FAQ

GENERAL

A well-made neon sign can work for even several decades (in the Neon Museum in Warsaw you can see working neon signs from the 1960s). Its durability is affected by several factors such as: the type of neon tubes (transparent tubes filled with neon gas last the longest), the accuracy of power supply selection (a too big transformer can burn the electrodes) and the mounting backboard (metal backboards usually cause micro electrical breakdowns, which reduce the life of a neon sign). The standard operating time for most neon signs is estimated to be 5-10 years.

Yes, of course. Neon signs perfectly match the interior of a modern living room or bedroom. However, it is not a good idea to hang them in a child’s room (throwing toys is not recommended when it comes to glass tubes 🙂 ) or in the bathroom (high voltage and humidity are not a good combination 🙂 ). It is good to plan the installation of neon signs during the renovation phase (thanks to this, all connections of neon signs will be hidden in the walls and space for the transformer/power supply will be planned).

NEON TUBES

The outside diameter of neon tubes is from 6 to 25 mm with a wall thickness of about 1 mm. The diameters of tubes in this range vary and depend on the manufacturer, but the following options are most common: 6, 8, 10, 12, 15, 18, 20, 22, 25 mm. Due to availability, ease of shaping and versatility of application, the following diameters are most commonly used: 8, 10, 12, 15, 18 mm.

A double back bend refers to a neon tube bend in which the tubing is bent back 180 degrees in relation to its direction to ensure the continuous line of the neon system. They are used for certain small letters/characters and connections between them. Thanks to double back bends, production costs and the voltage required to power the neon sign are minimized. The double back bends can be made in three planes (downwards, upwards, sideways) and usually this is consistent with the electrodes’ forming plane.

Since the electrodes are not covered with phosphor, they always light up in the colour of the gas that the neon system is filled with (Neon – Ne – orange-red or a mixture of Argon and Neon – Ar/Ne – pale blue). If the neon tube glows in a different colour than the gas inside it, electrodes that are not painted (with a special light-blocking paint) will have a negative effect on the appearance of the whole neon sign. Similarly, double back bends connecting individual letters/characters should be blacked out for better readability of the neon sign. Black paint, which best blocks the light of electrodes and double back bends, is most commonly used. White and grey paint is also used as standard. For large production runs, other colours can also be used. The colour of the paint should be chosen so that it blends as much as possible with the mounting base (wall, Dibond/Plexiglass backboard or metal frame).

There are two basic types of neon tubes: transparent (different kinds: sodium, lead, heat-resistant, etc.) and coloured (in a dozen or so colours, both transparent and matt). Both types of tubes are usually covered with phosphor on the inside (it is best visible in the case of transparent glass – these tubes are usually white when not glowing).

Electrodes are chosen according to the diameter of the neon tube and noble gas. Each type usually has diameters consistent with the diameter of the tube and two lengths (short and long). Electrodes are made of a several centimetres long metal core and a glass sleeve, which is connected to a neon tube. The sleeves of short electrodes are slightly longer than the core (that is why they cannot be shaped) and are only suitable for direct connection to the tube (straight shape – tube extension and perpendicular shape). The sleeves of long electrodes can be bent in many planes, which makes it possible to roll up the electrodes, i.e. to bend back the electrodes in relation to the neon tube. In addition to shaping the electrodes horizontally, the electrodes can also be bent vertically (upwards, downwards and sideways), thus obtaining the final combinations (perpendicularly upwards, perpendicularly downwards, bent back upwards, bent back downwards, etc.).

The ambient temperature affects neon tubes filled with a mixture of Argon and Neon – Ar/Ne gases (colours of light i.e. white, yellow, orange, pink, blue, turquoise, violet, green). At the limit temperature of approx. +7°C and less, such tubes may lose their luminous intensity or glow in a different colour. This effect occurs at random and is most often visible at the ends of the tubes and in the middle of the power-supply system. The lower the ambient temperature, the greater the loss of brightness of the neon sign. This problem is due to the loss of some of the chemical properties of Argon at that temperature and is not subject to warranty claims. When the ambient temperature returns to a level higher than +7°C (and remains at this level for at least a few days and nights) the tubes regain standard and uniform brightness.

