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Can you still get neon lights?

Can you still get neon lights?

Neon lights have long been a staple of advertising and decor. Their vibrant colors and striking glow make them an eye-catching addition to signs, art pieces, and more. While neon lighting reached peak popularity in the mid-20th century, it is still very much around today. So can you still get neon lights in the modern era? The short answer is yes. While they may not be quite as ubiquitous as they once were, neon signs and lighting are still readily available from a number of manufacturers and suppliers.

A Brief History of Neon Lights

The origins of neon lighting can be traced back to the 18th century when British scientist and theologian William Ramsay isolated neon as an element. However, it was not until the 1910s that neon was used for lighting and signs. French engineer Georges Claude first applied an electrical charge to a sealed tube of neon gas, creating a bright red glow. From there, Claude started working with neon in advertising signs. His company Claude Neon, opened in 1923, was one of the first neon sign companies.

Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, neon signs grew tremendously in popularity in the United States. They were embraced for their bright, vibrant colors that stood out boldly against the night. By the 1940s, neon signs were a fixture of the American landscape, lighting up everything from dense urban areas to roadside motels. Major cities like Las Vegas, Times Square, and parts of Los Angeles became glowing showcases of elaborate neon artistry.

Neon lighting continued to thrive commercially through the 1960s. However, factors like the transition to light-emitting diode (LED) lighting began to eat into neon’s market share. While neon lighting is not as widespread today, it remains an iconic hallmark of 20th century pop culture. The craftmanship and tradition of neon signs is still carried on by artists and neon shops.

The Benefits of Neon Lighting

So what has allowed neon lighting to persist even with new lighting technologies? There are several unique benefits that neon lighting offers:

Vibrant, Distinctive Glow

The neon glow is caused by electricity exciting neon gas atoms. This produces a brightly colored discharge. Neon can produce a range of vibrant hues like red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, and pink. This variety allows for unlimited branding and design possibilities. Neon’s diffuse glow also creates a warm, soft lighting effect. This eye-catching luminosity makes neon ideal for signs, art, decor, and more.


Neon glass tubing and lighting components are very durable. Neon lasts for an average of 15 years with proper power supply and transformer equipment. With maintenance, neon signs can last for decades. This makes neon a wise long-term investment for business signage or permanent artistic installations.

Energy Efficient

Neon lighting only requires a small amount of electricity. Neon tubes themselves do not produce much heat either. This makes neon a more energy efficient lighting option than incandescent bulbs. Neon’s efficiency also helps lower energy costs.

Nostalgic Novelty

For many, neon invokes a sense of mid-century nostalgia. Its retro charm and recognition makes neon lighting an appealing novelty. This can attract interest for businesses and artists seeking something distinctive. Combining neon with modern interior design creates a unique blend of vintage style and contemporary trends.

Where Can You Still Get Neon Lights?

So where can you actually find neon lighting today? While not as commonplace as it once was, there are still many excellent suppliers producing and selling neon products:

Neon Sign Companies

There are specialized neon sign fabricators that design and create custom neon signs and lighting. Many focus on exterior business signs, while others make interior neon art pieces and decor items. Custom neon provides limitless possibilities for names, logos, graphics, and display styles.

Online Retailers

The internet has opened up neon access, making it easy to purchase a vast assortment of neon lights online. Retailers like Amazon carry ready-made neon signs, neon art supplies, and neon light strips/tubes. Products range from small DIY kits to large professionally-made signs.

Hardware Stores

Some home improvement stores have begun stocking basic neon lighting again. This includes neon flex strips and pre-made neon signage geared towards home decor. While selection is limited, hardware store neon provides an accessible option for informal neon projects.

Lighting Showrooms

Lighting showrooms and lamp stores in some areas may carry neon lighting options beyond just simple neon flex tubing. This allows you to get professional decorative neon pieces locally rather than having to order online.

Flea Markets/Antique Stores

Searching vintage-focused markets can turn up classic neon finds. While not functional, old neon signs add nostalgic character. Just be cautious about condition and repair needs with vintage neon.

Is Neon Easy to Install?

For small DIY neon projects, installation is fairly straightforward. Here are some tips on easily working with neon:

– Carefully measure area and gather materials/tools beforehand. For signs, map out lettering.

– Ensure the installation surface is smooth. Use primer/sealer if needed.

– Neon is fragile – handle tubes gently and do not bend sharply. Wear gloves when handling.

– Use clear silicone adhesive to mount neon tubing in the desired shape.

– Connect neon transformer to power neon tubing. Hide any exposed wiring.

– Use plastic wire clips to neatly attach neon flex strips.

– Hire an electrician if you are uncomfortable working with wiring.

– Larger neon sign installations are best left to professionals.

With the right planning, neon can be installed safely and effectively in residential or commercial settings. Using an experienced neon sign company is recommended for large, complex projects. Proper installation ensures your neon lighting looks and functions beautifully.

Is Neon Expensive?

