LED vs. Fluorescence

The Hidden Benefit of LED Lighting in Signs

When people think about the benefits of LED lighting in signage, what comes to mind most often is energy savings. And while the energy savings are significant, the greatest impact to the bottom line actually lies elsewhere—in annual maintenance costs.

On average, converting signs from fluorescent to LED can reduce maintenance cycles from as much as two to three times per year to just once every five to 10 years.

An LED sign being assembled in Harbinger's Shop

Long Life

Consider the following: At a minimum, a fluorescent bulb burns out in a pylon sign a couple of times a year. And while the cost of a new fluorescent bulb is minimal, the sign owner must pay for service technicians, a bucket truck, and safe disposal of the fluorescent bulb (which contains toxic mercury). The cost for just one bulb going out can range from hundreds of dollars to thousands of dollars depending on the location.

The best bet for cost savings? Invest in durable, long-life lighting to avoid this scenario altogether. LED lights running 10 hours per day can last a decade or more. This can mean zero maintenance costs over the life of the sign, as typically sign owners will rebrand or refresh signs at least once a decade.


Not only do fluorescent bulbs have a shorter lifespan, they are much more fragile than LEDs, making fluorescent-lit signs more susceptible to storms and other weather events, which can wreak havoc on outdoor signage.
This again is where LEDs’ maintenance savings outshine their energy savings. As solid-state devices, LEDs contain no moving parts, filaments or fragile glass to break, greatly reducing the risk of damage during transportation, installation and operation. And less breakage equals less maintenance, leading to overall lower costs.

As more companies explore options for retrofitting their signage to improve efficiency and reduce energy costs, many are weighing the advantages of LED versus fluorescent T5 and T8 lighting.

On average, converting signs from fluorescent to LED can reduce costly maintenance cycles from as much as one to three times per year to just once every five to 10 years. Because LEDs have no filament to burn out, their lifespans average 50,000 hours, far exceeding fluorescent bulbs’ average lifespan of 6,000-7,500 hours. This increased lifespan minimizes service frequency and maintenance requirements over the long term.

LEDs also offer added energy savings and environmental benefits. LEDs require less energy—12 volts versus 110 volts for fluorescent lighting — because they produce more light, or lumens, per watt. This translates to an estimated operational savings of 60 to 80 percent. In addition, unlike fluorescent bulbs, LED bulbs do not contain toxic chemicals, such as mercury. When released in large quantities, mercury is not only harmful to the environment, but also presents health risks. Bulbs that contain mercury are fragile and require special disposal techniques.

See if an LED retrofit is right for your location. Look at this article about the 5 questions to ask yourself to see if an LED retrofit makes sense for your business.

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