The warranty covers all physical damage, which can be distinguished from mechanical damage, based on an inspection of the glass structure at the point of crack (in case of mechanical damage, edges of tubes are uneven) and based on an inspection of phosphor coating (if any) at the point of damage. If tubes are mechanically damaged, phosphor is separated from the tube walls at the point of damage due to rapid changes in pressure inside the tube. In physically damaged tubes (glass expansion), the pressure equalization process is longer and therefore their phosphor structure is intact at the crack point. Electrical damage is considered on a case-by-case basis and depends on whether the transformer/power supply unit was provided by the tube manufacturer and whether the electrical connections were made according to the enclosed diagram and instructions.

Dark spots may be present in neon tubes filled with a mixture of Argon and Neon (Ar/Ne) gases containing traces of mercury necessary for obtaining the appropriate brightness of illumination. When the tube is glowing (warmed up), mercury becomes volatile and can settle in random places, which may change over time. To eliminate dirt that has settled in a visible place, the tube should be heated up at this place (e.g. with a warm air blower) to move mercury to another place. Mercury spots are not covered by the manufacturer’s warranty.

POWER SUPPLY

No. Neon signs require high voltage (from 1000 to 10000 V) to work. Such voltage can be generated by a special electrical device between the socket and the tubes: a high voltage transformer or a high voltage power supply unit.

High voltage transformers are classic voltage converters of considerable dimensions (size similar to that of a brick) and weight (5-10 kg). The advantage of these devices is the possibility of outdoor (IP44) and indoor use, their long lifetime usually reaching 10-15 years and the possibility of placing them a few metres away from the neon sign. High voltage power supplies are small devices (several times smaller than transformers) weighing up to 1 kg. They can usually only be used indoors, and short high-voltage cables determine the installation directly on the neon backboard. Power supplies are also characterized by a much shorter lifetime (maximum several years).

Depending on the transformer (the given unit) and the way the high voltage installation is run (distance of at least 5 cm between individual cables, no metal objects on which the cables are routed, no long cables routed parallel, etc.) it may buzz slightly. In quiet rooms such as offices, it can be a nuisance for some people. That is why we recommend installing the transformer at a distance from the neon sign (maximum distance is 5 linear metres) or on the other side of the wall, e.g. in a utility room.

Due to the high voltage, only a special single-core silicone cable with a minimum dielectric strength of 10 kV should be used to connect neon tubes with each other (connecting neon systems) and to the transformer. This cable is only available from neon manufacturers and comes in the following colours: transparent white, white and black. This cable should not be connected (several short sections into one long one) and should be routed in the strict manner specified in the manual. This cable is resistant to weather conditions, but the use of additional corrugated electrical conduits will reduce the risk of damage. The 220/230V supply cables for transformers/power supplies do not have to have large cross-sections (due to the low current consumption, which is up to 300W for one transformer) and their exact type should be chosen by an approved electrician.

INSTALLATION

In most cases of small and medium-sized neon signs the installation is not complicated, but rather laborious (you must handle glass tubes carefully and without haste). Small neon signs placed on backboards, i.e. Dibond, Plexiglass or metal frame, usually already have neon tubes installed and connected, and their installation involves hanging the whole neon sign on the wall (screwing a few pins as in the case of a painting or lamp) and connecting 230V voltage to the transformer/power supply. For wall-mounted neon signs (without any backboard), we provide a 1:1 template that facilitates the positioning of individual neon systems and the routing of cables. Each neon sign is supplied with assembly instructions and installation diagrams. Only the installation of large outdoor neon signs must be performed by specialists such as fitters, electricians or rope access technicians.

We keep a record of all neon tubes we have produced since the beginning of the KAPILAR-REKLAMA’s operation. Each neon tube has its unique system number in the format S01 A999 (where S01-S99 is the number of one system of a given neon, and A999 is the number of the whole neon sign/project execution). Tubes also have an additional number in the format #AAA 00001, which includes the coded production date and the serial number. The numbers are printed on special (weather and heat resistant) stickers, which are put on one of the electrodes of a given neon system. Thanks to this numbering, it is easy to assemble large neon signs (consisting of many systems of similar shapes) and to service the existing neon signs, even those produced many years ago (if you give us the number, we will produce a tube of the given shape/colour/diameter). This method of tube marking is unique in the whole neon signs market (not only in Poland).

