Stories & Features

How much is inefficient sign lighting costing you?

Image of neon restaurant sign

'Promotional signs powered by neon or fluorescent lamps just aren't cost effective any more'

Morgan Nicholsfigueiredo knows how to catch a customer's eye. It's why the veteran property manager pays close attention to the quality of the sign lighting at his portfolio of properties across Metro Vancouver. Including what it costs to power them.

"Promotional signs powered by neon or fluorescent lamps just aren't cost effective any more," explains Nicholsfigueiredo, who works for Value Property Group in Vancouver. "The sheer cost to maintain these types of signs is reason enough to consider a switch to LED."

For more than 40 years, Value Property Group has been actively involved in the acquisition, development and management of properties in the metropolitan Vancouver area. The company, which manages more than one million square feet of commercial property across B.C. including Westwood Centre, a popular retail hub in Port Coquitlam, services nearly 300 tenants from its West Broadway headquarters.

Earlier this year, Nicholsfigueiredo upgraded all of the sign lighting at Westwood Centre to LED. "My colleague Dan Lafferty of Relight sent me a proposal that showed the kilowatt-hour savings Westwood Centre would see from a switch to LED signs. I took one look at the numbers and I gave him the green light."

A total of 50 fascia signs and 3 double-sided pylon signs were retrofitted. The project received some financial incentives from BC Hydro and the switch to LED sign lighting is expected to lower electricity costs for tenants at Westwood Centre by approximately $10,000 a year.

"With BC Hydro's help, we've put ourselves in a position where we're able to lower our electricity costs and save money at Westwood Centre. But, for me as the property manager, what's even more important is what we do with the money we save."

Image of illuminated signs at Westwood Centre
Westwood Centre's recently updated LED signage installed with the support of financial incentives from BC Hydro.

On around the clock

Illuminated fascia signage isn't unique to Westwood Centre. It's a common type of commercial signage that appears above the outdoor entryway of standalone businesses and shopping mall stores across B.C. These days, most fascia signs are lit from behind and contain a combination of the business' name and brand mark, contact information and a summary of its services.

Double-sided pylon signs, on the other hand, are a type of outdoor promotional signage mounted high up on a pole or between pillars, usually positioned close to a road. Located on the property but away from the building, pylon signs list the names of the businesses on the premise. One of the primary purposes of an illuminated pylon sign is to make it easy for drivers passing by to see the names of the businesses on site.

Both types of signs are in many cases not turned off at night, meaning the signs consume – and tenants pay for – electricity constantly after dark.

LED signs use just over 1 watt per linear foot; fluorescent signs use 18, and neon signs 12

LED sign technology has seen rapid advancement in recent years and its popularity continues to grow because it uses significantly less power per linear foot than fluorescent and neon signs: just 1 to 1.5 watts per linear foot of sign (a linear foot is 12 inches).

By comparison, a fluorescent sign uses on average 18 watts, while a neon sign uses 12. LED signs also last much longer, between 60,000 and 100,000 hours, while fluorescents have a much shorter lifespan, just about 20,000 hours, and neon signs, 60,000 to 80,000 hours.

"Even if I put aside the electricity savings that we're seeing at Westwood Centre, the maintenance savings we've realized are enough to make this the right move again and again," says Nicholsfigueiredo. "After all, a dollar saved is a dollar earned for hard-working tenants, like ours."