon tube to stop working. The temperature they reach when being made and bombarded far exceeds their operating temperature and the temperature that they are placed in.
In fact, the main part of a Neon sign that affected by excessive heat is the transformer. It is recommended to keep transformer(s) away from direct sunlight where possible and with as much airflow as possible, to prevent the temperature around them building up.
Provided the transformer is functioning, there should be no temperature, especially not in the UK, that is too high for a neon sign.
Can Neon signs get wet?
As with any electrical item, it is better to keep it away from water where possible. Neon is also high voltage which means that extra care should be taken around it. However despite what many people believe and despite the picture the first two statements paint, Neon signs are perfectly safe to be used outside in the rain, provided they are supplied with the correct equipment and installed correctly.
The glass itself is safe to touch when wet, even when on, but you should not touch any connection between glass and wire, whether wet or not.
If the sign is being made for external use, then the glass bender will usually make it so that the electrodes point up. This then means that when the electrode sleeves are placed over the glass -> cable connection, the sleeve sits over the top and water would not be able to gather inside and damage the connection over time.
We hope this answers some of your questions. If you’d like to chat about any of the details we’ve covered or to find out more about how our variety of neon solutions can help your business, please drop us a line.
Check out more of our neon articles here.