Neon pricing can vary substantially based on the type and size of the neon lighting:

Small DIY Kits

For small neon projects, DIY neon flex tube kits cost $10-$50. These contain the materials for simple neon strip lighting.

Pre-Made Signs

Mass produced neon bar/open signs range from $100-$500. More intricate pre-made signs can cost $500-$1,500.

Custom Neon Signs

Professionally fabricated custom neon signs cost $1,500-$5,000 on average. Larger marquee signs can cost $5,000-$10,000.

Neon Art Pieces

For neon art by specialist artists, prices run $500-$5,000 based on size and complexity.

So while large neon signage carries premium pricing, smaller neon decor projects can be relatively affordable. The initial expense is offset by neon’s durability and energy efficiency. For a business, neon’s eye-catching nature makes it a worthwhile investment to attract customers.

Is Neon Hard to Maintain?

With proper maintenance, neon lighting can last for decades. Here are some key considerations for keeping neon in good condition:

– Use a clean, voltage-regulated power supply to avoid irregular surges.

– Occasionally dust neon tubing with a microfiber cloth to keep it clean.

– Check for any cracked, damaged, or heated glass. Repair or replace compromised tubing.

– Watch for any dim or flickering areas, a sign of depleting gas or electrodes.

– Have neon professionally re-gassed every 8-10 years to replenish neon and prevent black spots.

– Repair any loose wiring connections or degraded transformer components.

– Keep neon sheltered in climate controlled conditions. Avoid exterior neon in extreme weather.

– Consider regular professional neon inspections to catch minor issues before they worsen.

With attentive care and maintenance, neon lighting can glow for years to come. While not maintenance-free, neon does not require intensive upkeep when properly serviced.

Is Neon Safe?

Neon lighting does come with safety considerations. When properly installed and handled, neon is generally safe:

– Neon should be installed well out of reach to avoid accidental contact.

– Always turn off power via the transformer before servicing neon.

– Neon can reach high temperatures. Allow neon to fully cool before handling to prevent burns.

– Neon emits a small amount of UV radiation. Avoid directly viewing neon at extremely close range.

– Use electrical tape or caps to cover exposed wire ends and prevent shocks.

– Neon transformers require adequate ventilation to prevent overheating.

– Hire an experienced professional if unfamiliar with working with neon and electricity.

With common sense safety practices, neon makes for a safe, responsible lighting option. Children and pets should of course be supervised around any electrical lighting. Contact a neon specialist about proper disposal and recycling of neon components. When in doubt, consult the manufacturer’s warnings and instructions.

Neon vs. LED – What’s the Difference?

With the advance of LED lighting, how does neon compare? Here are the key contrasts between the technologies:

Light Source

– Neon: Light produced by neon gas striking electrodes inside a glass tube.

– LED: Light produced by a semiconductor chip enclosed in epoxy resin.


– Neon: More energy efficient than incandescent, less than LED.

– LED: Extremely energy efficient and long-lasting.


– Neon: Wide range of colors based on neon tube gases. Diffuse, warm glow.

– LED: All colors possible, but some can seem harsh/cold.


– Neon: Average 15 years, can last decades with maintenance.

– LED: Average 50,000+ hours, can last over a decade.


– Neon: Moderate to expensive for custom neon signage.

– LED: Affordable, with costs continuing to decrease.


– Neon: Classic, vintage, retro aesthetic.
– LED: Modern, technology-focused aesthetic.

So neon and LED offer differing benefits. Neon provides a timeless warmth and artistic flair. But LED is far more affordable and efficient. The choice comes down to the desired lighting personality. For some applications, combining neon and LED creates the best of both technologies!

Future of Neon

What does the future look like for neon lighting? Here are some outlooks and trends:

– Neon unlikely to reclaim former ubiquity, but will remain a lighting specialty.

– Focus shifting to artistic and decorative niche applications vs. mass commercial signage.

– Neon preservation important as mid-century neon artifacts hold cultural significance.

– Neon lighting being merged with modern interior design for an eclectic mix of old and new.

– Advances like argon/neon gas blends improving neon lifespan and efficiency.

– Artisan neon skills being passed down to new generations of glassbenders.

– Neon collectibles market continuing to grow. Vintage neon signs are increasingly valued.

While neon lighting will never return to the near dominance it held decades ago, its unique charm and craft ensure it is here to stay. Neon’s inherent artistry will appeal to designers, artists, businesses, and anyone seeking to make a bold decorative statement. The future is bright for neon!


Neon lighting has come a long way from its early 20th century origins, evolving over decades while remaining an iconic fixture of Americana. Despite the rise of modern lighting like LEDs, neon endures as a beloved specialty lighting medium. The vibrant glow, range of colors, and handmade artistry make neon an eye-catching choice. With proper care, neon signs and decor can work reliably for years. While no longer as widespread as during its mid-century heyday, neon is here to stay. Driven by its nostalgic appeal and sleek, luminous style, neon lighting can add warmth, personality, and visual drama to any setting or space.