Wiring illuminated signs

Controlling illuminated signage

At LE Graphics we take care of the full installation of your illuminated signage. Generally modern signs are illuminated using low voltage LED's which are super energy efficient, give a lovely even illumination in a wide variety of colour choices and last an incredibly long time. In fact most of our LED's now come with a ten year warranty.

To install your sign all we need is a suitable point for us to connect into the wiring of your premises. This connection point will be discussed with you when the sign is ordered but is normally in the form of a standard 13A wall socket. This way our low voltage power supplies can be simply plugged in and out for super easy future maintenance. We will normally try and place the power supplies (one or more depending on the size of the sign) in a convenient location out of sight, for example in a cupboard or above a ceiling tile.

If there is already a suitable connection point in place then we can connect your sign to it. If however, a connection point needs to be provided then this should be put in place by a qualified and registered electrician. We can appoint an electrical contractor to do this but most clients prefer to use their own electrician, who will generally be familiar with the wiring in the premises.

It is at this point that you should give consideration to how your sign will be controlled and by that we mean how it will switch on and off. There are several methods of control and will will discuss them in turn.

Manual switch

The most basic method to control your sign is a standard manual switch - just like the light switches in your office or home. This relies on you, or a team member, remembering to turn the switch on and off at appropriate times.
The problem with manual switching is that either you forget to turn the sign on at dusk and will miss out on all the advantages of even having illuminated signage in the first place.
Or, perhaps worse, you forget to turn the sign off, putting unnecessary hours on the LEDs and Power Supplies not to mention increased running costs and environmental impact of unnecessary or wasteful use of electricity.

Time switch

Installing a time switch or timeclock will help to automate the control of your signs, and is a step up from manual switching in that at least the sign will turn on and off daily.

Time switches are available in analogue (like the one shown) or digital versions, with some even being able to turn the sign on and off multiple times a day or at different times on different days.

However there is a major drawback with this method too.

Hours of darkness change with the seasons. Typically, where we are based, signs will need to come on at around 4pm in mid winter. However in mid summer it will not be dark until nearer 11pm. Consequently if you program your time clock for winter hours of darkness, you will be using power unnecessarily for up to seven hours a day in summer.

You could adjust the time clock programming, but as it's a gradual change between seasons, you would need to reprogram at least once a week for effective and economical control.

Photo cell

A photocell is basically a daylight / darkness sensor. Typically used to control street lights and other outdoor lighting.

The sensitivity can be adjusted and once the pre-set level of darkness falls the photocell will automatically turn your sign on. When daylight returns the photocell will turn the sign off again.

The advantage of photocell control is that regardless of season the sign will always be lit at dusk. Of course the disadvantage for a lot of businesses is that the sign will stay lit all night and most businesses do not want the expense and wear of their sign running at 4am!

Ultimate control

So, what is the answer?

Well, our recommendation is to use a combination of all of the above methods to have a fully automated, no hassle, cost effective control system for your illuminated signage.

We recommend wiring a time clock and a photocell in series,

The photocell will turn your sign on when it's getting dark (regardless of the time of year) and the time clock will turn the sign off again at your predetermined time .

For example - set the time clock to be on from 3pm to 3am daily. Once the photocell detects light falling it will turn on and so long as it's after 3pm then the time clock will also be on and the sign will light.

Once 3am comes (or whatever time you feel that your customers are all safely tucked up in bed), then the time clock turns off. The photocell is still on, but as they are wired in series both controllers need to be on and so in this case the sign will turn off reducing costs and environmental impact.

Once set up this method will work year round with no adjustments needed.

Our recommended method of wiring and controlling your sign using a combination of photocell and time clock.

If you have any questions about wiring or controlling your sign, just give us a call or drop us a message using the form at the bottom of this page and we’ll be happy to help in any way we can.

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