The market is becoming more and more confusing as companies selling LED lights are very subtle in marketing their products accurately. How can you tell if what you are looking at is a real neon light or a LED light?

A real neon sign will have the following main components:

  • Glass tubes. Made of soft lead glass (crystal). These glass tubes are heated, bent and twisted by hand, then cooled and fused together. They are later filled with various gases to achieve different colors, such as neon or argon.
  • Electrodes. This is one of the quickest visual distinctions when looking at a picture of a sign. The electrodes are what carries the electrical current through the glass tube. Pure-iron electrodes surrounded by a glass jacket are welded to both ends of the tube and wired to the transformer using high-voltage cables.
  • Transformer. An electrical device that transfers from the mains to the electrodes the voltage needed to make the neon gas inside the fluorescent tubes glow. They work via a process known as electromagnetic induction. It’s the rectangular box you see fixed to the acrylic plate on our signs. 
  • Backing panel or framework. Once made into the final design, the glass tubes are mounted to a backing panel or will usually be supported by some kind of framework. Our signs are mounted to clear acrylic plates that makes it easier for you to hang your sign.

Below is an example of a neon sign:

hello there pink neon sign example of real neon vs led light


LED neon signs are plastic. They use neither glass nor any gas. Instead, LED lights are made with acrylic thermoplastic tubes (better known as Altuglas or Perspex).

A typical LED neon sign has the following main components:

  • Uniform tubes. Cut from a solid block of opal acrylic then rounded and sanded, these hollow tubes house the LEDs.
  • LEDs. LED stands for “light emitting diodes” and they work as a semiconductor typically made of aluminium-gallium-arsenide.They are embedded in close proximity to each other inside the acrylic tube and then wired up. This is what creates the light emitted from the sign.
  • Edges. The acrylic tubes are finished with either blockout paint or vinyl edging to create the final design
  • Backing panel. This is necessary for the final design as the tubes are mounted to a backing panel which can be made of various materials including polycarbonate, acrylic or steel.

Below is an example of a LED sign:

pink LED neon sign example of LED NEON sign vs real neon light

We hope this information is helpful in determining wether what you are looking at is accurate to what is being advertised! You can always contact us if you have further questions about our neon signs.