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#1 westco5

westco5

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Posted 21 January 2010 - 11:28 PM

Electric Signs, LED Channel Letters, & Retrofitting


West Coast Sign Company is a U.L. recognized custom electric sign shop and a electrical sign contractor in San Diego, California.

West Coast Sign Company specializes in specialty lighting, for our electric signs that we build and manufacture. We build high end custom electrical signs using only custom light sources that are architectural grade. Everything from custom coating Tri-Phosphor & Rare Earth phosphor lamps, to custom LED specialty lighting.

Light source components all vary and should be used according to the sign application one is building for their project. Not one light source is best used for all applications, every light source has their pro's and cons. Too many times statements are used such as, "Green" & "Energy Efficient", these are nothing more than "Marketing Statements", statements used to make the public feel "guilty", and in turn manipulating them to choose an alternative route that may/will cost them more in Return On Investment (ROI) than they will ever get back in order for them to "feel good" about themselves to. We can help in dispelling some energy & trade myths so you don't waste an initial investment in money thinking you can make that same money back in a short time in annual energy costs when comparing apples to apples.


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LED illuminated Reverse Channel Letters. Solare Ristorante Lounge, San Diego CA
Please see an article on this job published in Sign Builder Illustrator Magazine LINK




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High Light Output LED Illuminated address numbers (Test Proven)


If there is one think my industry is unfortunately guilty of, it is making their clients believe they can invest HUGE up front and make it back short "Return On Investment" (2 to 3 years) , NOTHING, can be further from the truth.

Some may be reading this and I'm sure you are thinking, "This is rare, who is this guy, and I've never heard of such a thing before". That is true, you probably haven't, and that is because it's a very popular thing to throw around marketing statements, especially in tough economic times, but it's what sells. Think back to right before the year 2000, every marketing statement was "Y2K complaint". Buying "Energy Efficient", is just the nuance, it's the next "sexy" term.

The TRUTH is, as discussed above, Neon, Fluorescent & LED's are ALL energy efficient products, and they are all SAFE, or as some like to label it, Environmentally Safe. If you run into a sign company and all they offer are marketing statements (by their chosen lighting component manufacturer) followed by "We use XY&Z because it's SAFE, it's Environmentally Friendly", then you are getting the wrong information from someone who because

A - The sign company doesn't know what they're talking about.
B - They are just very ill-informed themselves, and they are just repeating what they were told by Manufacturers and Suppliers.
C - They don't do any kind of testing themselves, or perform energy audits

Let's look at some common options used for sign lighting.

Fluorescent & Neon lamps do contain mercury, very small amounts and these lamps are a closed loop system which means they are ALSO 100% recyclable, and recycle back into the lighting manufacturers. Both are high voltage and can cause fires WHEN installed with no metal conduit, and this is usually done by unlicensed contractors. Both are very reliable with neon tracing back with a proven history of over 100 years. Neon & Fluorescent lamps are very good and get brighter in warm temperatures, but light output lowers in very cold temperatures, except in red neon because there is no mercury for cold conditions to condense. Lamp life for neon depends on the quality and workmanship of the processing, lamp processing is very important. Knowledge & quality depends and varies from sign company to sign shop.


LED's are low voltage, 12 or 24 volts, but the primary wiring from the panel to the power supply for LED's is still 120 volts same as other light sources.

A large number of cheap low grade LED's are made in China. China has devastated and flooded a large part of the electric sign industry by low grade cheap LED's. Take a drive at night and you will see letters what have varying dim spots or shadows. Sign companies use these cheap Chinese products and claim "Environmentally Friendly", this is false because China has coal plants, coal plants put mercury in to the air. LED's are very efficient for small light applications, and very helpful in applications where other components are hard to retrofit or install. LED's are also good for very good for cold weather applications where they light the brightest, but poor for warm weather where light output lowers and circuity can fail.


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Recently installed sign using VERY low grade LED Modules (You get what you pay for!)


Retrofitting has hit our marketplace lately. There is a lot of marking talk about retrofitting out existing signs that are illuminated with Fluorescent or neon lamps to LEDs to save energy costs annually and make the initial investment back in a short term ROI. Sometimes, I said "Sometimes" this makes sense. Majority of the time depending on the application it doesn't make sense. Because when you compare apples to apples in light output it can take 20 to 40 years to make the return on investment, and in that time you will have re-retrofit that same sign 4 to 5 times amping your original investment (These are studies and testing that we also conduct). There are a lot of national sign companies with mythical ROI claims of saving 60% to 80% in energy consumption and costs. Be VERY Weary! It doesn't make sense to spend 1.5 Million dollras to re-retrofit a sign that only lasts you 5 years just to save a claimed amount of $18,000.00 a year in energy costs. Out of 1.5 million, that is $300,000.00 per year just to save $18,000.00 in energy costs. Google "CITGO SIGN" Kenmore Square. You had a old neon sign that could have been re-engineered in it's existing light source, it got retrofitted in 2005 with LEDs that didn't last, now in 2010 it's getting Re-retrofitted again with amplified cost.

Most of the time it makes more sense to retrofit your existing sign that may be having issues with better, newer components or upgraded lamps. Trade in your old halo-phosphate coated Fluorescent or Neon lamps to Tri-Phosphor coated lamps. These lamps are brighter and last longer with their illumination over time than standard conventional lamps. The basic circuitry is already in place in your sign, it's easier to re-engineer those raceways and installation plans with newer efficient transformers and ballasts. Newer SST transformers and ballasts can reduce your energy consumption over older magnetic transformers and ballasts by 40% to 50%. Installation is key, there are a lot of installers that never knew what they were doing, so if your sign has been having repetitive issues, find someone who knows what they are doing, we can help you with this too.

Read up on an article where we are featured in Sign Builder Illustrator Magazine LINK



Besides manufacturing electric signs I also run tests for the electric sign industry, testing Neon, LED's and Fluorescent light sources on energy consumption as well as light degradation. Every lighting manufacturers products, I've tested it! I run them 24/7 for 365 days a year continually. I only use what I've tested and to know what will last, I don't take the word of brochures, suppliers or vendors walking into my place of business saying "Our product is the best!"

Just remember a rule of logic "You can only get out, with what you put in".




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