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  • Auhtor:    Time:3/11/2015   Hits:615
  • As is my usual position, it is your job to do the research and determine the differences of these systems. It is also your responsibility to ask your potential vendor questions about their recommendations on how to illuminate any given application. Ask the right questions and make sure that you know the following, relative to each system:

    Know and understand the necessary materials.
    Know and understand the vendors specs for the quantities recommended.
    Know and understand the voltage requirements at the illuminated LED's.
    Know and understand the code requirements (there are two variations of the power supplies discussed in the following text).
    Know and understand the power consumption of not only each system, but of the different colors, as they have different consumption needs.
    Ask the vendor if they will provide pricing support and what happens if you need more or less materials?
    Ask the vendor if they will provide industry and application specific detailed drawings?
    Ask for and get in some form of a hard copy, the warranty information and when the warranty starts.
    Ask for some form of illumination data, especially if you have not seen the system, and be sure to check for the different colors.
    You may have more or less questions, but make sure you have the proper information not only to make the right buying decision, but also to support your customer’s needs.

    Power Supply

    An issue that has reared its ugly head as related to the power supplies is "need-to-know" information that has not been freely offered by some of the vendors, specifically the UL48 rating and guidelines. The UL rating for LED low voltage systems is based on using a Class Two power supply. A Class Two power supply is a plug-in wall unit like the type you might use for your cell phone charger. Now think about this for a minute: This means that to technically meet the UL inspector's guidelines in your shop during fabrication, you have to use the plug-in type, Class Two power supply. The end user and their electrician must provide an array of multiple plug-in receptacles according to where you will need them. This can sometimes be a costly challenge. On the other hand, the more commercial AC/DC power supplies that have to be hard-wired are not acceptable at the sign shop fabrication level for UL inspector approval. So again, "Buyer Beware” and/or “Fabricator Beware" of this needed specification in your planning.

    The larger more commercial hard-wired units are beneficial as they can illuminate more LED's, but it is only the Class Two units that are acceptable for in-shop fabrication and the UL inspector. On the other hand, if your LED vendor has ETL certification, here is how it works: At the job site, if the inspector shows up, and you are using the larger commercial power supplies (hard-wired units), they have to accept them, as ETL has to be accepted, if UL is required. Not knowing this could cause a lot of headache and name-calling. It is your choice as to how you want to handle this, but just be aware of the code differences and the way they affect you, especially if you are a UL shop.

    Power savings are a real advantage to the end user when looking at LED vs. neon. As usual there is a lot of misinformation about power consumption between these two illumination sources. Regardless, for the red spectrum of LED vs. red neon there is a savings anywhere from 40 to 70% average and up to 90% in the white spectrum (vs. mercury based neon colors). If you are using 60ma transformers, it could be an even greater savings. At least one of the LED vendors offers a factual power consumption chart that you can adjust for hours of operation and the kWh rate. You can also plug in the neon transformer information and have factual numbers to use as a selling tool.

    In closing, you will see more and more LED usage in the sign industry and all industries for that matter. It is only a matter of time before choice or demand will involve you. Good luck in your endeavors to keep your customers happy, because if you don’t, someone else will.

    Fritz Meyne, Jr. is Vice President of Visual Identity Solutions, Inc. in Orlando, Florida. He has been involved with the sign industry since 1972 and has conducted various seminars on back-lit awnings, LED, Fiber Optics and lighting solutions throughout the industry.

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