What You Need to Know About Channel Letter Signs

Channel letter signs are easily one of the most attention-grabbing signs to even the most oblivious of observers. When you look around a city or a town, the channel letter signs are probably the ones you notice first and that you will remember later.

Each of the letters stands on its own, casting a shadow so that you can easily read them against the buildings where they are installed. Most channel letter signs are internally illuminated with LED lightning. Because these types of signs are so noticeable, they are quite popular among many different types of businesses and organizations, from hotels and shops to schools and government buildings.

The letters used to make this particular type of sign are usually made with aluminum backs and sides, as well as acrylic faces. Since they are individual letters and internally illuminated, they are visible from quite far away.

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The internal LED’s used to illuminate most channel letters sign has made neon signs obsolete. They are brighter, more energy efficient, longer lasting and less expensive than neon.

With four different types of channel letter signs to choose from and the ability to make completely custom logos and letter styles (fonts), you can make your display look unique from the other business signs around yours even if they are also channel letter signs.

Why Businesses Choose Channel Letter Signs

A look around any shopping area or major industrial area will quickly show you just how popular the channel letter signs are.

Despite there being so many of them, you will notice that they are all unique, and you are more likely to remember them than many other types of signs. Besides being so memorable, there are several reasons why so many companies choose a channel letter sign over many other types:

Shopping Plaza Requirement

Most shopping plazas actually require them for any business that wants to set up shop in the plaza.

This is because they provide a consistent, classy and professional look to the businesses and is much easier to take down if a business moves or closes than other types of signs. Raceway mounted channel letters are the most mandated channel letter signs required by the shopping plazas. These types of channel letter signs require the least amount of holes dilled into the building during installation which makes it easier to replace when a tenant vacates the plaza. However, many plazas still allow all types of channel letters in order to accommodate their tenants desires.

The requirement to use a channel letter sign is not the reason for their popularity though.

Versatility

Because of their versatility, it is easy to make them stand out no matter how many other channel letter signs are in the vicinity.

  • These types of signs are not just about the letters of the business name; you can include your logo for an incredibly classy look.
  • For consistency, you can add signs inside as well, so if you have a shop in a mall or you want to provide easy to read signs (such as for cafes or restrooms) within your facility, you won’t have to worry about sacrificing your established look.
  • You can tailor your look using different types of channel letter signs and using different custom colors on the faces, the internal LED lights, the trim caps that hold the faces on the metal sides, and the acrylic faces themselves. It allows any business to establish a completely professional yet unique look.
  • Because the signs are made of aluminum, they are also more durable than many other types of signs.

Whether or not the sign is required for your building, the channel letter sign is well worth considering if you want to give your business a memorable appearance.

Types of Channel Letter Signs

There are four different types of channel letter signs, each with its own benefits.

Front Lit

Front lit channel letter signs are very common because they are easily visible both during the day and at night. Lights located in the front of the letters (and any other portion of the sign, such as logos) illuminate the name all day. While it may not be as noticeable during the day, it does make the name jump out once the sun sets.

Halo Lit / Reverse Lit

The halo lit channel letter sign looks fantastic because it looks like the light actually creates a halo around each individual letter. The back of the letter is made with clear acrylic with stand offs to keep it several inches away from the mounting surface which creates a background halo effect around the sign as the lightning from the internal LED’s reflects off the mounting surface. The front of the letter is made with aluminum and does not illuminate unlike the Front Lit channel letters. It’s a classy look that creates an unusual and unique visual image that first some businesses perfectly.

Open Face

The open face channel letter sign is similar to the halo lit sign, but they are made of clear acrylics. This creates a look of having an open face, so that passersby can see the lights within the letters. These signs were traditionally made with neon inside the letters for illumination and can still be made with neon or LED’s can be used.

Combination Front / Reverse Lit

These signs are a combination of front and halo lit signs. The sides are made of aluminum and the face is made of acrylic which is illuminated by the internal LED’s. The back of the letter is made with clear acrylic with stand offs to keep it several inches away from the mounting surface which creates a background halo effect around the sign as the lighting from the internal LED’s reflects off the mounting surface. There is an aluminum spacer layer inside the letter that separates the front and back of the letter so that you can use a different color LED for the front and back. These signs are quite unusual and they are the most expensive type of channel letter signs.

