Georges Claude, the Frenchman who is credited with bringing neon signs to America, charged a Los Angeles Packard car dealer $24,000 for two custom neon signs in 1923. Don’t worry, they’ve come down in price a lot since then.
Pre-made neon signs generally run $140 to $400 depending on size. Custom neon signs usually start at around $200, and the sky is the limit. Factors affecting the price of custom neon signs are:
- Custom colors
- Font style (more complex fonts cost more)
- Combining upper and lowercase letters (all upper or all lowercase letters cost less)
- Making the sign weatherproof for hanging outdoors.
The cost of running a neon sign is very reasonable. An average-size neon sign (30 to 35 inches long and 10 to 15 inches high) will use about the same amount of electricity as a standard bulb.
Neon sign manufacturers will mount your new sign to a piece of acrylic, put it in a glass box or build a glass frame around it so that all you have to do is hang it from the ceiling in the window where you want it displayed. This, of course, costs more.
If you want to keep costs down by just ordering the neon and mounting and hanging it yourself, be sure to tell the manufacturer that you’ll be attaching it to a piece of acrylic for hanging in a window. They may want to send you different-style tube supports than if you were going to hang it on a wall. A tube support firmly clasps around the neon tubing on one end and lies flat against the acrylic to which you’ll be gluing it on the other end.
Some manufacturers may include a neon sign installation guide with step-by-step instructions. If not, you may need instructions to hang your neon sign yourself.
For hanging your neon sign yourself, you'll need the following:
- A piece of acrylic that’s sturdy enough to support your sign. Most DIY stores like Home Depot and Lowe's carry acrylic sheets. You can also buy them online to your measurement specifications.
- If you don’t buy a premeasured piece of acrylic, you’ll need an acrylic-cutting knife to cut the size you want from the sheet you buy. They run $7 to $12 and are available at DIY stores and online.
- If you’re hanging a new sign, neon tube supports will come with it. If not, you’ll have to order them online. Since neon is not that common anymore, it’s unlikely that your local hardware or DIY store will carry them.
- A strong but not quick-drying type of glue. E6000 or Duco Cement work well.
- A cordless drill and set of drill bits of graduating sizes.
- A Chain and hooks for hanging your sign from the ceiling in front of your window.
- Clean the acrylic with an ammonia glass cleaner and a microfiber cloth.
- Drill holes at the top of the acrylic where you want to attach the chain for hanging your sign.
Important: When drilling your own holes, regardless of what size you want them to be, start with the smallest drill bit in your set. Work your way up drill bit by drill bit until the hole is the size you want. If you immediately use a large drill bit, you’ll risk cracking the acrylic.
Attach the neon tube supports to your sign. If you’re working with a new sign, the manufacturer will have marked where the supports go. If you’re working with an old sign, you can figure out where they should go by placing them in different spots along the neon tubing and setting the neon right side up on a flat surface. When it rests evenly on the supports without wobbling, they're in the right spots.
- Lie the acrylic on a flat surface and set the neon on it with its supports attached. Use a wipe-off marker to mark where each support will be glued onto the acrylic.
- Remove the supports from the neon tubing and apply glue to the bottom of one support at a time, positioning it on the acrylic as you wipe off each mark you made.
- Before the glue dries completely, gently snap your neon into place. Make any small adjustments that are needed to the position of the supports on the neon and on the acrylic.
- Let the glue dry, fasten the hooks to your ceiling and attach the chains to the holes in the acrylic.
Now, you can hang your sign. Don’t forget to give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done.