Poor color quality and light level are two of the calling cards of “heat stroke” in an LED sign—ignore these symptoms at your own peril.
Heat Management = Healthier LED Signs
Your typical light source dissipates heat outward from the source, such as a light-bulb. Light-bulbs are pretty hot on the surface but feel cooler and cooler the further you move away.
LEDs, on the other hand, hold onto that heat and can slowly break down as a result of constant use and overheating. Red LEDs, for example, have a habit of burning out faster and leaving behind a blue hue where there should be white light.
Thermal management is crucial to make sure your investment lasts for a long time and continues operating at peak performance. LED sign manufacturers deal with thermal management by using:
- Heat sinks: pieces of metal spread out to both draw away heat and allow air to flow across hot components
- MCPCBs, or metal core printed circuit boards: an expensive and less-common alternative to heat sinks
- Separation: one of the most popular methods for LED sign heat management, where LEDs are spaced further away from the circuit board which can provide enhanced air flow
Whichever method your sign uses, the name of the game is keeping dangerously high temperatures from destroying your sign.
Unfortunately, not every LED message board is engineered with top-tier heat management design principles, which leads us to…
LED signs and heat – LED Sign Design Flaws
Heat kills LED signs slowly, sort of like that analogy you might have heard about the frog in the pot of slowly boiling water. By the time you notice the telltale signs of heat damage, your sign is likely well past its manufacturer warranty. Some of the design flaws that could cost you big include:
1. Heavy, dark silicone backing on your printed circuit board
Silicone coatings are awesome for reducing condensation exposure (which can cause some nasty oxidation in your sign’s metal bits), but a far better alternative is known as conformal PCB coating.
Simply put, heavy silicone traps heat and accelerates sign death, while light silicone does not, and still keeps condensation out.
2. LED signs without shaded protection
Face plate louvers (a fancy way to describe the piece on the front of your sign that shields it from the sun) are sort of like a beach umbrella—they let your sign enjoy its time in the great outdoors without overheating.
What’s more, these louvers also allow your sign to shine brighter during the sunniest parts of the day. These are two huge benefits, and it goes without saying that signs without these louvers are just a recipe for disaster.
3. Fully exposed LED modules
When LED modules are fully enclosed (as opposed to giving them some rear breathing room), you’re virtually guaranteed to run into overheating problems.
Fully enclosed modules should at least have some kind of way to draw heat away from your modules to the sign’s back plate—if not, you should steer clear.
It’s Up to the Manufacturer to Protect Your Investment
LED sign maintenance is important, for sure. But great design is perhaps even more critical to the long-term health and operation of your sign. If the manufacturer has put little effort into managing heat and other issues during the design and manufacturing of their products, you should think twice about spending a significant sum on one of their signs.
At MEGA, we take heat management seriously. Our signs are built to withstand the heat of the summer sun even in places like New Mexico, California, and Arizona, and still keep on kicking, and there’s a reason customers call our LED signs some of the most reliable they’ve ever seen.
Get in touch with us today to find out more about what LED can do for your business.