Material Used for Channel Letter Signs

Though they can occasionally be made of a stainless steel, aluminum is typically the best and most cost-efficient option.

Another reason that so many companies tend to offer aluminum signs is that aluminum is far more affordable than other types of metal without having to sacrifice durability. It is also a very pliable metal that is rust resistant, making it a nearly perfect material both in terms of appearance and longevity. Aluminum is also easy to finish with high quality catalyst paints for many years of fade resistant vibrant color.

Faces

Unless it is a reverse lit channel letter, the faces are made of acrylic. Acrylic comes in different grades of hardness. Depending on the size of the letters and the wind resistance needed for the geographical area, faces can use a standard acrylic or even a very strong polycarbonate called Lexan. The Lexan is more expensive than standard polycarbonate and is usually only required if the letters are very large.

Painting and Pressure Sensitive Vinyl Finishes

A catalyst two part paint requiring a professional paint booth and skilled painters are required to paint the aluminum sides and raceways to finish the signs. Special translucent  pressure sensitive vinyl can be applied to the faces or custom logos can be applied to the faces of the channel letters to create unique visual images.

Mounting Channel Letter Signs

There are two methods of mounting channel letters:

The Raceway Method is the easiest to install cutting down on installation costs but that is offset by the cost of the raceway being added to the fabrication cost. The letters are installed onto a narrow box, which will also hold the wiring for each of the letters. It requires less drilling and leaves fewer holes when the sign is removed. The raceways are usually painted the same color as the building that the letters are being mounted to. This ensures that the letters will have a distinct contrast with the building color and make the letters more easily visible.

The Individual Letter Installation is another common option. With this mounting option, each letter is mounted right onto the face of the building. The cost of installing with this method is usually quite a bit higher since all of the wiring must be done on site and inside the building behind the letters. This type of installation can sometimes be quite complicated but some companies do not want to use raceways or are required to mount the signs this way in the building codes. Some companies just like this look better than the raceway mounted channel letters and elect to install them this way. Either method results in an extremely professional, unique, long lasting sign.

Channel Letter Costs

Despite its highly professional appearance, channel lettering is affordable if you use the right company. Most companies do not fabricate the channel letters themselves. They purchase the channel letters from a wholesale sign company and then they either install the letters themselves or contract a third company to do the installation. Naturally, this can lead to trouble. If there’s a problem with the finished sign, was the problem caused by the manufacturer or the installer? It’s surprising how many times this scenario raises it ugly head. It’s best to find a local company that sells, manufactures and installs the signage themselves. A solid warranty should be expected. Many companies provide a one-year parts only warranty, some companies provide three-year on parts only, but the better companies provide a three-year parts and labor warranty. It is important to find a company willing to provide a solid warranty and stand behind their product.

Given that your sign will be the first visual image your customer has of your business, it is truly your best investment in advertising for your business. It’s difficult to find the money for a quality sign if you are just starting a new business, but the importance in creating a good image for your new business can not be overstated. Having a poor sign can be extremely detrimental to any new business.

The following is a rough cost breakdown to help you determine the kind of sign that you think will be right for your business:

Letters & Logo

A normal size letter will require roughly 20 LEDs lights, averaging about $150 – $250 per letter (extra large letters can cost quite a bit more). Multiply that by the number of letters you will need for your sign.

Logos and images will probably cost more, although it is difficult to estimate the number of LEDs required for them as that will vary based on how large you want your sign to be.

Using a Raceway

If you opt for the raceway sign, you will be paying based on both the number of LED lights and the length of the sign. Typically, you will be paying per foot with the average cost being about $30 per foot.

You will also be paying for the transformers, which can cost between $100 and $250 for a single transformer. Most large signs require multiple transformers.

Material & Design

With the addition of materials and the sign’s design, you can expect to pay at least $2,000 for a simple channel letter sign.

This may sound like a steep price, but ultimately it is far more cost efficient than most of the alternatives.

When you consider how long the LEDs last, they are by far the most efficient and durable type of sign lightning. They are considerably more cost-efficient than neon signs and fluorescent lights.

With our channel letter signs, you also get a 3-year parts and labor warranty so if you have any problems, you won’t have to worry about costly repairs. The warranty covers both the sign and the installation, so you can rest easy that your sign will continue to attract the right kind of attention and help you grow your business better than any other form of advertising.

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