Is Your LED Sign Deal Too Good to Be True?

cheapSign2-arrows (2)All men might be created equal, but all LED boards are not. In the past couple of weeks we have been writing about how the lack of a consistent and uniform industry language make understanding pixel pitch and LED sign’s sizes difficult. Yet, there is a bigger issue that we haven’t talked about; how amazing deals often turn into amazing nightmares. And buying low-cost, low-quality LED displays can affect not only the image of your business but be more costly in the long run. You just got off the phone with a new LED manufacturing company. They offered you a deal that was too good to be true. Well, it probably is. New companies appear all the time, with flashy one pager websites and promises that they can offer a comparable LED display for a quarter of the price than any of the LED industry’s known players. Yet, a year later, the company, their promises, and their warranties, are gone. And most likely, so is the health of their LED sign. Beware of companies that mention certifications and credentials but won’t show them to you, or answer your questions about the confusing language they are using. cheapSign1-arrows (2)Even if the LED sign continues working for a while, it will most likely start having color rendering problems, like the sign in the photo. When we dive into the electronics of a display, one of the most expensive components on an LED board is the integrated circuit.. These are the chips that drive the brightness levels of the LED display pixels themselves. High-quality signs usually have a 1:1 or a 1:2 scan ratio where each pin on an integrated circuit powers one or two LED diodes, depending on the pixel pitch of the sign. Opting for a one to two ratio is typically not a cost decision but rather because LED displays with very low pixel pitch (high-resolution) would be too bright and uncomfortable to look at with a 1:1 scan ratio. However, if an LED display manufacturer is intending to cut costs, an easy way to do so is by reducing the number of integrated circuits. That is why these low-end LED manufacturers produce panels with a 1:16 or even 1:32 scan ratio. What that means is that each integrated circuit pin will power 16 or 32 LED diodes. If the scan ratio is too low, you will actually see the LED sign lights flicker, especially in your peripheral vision. If any part of any diode fails, the whole matrix of LED lights powered by the same pin will fail. As a result, you will see black lines or, if the integrated circuit pins are powering lights of just one or two colors, lines with incorrect colors. These LED signs will look run-down and will reflect badly on the business’ image. Often times, these ultra-cheap LED companies will market their indoor signs for outdoor use. The result is LED signs that are not properly sealed and can’t withstand temperature changes, moisture, or dirt. Also, the Light Emitting Diodes require good heat dissipation mechanisms that most of these low-end displays don’t have. Their inferior materials combined with their inadequate sign design makes them prone to overheating and failure. And, since most of these sub-par signs use LED cabinets that means once one panel fails, the whole sign needs to be sent to get repaired. Considering the lifespan of these low-end manufacturing companies, that means most likely the only solution is purchasing a new sign. There is a saying in Spanish that goes “what is cheap ends up costing more”, in the end, an unbelievably cheap LED sign will increase sign-users and sign-shops costs, and cause unnecessary grief and customer defection. When making a big marketing decision like buying an LED sign, business owners have to ask themselves if it’s not more cost effective to purchase a good product that will last significantly longer, and will save them money in the long run with lower energy bills and lower replacements cost. Sign shops should realize that a cheaper product will have a lower profit margin after accounting for the waste associated with all the extra hours of maintenance and customer support calls.