How to Make Edge-Lit LED Signs

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As a small business owner, you want people to notice your business and stop in to see what you are all about. One way to do this is through your signage. Edge-lit LED signs help people find you more easily or can help to direct people while inside your store. For instance, edge-lit exit or restroom signs help with customer safety in a dimly lit dining-room theater.

Benefits of LED Signs

Edge-lit LED signs can help you more effectively communicate with your customers and offer several benefits to you and your business, including:

  • Lower energy costs when compared to fluorescent signs
  • Safer for customers with photosensitive seizure disorders
  • Stand-out advertising 
  • Brilliant illumination of exits and restrooms
  • Possible increased revenue
  • Clean lines and less clutter

Zoning and LED Signs

Before you can make an edge-lit LED sign for your business, it's important to check with zoning regulations in your area. Some areas do not allow any lit signs or require that exterior signs be of a certain height or even of a particular color scheme. If you put up an LED sign in an area where it is not permitted, you could be looking at hefty fines for your small business.

Sometimes, zoning boards make exceptions, but asking for change can be time consuming and tedious. Be prepared to explain the benefits of LED signage as well as the revenue increases you project with its use. Should your sign be approved, expect to compromise by adjusting the brightness of the sign or agreeing to turn it off during certain hours.

Your Landlord and LED Signs

If your edge-lit LED sign is in compliance with local zoning regulations, the next thing to do is check with your landlord. Your lease might prohibit use of illuminated signs or prescribe the type of signs you can use inside the building.

When speaking with your landlord, remember to share the safety and cost benefits involved in installing LED signage inside or outside of the building. Prepare to have your landlord inspect any signage prior to installation and remember that the landlord has the final say on whether it can be displayed.

LED Signs and Your Budget

While the idea of making your own edge-lit LED sign can seem like an attractive way to save money, this might not always be the case. Some basic signs, like those that say "enter" or "exit" are widely available for purchase at relatively low prices.

For instance, a very basic exit sign will likely set you back about $50, which is less than the cost of materials to make it on your own. As a frame of reference, a CNC engraving machine to engrave the word "exit" could cost anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.

Making Edge-Lit LED Signs

When you need a large, custom, edge-lit LED sign that would cost more than a CNC engraver, the acrylic block, LED lights, LED tape and frame materials, it might make sense to make your own sign.

You'll need to use a computer program to design your logo or whatever you want to display on your sign and then send this design to the CNC engraving machine so that it can be carved into the acrylic block. You'll place the LED lights and tape in the engraved area and then construct a metal frame into which the lit acrylic block can slide. Check your electrical work to ensure it is safe and up to code.

Weatherproofing and LED Signs

Whether you make your own sign or buy a ready-made, edge-lit LED sign, weatherproofing is a concern. Check to ensure all components of your sign are rated for outdoor use and can withstand rain, snow, wind and any temperature changes likely to occur in your environment. Consider providing an awning or other covering to help provide a bit of extra protection for your sign as well.