Understanding Neon Light Signs – What they are, their Uses and Safe Handling

Everyone is bound to know what a neon sign is and see them regularly but does anyone know how they are made? For more than 100 years they will have been seen outside restaurants and on the side of buildings, advertising businesses and helping them to promote themselves. Mostly they will be used for hotels and bars, but they can be seen in a lot of other places as well.

Glass tubes are the main part of the lights, and they can be massed produced or blown by hand providing there is a master glass blower involved. It takes a lot of skill to twist the tubes once they have been heated up and then shape them into the one required. There is then an electrode placed at opposite ends and the tube becomes a vacuum. There are five gases that can be used, so one will be placed inside and then it is sealed. To illuminate the gas, there has to be an electric current passed through the tube.

The five gases that are used are Xeon, Neon, Krypton, Helium or Argon. The one that is chosen will determine what color the tube will be. An example of this is using Xeon if you want a blue light and Neon if it was a red one that was required.

The use of the sign is one of the important factors when it comes to choosing the color. Is it going to be indoors or outdoors will be vital as there is less chance of the light working when the gases are cold? Neon is the one that will last the most and cope with the cold so that is why you will see red lights outside so many restaurants, bars and stores. These lights can be outside but need a plastic cover for protection.


There have been concerns about the safety of neon signs, but there is little if anything to be concerned about. Both Argon and Neon are inert gases and there is only a mere drop of mercury. This does however mean that the tubes need to be handled with care. As a result, it is hard to get a broken one repaired.

The voltage to power the lamp can be anything between 2,000 and 15,000 volts. The risk comes from improper mounting as there could be a shock or a fire hazard. Here it is best to leave the job to a professional and the cost is worth it as they should last many years. They can be dimmed and this is as a result of a lower amount of electricity running through it.

Looking after the signs

The signs can still be seen in the daylight and it is only a white one that will be difficult to see until night-time. Despite being energy efficient they are not often used during the day. Dusting is a good idea but make sure that the light is unplugged. Finally, there is the price. This is going to depend upon the size and shape that is chosen.

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