5 Tricks For Troubleshooting A Flickering Illuminated Channel Letter Sign
Channel letters stand out against your building because of their 3D design and internal lighting, but these signs can be tricky to troubleshoot when they start to act up. Whether your sign is illuminated by classic neon tubes or cutting edge LED strips, there's a good chance that you'll experience a flickering problem at least once in the lifetime of the sign. Make sure the technician repairing your sign tries all five of these troubleshooting steps before declaring the sign can't be fixed and needs to be replaced.
Check the Wattage
Did you just invest in a brand new LED sign and are dismayed to find it's already flickering? LED light strips are controlled by devices known as drivers, and these drivers are designed for handling a specific amount of wattage. However, many installers and sign designers think that a 60 watt driver can handle 60 watts of LED lighting when the device should never be loaded more than 80%. This means a 60 watt driver should only have 48 watts actually running through it at any time. Ask the repair technician to verify the driver size and test the load actually placed upon it since this a common mistake and an easy fix. Take care of flickering problems immediately with LED signs or you're risking the chance of burning out those drivers.
Replace the Transformer
In both neon and LED channel letters, the transformers are the prime suspect when it comes to flickering lights. These metal control components are susceptible to corrosion and slowly wear out over the life of a sign, especially if it's kept on 24 hours a day. Transformers are damaged both by overloading and underloading, so make sure that the technician replaces worn out models with the precisely right model based on the wattage demands of the sign or you'll spend more on repairs in the future.
While sign repair technicians are quick to replace transformers in neon channel letters, they often overlook these components in LED signs because the low voltage requirements of these lights do put less wear and tear on these parts. However, the transformer should still be tested and replaced first in LED signs since external conditions like humidity and pests can still damage this part in signs with the lowest electricity requirements.
Measure the Gas Pressure
Since most sign technicians don't come with the costly specialty equipment to fabricate new neon tubes on the spot, they usually spend more time focusing on the wiring and electrical components of the channel letters since these parts are easier for them to fix. However, many flickering problems are directly caused by a loss of gas pressure inside the tube, a problem a technician can fix if they have the right pump and sealing equipment. If replacing the transformers is not working and the technician is spending multiple days trying to find potential short circuiting in the wiring, bring in a technician with gas filling equipment because it's a relatively inexpensive repair that's worth trying before you pay for a week or more of extensive troubleshooting.
Consider the Ground
Of course, problems anywhere in the wiring of a neon sign can cause flickering since short circuiting leads to interruptions in the current flowing into the tubes to light them up. It can take a long time to hunt down damage to the wires in channel letters because the wiring is hidden behind the tubes and letters and hard to access. Ask your repair technician to start their troubleshooting at the ground wire since these wires are particularly prone to developing short circuits and similar problems.
Remove the Dimmer
Do you have a dimmer installed on your LED channel letter sign to give you more control over the display? While it's useful to be able to turn down the brightness and save energy on bright nights, these dimmers also tend to cause flickering problems because they affect the steady supply of electricity to the LED units. Get a repair technician from a company like Apogee Signs to remove any existing dimmers before trying other troubleshooting steps to save time in case this is the cause.