Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Lights up your life


Neon Lighting is Cool we use it everywhere we want to get attention but it can also be a deadly source of fires and electrocutions when it is improperly installed which is 80% of the time.
Neon lighting operates at any where from 5000 Volts AC .15 Amps to 15,000 Volts
AC at .30 Amps. Depending on the color used and the length and diameter of the tubing.
A Neon Transformer is used to convert 120 Volts AC to the high voltage required.
This transformer is required to be installed with in a grounded metal container. And a 3 wire grounded power cord is to be installed to the transformer supplying the 120 volts but all to often especially in Portable window signs supplied to cigarette and beer vendors etc. you will find only a 2 wire cord supplying the transformer which is a code violation. However the storeowner hangs up the sign and plugs it in not knowing the sign could be a potential fire and shock hazard. All portable neon signs and neon works of art etc. are to be manufactured to and be tested by UL other wise they are not to be used .Per National Electrical Code. This also includes using an approved neon wire connector just twisting the wires together is not code compliant but a common practice by neon installers.
Outline Neon lighting likes wise is to be used with a 3-wire supply and grounded enclosure but often times it is not used. Many new neon transformers come with GFCI
Protection but when Neon is used out side the GFCI often trips in wet weather so it is a common practice to bypass the GFCI, which is extremely dangerous.
Because Neon is rated in Milliamps, 1000 milliamps to an amp generally it is not a killer but cases of death by electrocution have and continue to happen when a person has a weak heart or becomes solidly attached to a Neon wire. Neon is responsible for many fires
Because many times where Neon wiring has been run around metal roofs facades etc. and the wiring degrades with time to the point it starts arcing against the metal which is often times not grounded the arcing results in near by combustible materials catching fire.
Many fast food restaurant fires that have started in roof areas can be traced back to a defective or degraded Neon installation. When I have asked Neon Installers about following the NEC many scoff at the Idea that they even have to follow any type of building code.
And because Neon has many complicated standards to insure proper installation. Many AHJ’s lack proper training to determine if the Neon they are looking at is compliant they often have to rely on the installers to do a proper job, which is a big mistake.
If you are an AHJ involved with Neon Inspections if you are not sure the installation is code compliant contact an electrical inspector.

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