When was the last time you were walking down the street, when vibrant red signage caught your attention? Those are what we call neon signs. They’re funky. They’re bright. They’re distantly prominent, and above all, they’re great for advertising!
But what you may not know is that there’s a vast difference between neon and fluorescent lights!
How do the two types of bulbs work?
a. Neon lights
Neon lights have a simple mechanism. There’s a glass tube with some sort of gas in it at low pressure inside. The gas could be neon, krypton, or argon. The tube is enclosed by metal electrodes at both ends. When the electrodes receive a high voltage, they cause the neon gas to ionize. This happens because electrons now flow through the gas. As a result, the electrons pass their energy to the neon atoms, causing them to emit light. Neon gas, in particular, emits red light when energized.
Using another gas will lead to another color.
b. Fluorescent lights
On the other hand, fluorescent lights contain mercury vapor at low-pressure. When these vapors are ionized (similar to the way neon is ionized), they emit UV light.
Since human skin is sensitive to UV light (although human eyes are not), the inside of this light bulb is coated with phosphor. Phosphor is a substance that converts energy into visible light.
In the fluorescent bulbs, phosphor collects the energy of ultraviolet photons and converts them into visible photons. In conclusion, phosphor fluoresces itself in its energized form—hence the name.
Which one is a better option?
There is no definitive answer to this.
If you’re concerned about electricity usage, fluorescent bulbs might be a better option for you. Neon lights use extremely small amperage. On the other hand, fluorescent lights use up huge amounts of current. At the same time, neon lights only create a mild, soft glow that makes a room look ambient and atmospheric. On the flip side, fluorescent bulbs produce brighter outputs.
Florescent lights can’t be used for signage since the light that they produce is varying shades of whites. In the case of neon lights, the color depends on what kind of gases you’re using in the tubes. Most of these gases are known to radiate bright shades of blues, greens, and reds.
At RHK Electrical, we help you deal with all sorts of signage and lighting services, including neon bulbs! Whether you need security lights for your store or display lighting for your retail outlet—get in touch! We are based in Cyprus, Texas.