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Frequently Asked Questions about neon signs


On this page we try to answer some common questions about our signs and our company. We hope that you find this helpful.

Please go to our Product Info page to learn more about the types of signs we sell.

What is a neon sign?

To understand what a neon sign is, you must first understand what neon is.  The word “neon” is derived from the Greek word “neo,” which means “the new gas.”  Neon is one of the six inert gases.  It is a colorless and odorless gas, which gives off a red glow when placed in vacuum tube.  Neon signs are created when this neon gas is placed in vacuum tubes and combined with electrons and discharge voltage. The transformers can charge the neon gas with 15,000 volts of electric. This is what causes the glow.

How does a neon sign work?

Neon is an inert or non-reactive gas, meaning that it does not react when combined with other chemicals.  However, when placed in a gas vacuum with electrodes, the neon has a completely different reaction.  As the voltage is discharged through the gas in the tube, kinetic energy is produced, which gives the neon atom an electronic charge.  The charge moves up and down the tube, completing an electrical current, and a photon is produced which creates the glow of the neon signs seen in every business window around the world. 

What types of gases are used in neon signs?

There are five different types of gases used in neon signs:  Neon, Argon, Helium, Xeon, and Krypton.  Argon is one of the six inert gases and is odorless, colorless, tasteless, and generally non-toxic.  In a vacuum, argon produces a blue glow.  Helium is another one of the inert gases, and is the second most abundant gas in the universe.  Xeon is another non-toxic gas, which is colorless and odorless.  Xeon will also glow blue when exposed to electricity.  Krypton is another of the inert gases, which emits a very bright white light when placed in a vacuum tube. 

What determines the color of a neon sign?

Neon gas naturally has a red glow in a vacuum tube when combined with electricity.  However, to make other colors, different types of gas are used, such as Argon, which will emit a blue color, or Krypton, which produces a bright white glow.  Neon signs are also made in different colors by using different colored fluorescent lights in the tube, or by using colored glass, so the color of the light can be manipulated. 

When were neon signs invented?

The capabilities of neon was first seen in the year 1675, when French astronomer Jean Pickard noticed a soft glow being emitted from a mercury barometer tube caused by static electricity.  However, at that time, electricity hadn’t even been discovered yet, and it wasn’t until much later that the reaction was actually understood.  During the early to mid-1800s, scientists began to experiment with the combination of electric power and gases in Geissler Tubes.  It wasn’t until 1898 that the powers of neon gas were discovered by William Ramsey and M.W. Travers.  Finally, around 1902, Georges Claude was the first person to combine an electrical current with neon gas in a sealed tube.  And thus, the first neon sign was born. 

When was the first neon sign used for advertising?

The first neon signs debuted in 1910 at the Paris Motor Show, which was the first auto show in the world, held for the first time in 1898.

How long will a neon sign work?

The life of a neon sign is dependent on how much and how often it is used.  A well-made neon sign should last around 30,000 hours; though that varies on the type of circumstances the sign endures. 

Are neon signs safe?

Neon signs are no more dangerous than any other lamp or appliance that uses electricity. As with all electrical devices, you need to use proper precautions. You do not want to expose indoor signs to water or cover them so they do not get proper ventilation or use them near flammable materials..  The glass tubes in a neon sign are not highly pressurized, and though the bulbs may be warm to the touch, they will not get hot enough to burn or catch anything on fire.  Of course, there are exceptions to every rule.  A faulty or poorly made neon sign can malfunction; however as a general rule, they are perfectly safe. 

How do you clean a neon sign?

If you want to dust or clean your neon sign, always be sure to unplug the sign first.  Then, use a feather duster or soft, dry cloth to remove any dirt or dust from the bulbs.  Never use water to clean your sign.  Water and electricity are never a good combination! 

What is the difference between a neon sign and an LED sign?

To understand the difference between LED and neon signs, you must first know what an LED sign is.  LED stands for Light Emitting Diodes, and is a semi-conductor device that transforms energy into light.  LEDs are placed in a polymer tube, so one major difference between an LED sign and a neon sign is that LED signs are more flexible and easier to handle.  LED lights are also thinner than neon, so signs can be created that occupy less space and possibly contain more detail.   LED signs are also considered to be more environmentally friendly, using only 10 watts of power in comparison to the 80 to 100 watts that neon signs use.  However, neon signs are believed to have a more vibrant light and have a more inviting glow. 

Where can I hang my neon sign?

All standard neon signs must be hung indoors, away from water.  The only exception is outdoor neon signs, which are made specifically with a clear plastic cover so they can be exposed to the elements.  Most of the neon signs at can be upgraded to an outdoor sign, and if you can’t find a model you like, we will build a custom outdoor neon sign to fit your needs. 

In addition, all of our neon signs can be hung in a window or mounted on a wall. 

Do I have to use a neon sign for business?  Can I use it at home, too?

