The environment in which businesses operate today has never been more challenging. In the “good old days,” brick-and-mortar retailers would need to ensure they could rise above the local competition, attracting footfall through property location, brand visuals and superiority of offer.

Today, executives must grab the attention of customers both online and offline, ensuring a consistent, high-quality brand experience that drives consumer loyalty.

Yet, keeping close control over the operational expenses of the business is just one challenge. In the current era of consumer awareness and acknowledgement that we are facing a global climate emergency, sustainability has become a crucial consideration for companies. And by extension the entire business, from facilities management to brand marketing.

Signage is one of the key touch points of between a business and its customers, sending subliminal messages about its services, values, heritage and quality and (hopefully) bringing them into the store as a result.

Traditionally, the large external signs needed to stand out against a crowded skyline and offer reliable, long-term performance across a typical lifespan of approximately five years. Many such signs are difficult to access, so once installed, it’s critical that maintenance requirements should be minimised, and lighting failure eliminated. Therefore, when tendering for new signage, brands must consider not only the upfront cost of the design and installation but also the total cost of ownership (energy consumption, maintenance, disposal) as well as its role in supporting the company’s sustainability targets. With the support of lighting partners like GE Current, a Daintree company, sign makers are helping organisations balance these variables, whilst creating illuminated designs that showcase their skills and entice consumers.

Switching to sustainable lighting

For years, the industry has looked to 12-volt (V) lighting modules to illuminate channel letter signs, making it the de facto standard. However, in 2017, Current introduced its first Tetra® 24V LED modules for channel letters, applying years of product research and testing.  Since then, Current has fully embraced the opportunity presented by 24V, developing a comprehensive suite of 24V LED modules for channel letters.

From our conversations with both end customers and signage partners, the number of scenarios where a 12V system makes more sense than a 24V system is rapidly shrinking,” explains David Williamson, Sales General Manager EMEA – LED Specialty at Current. “Even in franchise models where the head office may not need to shoulder the total cost of ownership, they still need to design their signage specifications in a way that meets corporate sustainability goals whilst maintaining the quality standards expected of the brand.

For example, global brands like JD Sports and the Hilton and Marriott hotel chains require that all their properties offer a consistent brand experience, setting detailed and stringent specifications for every aspect of the business, including the design and build of their signs.

The 24V has a definite advantage

Compared with 12V, 24V lighting systems offer a number of advantages from both a financial and environmental perspective:

Lower Reliance power supplies

12V LED modules are regulated to run off a 60-watt power supply, whereas the 24V modules are connected to a 100-watt power supply. This additional 40W capacity enables more LED modules to be run from each power supply, meaning fewer are required for each complete letter set.

This in turn accelerates installation as fewer connections are needed and lowers material costs by reducing the number of power supplies and associated wiring. As the power supply is one of the most common points of failure in an illuminated sign, fewer components at risk of potential failure also lower potential maintenance costs.

Sign makers can boost customer satisfaction and safeguard the longevity of their design by ensuring that they use the highest quality power supplies that can withstand challenging environmental conditions and reduce the number of in-warranty repairs.

Overall, using a 24V LED system can reduce the volume of materials in each sign by approximately 50%. This results in less landfill at the end of life, helping the end customer meet increasingly challenging sustainability goals without compromising their quality standards or brand image.

Energy and light efficiencies

It’s no secret that LED lighting technology offers a considerable energy savings when compared with more traditional methods like neon. However, Current has pushed the technology and design of the 24V Tetra modules to their limits in order to offer even higher energy savings above and beyond the industry standard.

Firstly, the LED modules themselves generate more light output per watt of electricity (up to 161 lumens per watt in certain modules compared with the standard 100 to 120 lumens per watt expected from a similar product).

This means that the same level of sign illumination can be achieved with less energy, or a larger sign can be lit effectively with the equivalent energy consumption. Alternatively, brands can choose a higher illuminance in order to stand out against a crowded skyline at night.

Yet, the strength of illumination isn’t the only critical factor. Sign makers and lighting designers work closely to ensure that the LED modules are laid out in the most efficient way possible to illuminate the face of each channel letter uniformly. Any hot spots or shadows may devalue the brand and undermine the first impressions received by visitors.

Current’s LED modules achieve brighter, more uniform results thanks to the company’s OptiLens X technology, which has been introduced across the entire 24V Tetra portfolio. Each LED is covered by a lens, which not only offers further protection from harsh environmental conditions, but also boosts the viewing angle of each LED, distributing the light emitted evenly up to 175 degrees. This allows the modules to be spaced farther apart, further reducing the modules needed in order to illuminate each letter in the sign.

Overall cost of ownership

If asked, particularly in this climate of sustainability, it’s highly unlikely that leadership teams would opt to pay more for their company signage across its lifetime. However, this is the argument that many in the industry still put forward when evaluating 24V against 12V solutions. While 24V systems tend to require a slightly higher upfront cost than their 12V counterparts, fewer materials coupled with lifetime energy savings, lower disposal costs and a smaller carbon footprint combine to create an advantage that’s difficult to beat.

By helping their customers to plan their signage budgets more effectively against longer-term C-suite goals, sign makers can focus on offering greater value by redeploying their labour to design and consultancy services, rather than the build and installation phases.

For more insights into how Current is helping companies align their signage to their high-level business goals, along with a detailed illustration of the financial, energy and carbon savings offered by the company’s 24V systems vs 12V, take a look at our latest whitepaper Following the Signs: Brand and the Bottom Line