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Cold Cathode vs LED Light boxes – which option to choose?

29 July 2009

Illuminating your posters and graphics can increase awareness of your sales messages but selecting the correct light box for this can be a balance between the initial cost, design of the light box and its lamp life.

Just because the initial cost of the light box is cheap it does not necessarily mean that it is the cheapest light box to run.  With so many different types on the market, it can be very hard to choose. For example do you know the difference between a Cold Cathode and an LED Light box?

What is Cold Cathode & LED Lighting?
Cold Cathode is a tubular glass light that works by passing an electrical current through gas or vapor, the technology has been around since the 40’s but only in recent years with the development of inverters has it been practical to use this type of light within a light box.

Light Emitting Diode (LED) is a solid state device, now a well-known source of lighting and very different from Cold Cathode because it uses the movement of electrons to convert electricity into light (generally as a light bulb and can be used in many sources of illumination).  LED’s have been around since the 20’s but became more evident in products in the 60’s and has continued its growth within products today, the obvious being TV’s.

So what does this have to do with Light boxes and what are the features?
Both lighting options have now made it practical to create light boxes. There are many similarities and advantages to both options which include the following:

Lamp Life
The Cold Cathode has a lamp life of up to 50,000 hours (approx 5 years) whereas the LED lamp life is up to 100,000 hours (approx 10 years).  If you are looking for longevity then the LED option would be best.

The brightness (measured in lux levels) gives an average reading of 2,056 lux on an A2 Cold Cathode unit and 2,174 lux on an A2 LED light box.  By these average readings the LED light box appears the brightest on paper but by looking at both units the Cold Cathode light box looks brighter.  This is because the acrylic lighting panel within the Cold Cathode light box has concentric lines of glass embedded into the acrylic which aids an even spread of light across the face of the panel. The LED light box which is brighter, shows this more around the edges but is slightly darker in the middle giving an appearance of a slightly colder looking light. If you require a light box that is brightest in overall appearance then the Cold Cathode will provide this.

As mentioned above, the Cold Cathode lighting is provided from tubes where as the LED lighting is provided in small strips of LED’s. Should one LED fail then the impact on the overall light box would be minimal and in many cases not even noticed, where as with the Cold Cathode light box should a tube fail this would effect an entire side and as such would require replacement.

Light boxes are stylish and slim, the Cold Cathode click frame is 35mm deep with a profile width of 29mm.  The LED frame is 22mm deep with a profile width of 30mm (based on A2 Unit), both good options for mounting it to the wall in all types of environments.  The Cold Cathode and LED light boxes can also be suspended on cables/rods and presented single or double sided. The light boxes range in size (special sizes on request) from A5-A0 on the LED Light boxes and Cold Cathode A4-A0 either portrait or landscape.  Graphics can be easily changed on both units.

Lower running costs
The long lamp life on these units means you save money on maintenance and both use less energy to run compared to standard fluorescent tubes.  Between LED and Cold Cathode the following examples of running costs includes:
•    An A2 LED unit at 9 watts costs 9p per hour whereas an A2 Cold Cathode unit at 19 watts costs 19p per hour*.
•    An A1 LED unit at 33 watts costs 33p per hour whereas an A1 Cold Cathode unit at 29 watts costs 29p per hour*. 

This means that the smaller the LED unit the more cost and energy efficient it is however as soon as it reaches over the A1 size the Cold Cathode is more efficient to run.

Which option?
If you have a budget to keep within then the LED light boxes are slightly more expensive than the Cold Cathode Light boxes.  However if product longevity and overall brightness level is what you are looking for then the LED light box is the best option and is also more efficient to run in sizes A5-A2.

The Cold Cathode is economically priced, although a shorter lamp life it gives an even spread of light giving a brighter appearance to the inserted graphic.  It also is more efficient to run against standard fluorescent tubes and over A1 size.

Both options can be easily transported, disposed of and presented well in many different types of environments plus increased sales will be gained from illuminating your posters or graphics.

 *running costs based on average kw business unit at Mar 09.

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