Absolutely!  Though neon signs are a great way to advertise for your business, they are also great for personal use.  Use your neon sign to create a themed room, represent your favorite sports team, or add a customized look to a bedroom, basement, or living space.  You can place a neon sign in your child’s bedroom that will not only act as a decoration, but can also serve as a nightlight.  Or, use a neon sign to add that last finishing touch to your basement bar.  A neon sign can add a feel of creativity no matter where you place it. 

From what distance can you see the glow of a neon sign?

The distance from which a neon sign can be read depends on the type of sign you buy, and also the colors, font, and size of the lettering.  However, most signs can be seen from a distance of about 300 to 400 feet.  Neon signs can also be seen in adverse weather conditions, including fog! 

Can neon signs be seen during the day?

The glow of a neon sign is bright enough that it can be seen during the day.  Just like any light, the glow will not be quite as vibrant as it will be against the backdrop of darkness; however, during the day, the color and wording of your neon sign will be clearly legible. The only exception to this would be the color white which is like shinning a flashlight in the daytime.

Do the neon signs from come with hardware to hang it?

Yes!  Every one of our neon signs is shipped with a chain and hanging hardware, so you can hang it in your window or mount it on a wall quickly and easily. 

Can I turn my neon sign on and off?

Yes, all of the signs from are made with an on and off switch so that you can turn the sign off when it is not in use. You can also turn off flashing or animation features if you so desire.

Can I order custom neon signs through your website?

Yes!  Simply click on the “Custom Neon Signs” link on our website and browse our examples of custom signs.  Choose a style you like and notate the model number, then go back to the “Custom Neon Signs” section and enter your name, email address, and the chosen model number in the form.  Continue to fill out the order form with the information you want customized for your sign.  Submit the form, and a sales rep will send you a written price estimate. If you are satisfied with the price, you can e-mail us back and receive a drawing prepared by our designer. If you like the drawing, you will be able to place an on-line order for your sign.

For all other non-custom sign orders, you can also submit payment online as well through our secure checkout system. Just click the "add to cart" button below the product image.

How do you determine the cost of your neon signs?

The cost of our neon signs are determined by the size, number of colors, and complexity of the sign.  For instance, signs with more text will require more labor from our experienced neon glass benders.  It is our mission to provide you with the best possible pricing for your neon signs, and we vow to always charge you a fair industry price. 

How will my neon sign be shipped?

Our neon signs are boxed and double packed with extra foam protection.  The signs are generally shipped through UPS or Fed Ex. For large orders, we bundle the shipment on pallets and contract a trucking company to make the delivery.  When your order is shipped, we will email you the tracking number so you can know when to expect delivery. offers a 100% no breakage guarantee. If your sign is damaged when you receive it, contact us immediately and we will replace it free of charge. 

Is my neon sign under warranty?

Yes!  All of Neon Sign World’s signs come with a 1-year warranty on electrical components. 

Are your signs American made?

Yes!  Neon Sign World is a firm believer in selling American-made products and we guarantee that all of our signs are made in the continental US by highly skilled neon glass benders. Our neon sculptures, neon pictures, and neon clocks are made overseas and purchased through suppliers in this country.

Please go to our Product Info page to learn more about the types of signs we sell.

Neon Signs – A Brief History 

We often see neon signs throughout our day but rarely give much thought to the history of neon signage.  This item has been a very popular form of advertising or accessory product.  We’ll discuss a little of the history and evolution of the neon sign. 

The neon sign evolved from what was called the Geissler tube.  It was basically a glass tube that contained gas.  The gas was kept below room atmospheric pressure. When this gas was electrified, it created a glow. 

These Geissler tubes were very popular in the late 1800’s and they could emit different colors depending upon the type of gas contained within the tube.  However, it was found that the gases used were unsuitable for general lighting since the pressure inside the tube dropped over time. 

An improvement to the Geissler tube was the Moore tube that used nitrogen or carbon dioxide as the gas that provided luminescence.  These tubes also had a patented way to maintain adequate pressure and were used for commercial lighting applications for a number of years beginning in the early 1900’s. 

The use of neon as a gas for lighting was discovered in 1898.  It was found that this gas provided a bright red glow when used in Geissler tubes.  Following this, neon tubes were used initially in scientific instruments and as a novelty. 

The first sign that used neon tubes was created by Perly Nutting and was displayed at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition of 1904.  It displayed the word “neon” and was quite a novelty. 

Neon was in short supply at that time but within a few years, the French company Air Liquide began to produce commercial quantities of the gas.  An associate of the Air Liquide founder realized the commercial and advertising possibilities of signage using this technology and produced a large sign for Cinzano vermouth in 1913.  By 1919, even the entrance to the Paris Opera was decorated with neon tube lighting. 

Over the years improvements were made to the production of the neon gas as well as the lighting mechanisms for these signs.  The technology continued to evolve with the introduction of special coatings to enhance the brilliance of the lighting and the ability to display a multitude of different colors.  As a matter of fact, there are now over 100 different colors available to neon sign designers and fabricators. 

The neon sign continues to play an important part in advertising and as an attractive design accessory.



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