Neon tubes can be mounted on any backboard that will allow the brackets to be fixed (flat surface). The most common is a 3 mm thick Dibond composite (thin aluminium sheet/plastic/thin aluminium sheet). It is available in several colours (if there is no suitable colour available, it can be covered with an adhesive film or solvent print) and is characterised by its rigidity, resistance to weather conditions and ease of processing. Plexiglas (colourless or coloured), aluminium or steel sheet (possibility of antiquing) and welded metal powder coated frames are also often used. A wooden backboard, e.g. old boards, is an interesting material whose irregular texture is emphasized by neon light. Due to its flammability, one should remember to use special protection for transformers, which will reduce the risk of possible fire.

Of course. A 1:1 template is provided for each neon sign to facilitate the positioning of the tubes and all connections. Neon signs look particularly appealing on irregular brick or peeling walls, whose texture is emphasized by the emitted light. However, in this type of installation, it should be remembered that for each neon system it is necessary to screw a minimum of 3 brackets to the wall in strictly defined places (in the case of larger neon signs it may require making several dozen holes), which can be problematic on brick walls (hitting the joints). Another issue is the fact that quite thick wires connecting individual neon systems and transformers are visible.

HV cables used for connections between neon systems and for the supply of voltage to HV transformers/HV power supplies are usually about 6 mm thick and come in three colours: transparent-white, white and black. Due to the way the cables are routed in the serial connection, their considerable thickness and limited colouring (no possibility of painting), their installation directly on the wall is not usually considered to be aesthetic (this approach is changing because of the current trend for industrial interior finishing). Therefore, if there is no installation backboard planned for the neon sign (under which HV cables can be hidden), the cables can be hidden in the wall at the construction or renovation stage. This requires making chases in the wall, laying the cables strictly in accordance with the supplied template (preferably in corrugated electrical conduit) and plastering. If the wall on the other side of the installation allows it, it is also possible to drill holes and route the cables, e.g. in the technical room.

SERVICE

Neon tubes are connected in series. In such a connection, a failure of one receiver (neon system) causes an open circuit and thus the remaining receivers (neon systems) to be out of operation. Usually, the tubes are not completely damaged (voltage still flows through them) and such damaged neon signs look as follows: the damaged system does not glow at all and the systems on its right and left side glow slightly (the closer to the damaged tube the weaker, the closer to the transformer/power supply the brighter). Therefore, it is easy to diagnose which neon system is defective.

It is a normal phenomenon in the case of neon tubes filled with an argon-neon mixture (illumination colours such as white, yellow, orange, pink, blue, turquoise, violet, green), which starts to occur around +7°C and results from the chemical characteristics of Argon gas. The more the temperature drops below +7°C, the less intensive the glow (in a different shade) of the whole tubes, and the closer the temperature to this limit value, the more visible only less intensive is the glow (in a different shade) of the ends of the neon tubes. When the temperature returns to a level higher than +7°C (and remains at this level for at least a few days and nights), the tubes will glow normally and with equal brightness again. This type of neon sign behaviour occurs at random and is not subject to warranty claims.

For several years we have been observing that during the summer period, some neon signs near the water swarm with small flies, which most often gather near the electrodes (they are probably attracted by light or temperature, which is the highest on this part of the tube). Since insects get killed by high voltage (and new ones keep appearing), a cocoon is formed at the electrodes over time, which in extreme cases ignites and damages the neon tubes. Such failures are not covered by the warranty. The solution to the problem is to periodically clean the areas where insects are found with a soft brush or protect the neon signs with transparent Plexiglass/polycarbonate covers (if technically possible).

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ABOUT US

KAPILAR-REKLAMA is a company operating since 1981. We design, manufacture and install classic neon signs and other illuminated advertising signs in Poland and Europe. We carry out complex, large and small projects for both commercial and personal purposes. We work with artists and perform restoration of old neon signs.

CONTACT US

KAPILAR-REKLAMA
95-070 Aleksandrów Ł.
Antoniew ul. Krucza 16
POLAND

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