Neon Sign Repair: Helpful Tips and Tricks
Neon signs are bright and beautiful. They can showcase products to generate awareness and sales for businesses, create an artistic focal point for a photo op, or add a cozy aesthetic to your home. But when your neon sign breaks, figuring out how to repair it can be a headache.
Because classic neon signs are often handcrafted, it can be particularly difficult to determine where to start.
We’re here to help. Read on to learn what to expect, how to handle your broken neon sign, and the next steps you can take to repair your neon sign.
Yes, Neon Signs Can Be Dangerous
Before doing anything else, make sure you take the proper safety precautions around your neon sign. Neon signs, and especially older neon signs, can be extremely dangerous if handled incorrectly.
Remember: you should always turn off and unplug your neon sign before touching it.
Neon signs expose gas encased in glass tubing to a high voltage in order to shine. This creates the bright glow we associate with vintage neon signs, but it also makes these signs more dangerous.
Always use extreme caution when handling your neon sign. While LED signs are typically low voltage (12 to 24 volts), neon signs require a very high voltage in order to light up. Failing to turn off and unplug your sign before handling could result in a severe electric shock. With the average neon sign running on 9,000 to 20,000 volts of electricity, handling a broken neon sign while it’s plugged in can be a fatal mistake.
Additionally, older neon signs were often made with lead glass, and some neon signs contain mercury as well. (Fun fact: red and pink neon signs will usually use actual neon gas. Other colors typically contain other elements besides neon. While most of these are harmless, blue neon signs can contain small amounts of mercury.)
The amounts of lead and mercury in these neon signs are generally small enough to be non-toxic. However, you will still want to be careful if you suspect a break or leak in your neon sign. Wear protective gear including gloves and a mask, and beware of any broken glass!
Can I repair my neon sign?
For the most part, the state of disrepair your sign is in will determine how expensive the repair will be. Most neon signs can be fixed, though the cost of repairing them varies depending on the quality of the sign and the extent of the break.
If you have an older neon sign, you should never try to repair the sign yourself. Take your older sign directly to a professional. They will be able to diagnose the problem and determine how expensive it will be to fix. In some cases, especially if your neon sign is dimmer than usual, your neon sign may simply be getting old. Neon signs typically have a lifespan of 10-12 years on average.
If your sign is newer (and intact), you can find some DIY walkthrough solutions for fixing your sign online. However, we still recommend that you seek out a professional opinion. These neon sign DIY fixes are generally only applicable for issues like a broken transformer or wires that have shorted, and they are dangerous to you if performed incorrectly.
If your sign is brand new, it is also worth checking the return policies and warranties for the company you purchased the sign from. Although most signage companies don’t offer money-back refunds, particularly for customized neon signs, many do offer warranties for specific issues or design flaws.
How much does it cost to repair a neon sign?
It depends. How did the sign break? What's the extent of the break? Was the sign made out of quality materials, or did the manufacturer cut corners? With handcrafted neon signs, no two signs will be identical. Unfortunately, this means that there is no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to neon sign repair.
Fixing a broken or low-quality transformer will be different than fixing broken neon glass. If your sign has shattered, even if only partially, that fix will be even more intensive.
In the best case scenario, which would be a loose wire, you should anticipate spending a minimum of $50-60 for the fix. Repair costs will likely edge closer to $300-400 for small breaks in the glass or transformer issues. For more serious problems, or for larger signs with greater complexity and customization, repairing your broken neon could potentially cost upwards of $1000.
The quality of neon sign repair you choose also impacts the price. More experienced professionals will be better able to diagnose and fix your sign, but they will also be more expensive to hire.
On the flipside, if you are confident, DIY solutions for fixing signs can cut costs slightly. However, this will also be a more complicated (and dangerous) alternative to turning to the professionals.
How should I be taking care of my neon sign?
Running regular maintenance on your neon sign can help prevent dimming and burnout. While this cannot prevent breaks in the glass, it can minimize the need for professional repair services.
The first rule of thumb in preventing future problems is leaving your neon sign on 24/7 when not handling. Although energy-efficiency is important, both in terms of helping the planet and saving you money, neon lights tend to work better when left on, unlike most other lighting solutions.
Regularly cleaning your neon sign can also prevent future damage and help keep your sign shining brightly for years to come. Once again, always turn off and unplug your neon sign before touching it. After turning off and unplugging your sign, you’ll be able to clean it gently. A soft cloth or clean paintbrush is effective for removing dust, dirt, cobwebs, and other buildup.
Be extremely careful when handling the neon sign. Tempering the glass to create neon tubing weakens the glass, making it fragile and much more prone to breakage than other types of glass.
If your neon sign is outside, you may also want to consider investing in a bug trap near the sign. Your bright neon sign will be a beacon to bugs, which can partially block the light and require you to clean the sign more often.
Looking for a new sign?
Broken neon signs are no fun. For many neon sign breaks, the cost of repair can be even higher than the initial cost of the sign. This can be problematic to businesses trying to maintain visibility without spending a fortune. We understand your frustrations, and that’s exactly why we designed an LED sign alternative to neon signs. Our signs are easy to repair, durable enough to be driven over by a car, and best of all, come with a one-year warranty.
SpellBrite doesn’t offer repair services for broken neon signs, but with over 20 years of experience creating illuminated signs that look like neon, we can help you figure out where to start and what your next steps should be in finding a new signage solution. Call us at (312)575-9620 or email [email protected] for more information. You can also browse our website to explore some of our most effective business signs by industry, including open signs, restaurant signs, smoke shop signs, and more, or you can receive an immediate online quote for a new custom sign.