1. Does the company offer a written warranty?
Carefully compare what is covered and for how long. If you are purchasing an identification area as part of the sign, look for a Lifetime Warranty against face breakage, faulty workmanship and defective materials. The internal components of the id area including the ballasts should also be covered by the Lifetime Warranty. Look for a 5 Year Warranty on the LED Electronic Message Center area, ensuring that it will be free from defects in materials and workmanship. Also consider the company's ability to stand behind that warranty. How long have they been in business? Will they provide a list of customers in your area?
2. Do the sign specifications meet the zoning requirements for your area?
Many areas have requirements related to the height, width, and static/motion allowed on signage. Are permits required? Will the company provide helpful tips to guide you through the process?
3. Does the sign meet the needs of your organization?
The speed limit of the traffic passing by, the distance from the road (set-back), your budget, and the primary use of the sign should be discussed with a sign professional to ensure that the sign will meet your needs.
4. What Pixel Matrix is being quoted?
Signs of the same height and width may have a different Pixel Matrix (the number of pixels on your sign). The size of the retainer (the amount of metal that surrounds the LED display area) can vary from sign to sign, which results in variation in the number of pixels. For instance, a 48x160 pixel sign consists of 48 pixels high x 160 pixels wide. You may receive a quote for a sign of the same height and width that only has a 40 x 112 Pixel Matrix. In that case, you would only get 40 pixels high x 112 pixels wide. Obviously you are not getting the same value in the second case. Make sure you get the most for your money!
5. Will the LED area display an effective character size?
The height of the character will determine the number of characters that can be displayed at 1 time across the sign. For instance, an 8' wide cabinet with 18" characters will only allow for 5 characters to be displayed across at one time, forcing you to scroll your message and limiting its effectiveness.
6. Is the quote for a High Definition Sign?
High Definition means the pixels sit close together. They must be less than 1" apart. .6" - .7" is considered High Definition. Anything wider than this will have a "grainy" appearance. Quotes typically provide this information in a millimeter format (ie 17mm - .66" apart vs 36mm = 1.40" apart).
7. At how many Frames Per Second will the sign operate?
You will want your sign to transition smoothly and seamlessly. At a low frames per second count, you will notice a "tick, tick, tick" of the letters and graphics. A model with capabilities of operating at 60 framers per second will provide the seamless, easy viewing effect desired.
8. What is the Viewing Angle of the sign?
The Viewing Angle is the point at which the text/graphics will "fade" as a car travels by your sign. Viewing Angles vary from 75 all the way up to 140 degrees. Beware of the difference between Viewing ANGLE and Viewing CONE. Viewing CONE can be deceiving. Basically, it is determined by doubling the Viewing ANGLE. Be sure to compare Angles to Angles and Cones to Cones.
9. If Shading is an option for your sign, how many Shades are being quoted?
Look for the newest technology with 256 shades. Some LED sign suppliers are still offering the old technology of 32 or 64 shades. The more shades you have, the better the graphics will appear.
10. Does the sign feature Hybrid Technology?
Hybrid Technology (Hybrid Individual Pixels) is the most advanced technology available for LED signs. Beware of signs manufactured with less advanced Pixel Boards which experience higher costs and longer downtimes when repairs are needed. If a Pixel Board needs to be removed or repaired, the sign may be down for a week at a time and replacement boards cost $350 + labor and shipping costs. Hybrid Technology signs have individual replaceable pixels (instead of the entire sign board). Look for a company that offers replacement pixels for free during the first 5 years that you own the sign. After that, your cost to replace a pixel will be approximately $5.00. Downtime is virtually nonexistent as it does not require a professional and only takes a minute to change out a Hybrid Individual Pixel.
11. How many graphics are included with the sign?
Look for a company that includes at least 300,000 graphics and 200 animation motion video applications with their shaded and full color models.
12. Is training provided to help you learn to program the sign?
You will want an LED supplier who offers onsite training, web based training, and unlimited phone support so that they can accommodate your training needs. One of the leading LED sign programming softwarepackages, Media Editor, provides a user-friendly environment for creating text messages with animations using preprogrammed transitions and animation modes. The software enables users to import .avi files for added graphic impact, creating compelling moving messages in minutes.
13. Does the quote include ACTUAL freight shipping and handling fees?
Quotes that include language such as "estimate," "surcharge later," or "invoice later" are not providing you with the actual, bottom line amount that you will be charged for Shipping and Handling.
14. Is the sign face material sign grade panformed unbreakable polycarbonate?
Look for a company that provides a Lifetime Warranty against breakage of the sign face/identification area of the sign. How do their signs stand up to acts of vandalism and are they covered under the warranty? Consider the reputation of the company. How many signs have they provided over the years? Do they have testimonial letters from customers that address the durability of the sign faces and their customer service support?
15. Is the sign face PAINTED on the inside to prevent scratching and the effects of weathering?
You will want the answer to this question to be "yes". Avoid vinyl stickers which will crack, peel and fade. The leading vinyl manufacture, 3M, will only warranty vinyl used on sign faces for a maximum of 7 – 11 years.
16. Is the sign cabinet fabricated with heavy extruded aluminum, heliarc welded, with aluminum angels and reinforced mitered corners?
Remember, the sign will be the first impression that those passing by will have of your organization. Quality and durability are keys to your satisfaction.
17. Will the company guarantee that all components and the sign are of new materials?
18. Are the components, sockets, lamps and ballasts of superior quality and water resistant, waterproof, and warranted for the lifetime of your organization?
Your sign will be exposed to the elements, 24/7, 365 days a year. Look for a national LED supplier that builds their signs to withstand the forces of nature. Ask if they can provide you with a list of satisfied customers in all 50 states and beyond.
19. Is the sign U.L. approved?
Underwriters Laboratories approval indicates that the product has been tested against nationally recognized safety standards and found to be free from reasonably foreseeable risk of fire, electric shock and related hazards.
20. Will the sign withstand 125 miles per hour wind load?
Look for a company that has signs in the field that have withstood hurricane force winds. Ask for testimonial letters from customers attesting to the strength and durability of such signs.