LED prove this is the time of the signs

March 13, 2008
As various projects have demonstrated, LED is a worthy successor to neon for signage applications, explains our Canadian Columnist Brian Owen.
With an ever-growing range of applications for LED, the sign market lends itself as a current practical application for the technology. As with many LED applications, energy consumption is dramatically reduced, but even more important in the payback equation are the maintenance savings. With the longevity of LED surpassing other signage illumination technologies, the "bucket" or "ladder" time is virtually eliminated.

Environmental benefits are also important; neon, used extensively in current signage, is very unfriendly to the environment, both in its active contents and in the disposal. The safety of neon is also a concern due to the potential of glass breakage and the higher voltage.

Neon bad As with all LED applications, a caveat applies; there is no shortage of inferior product and overstated claims. Again the answer lies with reliable product from reliable manufacturers and installed by reliable sources. Effective dissipation of conducted heat is essential. As in lighting design there are also light quality issues such as even distribution over the sign face or throughout the channel letters so as to avoid "hot" and "not" spots. LED color consistency and quality is also a concern and is related to product quality.

The economics of signage extends past the technology as retailers know that good signage attracts business and customers and that signage is a very important component of the marketing mix related to the physical location. Where neon signage experiences outages, LED keeps the sign "in business" consistently.

Signage projects in Toronto

LEDs good

In a project undertaken by OSRAM Sylvania and LumaLogix, Toronto's Yorkdale Shopping Centre, one of Canada's largest malls, converted their marquee sign to LED and has been very pleased with the results. Visibility has been increased, maintenance reduced, outages virtually eliminated and of course energy and related costs energy cost savings realized. In 2006, Yorkdale was recognized by the International Council of Shopping Centres (ICSC) with an International Design and development Award for Sustainable Design. LED signage further exemplifies Yorkdale's stance on environmental practices.

greenTbiz, the energy conservation and efficiency program of the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas (TABIA) also knows this well and is active is this area. greenTbiz and a large Canadian retailer, along with a major LED manufacturer and a local Toronto sign company specializing in LED installations are in the midst of a pilot that will be announced shortly. In a Business Improvement Area that began the BIA movement and known for their energy efficiency and environmental actions, this store combines a historical location usage with the new LED signage in a tasteful manner, improving visibility over the previous neon illumination.

Signage event

Another first will be happening in Toronto in mid-April, this time for LED signage. The Ontario Photonics Information Network (OPIN) will be hosting LIGHTSHIFT, an LED Signage Forum at Ontario Place on Toronto’s waterfront on April 17.

The objectives of the event are to shed light on LED as a market transformative solution, highlighting the current trends, the benefits, the obstacles and how they can be overcome, as well as to how you can adopt implement the usage of the technology in signage. Organisers state “Visibility is very important to help you stay ahead of the competition and stand out in the crowd. LED signage provides you with an extra edge both as a supplier and an end-user. There will be also a special announcement at the event about incentives that will make this an even more viable solution. As many companies move to implement more ‘green’ processes, LED signage fits into their strategy and is a solution with tremendous cost benefits.“

This one-day event is suited for sign buyers and users, as well as the signage industry, including property managers, developers, business owners, retailers, foodservice establishments, industry associations, architects, contractors, sign manufacturers and government. There is a full schedule of sessions, including an in depth case study. LED technology overview and a panel on Market Transformation moderated by the author.

Richard Worzel, author, speaker and Canada's leading futurist will deliver a keynote address entitled 'What's Next?’ focusing on how technology such as LED will shape the landscape and the marketplace. Peter Love, Ontario’s Chief Energy Conservation Officer will open the event.

Further information can be obtained by visiting the OPIN website at www.ontariophotonics.com or by sending an email to [email protected].

Also upcoming in the signage industry is the International Sign Association’s (ISA) International Sign Expo in Orlando, Florida on March 27-29. Further information can be found at www.signexpo.org.