Are Neon Signs Safe?

Are Neon Signs Safe?

Neon signs are quite a popular signage option that many businesses use for promoting and advertising themselves. If you’re interested in using neon signs for your own premises, you may be a bit worried about whether they are safe or not—especially if you’ve been hearing strange rumors about them.

In this post, we’re going to be looking at the truth about the safety and usability of neon signs.

However, the main takeaway of the entire discussion that you should know beforehand is that neon signs are generally safe to use and they don’t cause the hazards that are popularly and inaccurately attributed to them.  

What are Neon Signs and How Do They Work?

You have probably seen neon signs a lot of times. Although they’re being slowly replaced by more modern signage options, it’s quite common to see them hanging outside small businesses and establishments.

Neon signs are characterized by their bright and vivid “neon” colors. Here is an image of a neon sign.

Here is how neon signs work.

The signs are basically made up of tubes that contain different types of gases. Usually, they are noble gases, i.e., neon, argon, and helium. Sometimes, other gases can be used as well.

When an electric charge is put through the tubes, the gases light up. This makes the sign glow strongly.

As you may have seen yourself, neon signs can be of different colors. Some signs are blue while others are orange or red. The color of these signs is decided by the particular gas that they contain. For example, neon gas gives off red light. Often, various gases are combined to achieve the desired color.

This is the basic explanation of what neon signs are and how they work.

Now, let’s jump into discussing the main question of "Are neon signs safe?"

Are Neon Signs Toxic?

Are Neon Signs Toxic?

The first thing that we’re going to discuss is whether neon signs are toxic or not.

The main reason why this question exists in the first place is because of the common idea that fluorescent tube lights (that look similar to neon signs) are toxic if they break and the gas comes in contact with a person.

Fluorescent tube lights are, in fact, a toxic hazard if they break. They have to be disposed of quickly and should not be touched directly if the glass has a leak or a broken end. The reason for this is that these tubes contain mercury, which is a toxic gas that can cause harm.

However, it has to be remembered that fluorescent tubes are not the same as neon signs. In neon signs, mercury is not as commonly used. While it does become necessary when a certain color composition has to be achieved, a lot of times, gases like neon and argon can suffice.

Gases like neon, argon, and helium are inert. They are not toxic and they don’t cause any harm or damage when touched. In fact, helium is often inhaled recreationally by people to temporarily make their voices shrill.

 The key takeaway of this discussion is this: neon signs are not toxic and they are safe to handle. They normally don’t contain mercury, and even if they do, it is in very small amounts. If a neon sign breaks, you should take caution by not touching it directly and instead disposing of it as quickly as possible. However, should direct contact occur, it is not something that you should be worried about.

Are Neon Signs an Electric Hazard?

Moving on, let's take a look at the question "Are neon signs an electric hazard?"

The short answer to this question is no. Neon signs are not an electric hazard.

Here is why we say this.

Are Neon Signs an Electric Hazard?
  • First of all, neon signs are constructed of glass. The actual material housing the gases through which the current runs is glass. Since glass is a poor conductor of electricity, it won't carry the current to your hand if you touch it. So not only are neon signs non-toxic but they are also properly insulated. That brings the answer to the question of "Is neon dangerous to touch?" to a definitive no.
  • Another reason why neon signs are not an electric hazard is because they use a very low-voltage current. Even if, hypothetically speaking, the current had to be transferred to a person touching the sign, it wouldn’t be very harmful…although this shouldn’t ever be done on purpose.
  • Neon signs are also properly sealed from end to end. There is no room or capacity for the gas or the electric current to emerge and cause harm to a person holding or handing the sign.

Considering the low voltage used in these signs, another question that gets answered by the above discussion is: are neon lights safe to leave on? Yes, they are safe to leave on because they don’t pull a dangerous amount of electricity when working.

Are Neon Signs a Fire Hazard?

Moving on, the next question that a lot of people can ask about neon signs is whether they are a fire hazard or not. Some people may also wonder “Are neon signs hot or not”.

First off, it has to be remembered that neon signs are not a particular fire hazard on their own. In other words, if a neon sign is working properly, there is no cause for concern about it starting a fire. This is enforced by the fact that the current these signs use is very low voltage.

However, since there is electricity involved in the working of these signs, there is a slight chance that they can cause a fire if there is a leak in the tubing and the gas escapes and then comes into contact with something that can ignite it. The chances of that happening are not very high and thus, it is not a problem that you should constantly worry about.

Are Neon Signs a Fire Hazard?

But you should take the necessary precautions such as ensuring that there are no leaks in the tubing and that the sign is not placed anywhere near a source of flame or potential sparks.

Moving on to the other question of whether neon signs are hot to touch, the answer is that they are not. As we said earlier, the current used to light these signs is, comparatively speaking, quite mild.  It does not cause the gases inside to become too hot and as such, the glass also stays at a normal temperature.

Can Neon Signs Break Easily?

Next up in our post on "Are neon signs safe," let's discuss the aspect of whether neon signs can break easily or not.

The glass used for these signs is not super thin nor is it very thick. While it's not very fragile, it is not exactly the strongest material that you'll find.

Neon signs won’t break easily, but they can break upon heavy impact—as would be expected of anything that is made of glass.

We will talk about some tips that you can follow to avoid this happening in the next section.

Tips to Safely Acquire and Use Neon Signs

Now that we have discussed various aspects of the question "Are neon signs safe," let's move on to look at some tips that you can follow when dealing with them to make sure you don't get harmed or hurt.

  • Be extra careful when transporting and installing the signs. In the section above, we’ve talked about how these signs are made of glass, which means that while they aren’t super strong, they aren’t super weak either. When transporting them from the shop to your own premises, you should use a box with proper padding. This will help keep the sign from breaking or chipping and developing a leak. Likewise, when you’re installing the sign, avoid putting too much pressure or force on the actual glass.
  • Don’t use makeshift means to suspend/install the signs. This is another useful tip to keep in mind when installing neon signs. If you do this, then there are chances for the installation to get undone and the sign could fall and break.
  • Do regular inspections of the signs to make sure that there is no breakage or leak. Breaks and leaks in the glass tubing can lead to accidents, and you can avoid them simply by doing some routine checks.

Conclusion

Are neon signs safe to use or not? The answer is a resounding yes. They are safe to use because they are not hot to touch nor do they cause electric shocks.

People may also wonder "Is a broken neon light dangerous to touch?" While the shards of glass are, of course, something to worry about, the actual gases inside are inert and don't cause damage if they come in contact with a person.

We have discussed a number of different aspects related to the safety of neon signs in the post above.

FAQs

Are neon signs and LED neon signs the same thing?

No, they are not. LED neon signs use “faux neon” lights. They are made of acrylic rather than glass, and they don’t use any gases.

Are LED neon signs safe?

Yes, LED neon signs are safe to use. Since they don’t have gases inside them and aren’t made from glass, they are actually safer as compared to normal neon lights.

Are neon lights bad for your eyes?

No, neon lights aren’t bad for your eyes. That’s why they are used in signage.

What to do if a neon sign shatters?

If a neon sign shatters, it should be immediately disposed of. Direct contact should be avoided.

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