Article - To Warranty, or Not to Warranty

Author: Rob Gentle   Date Posted:21 July 2017 

Visual Technologies are firm believers in quality education. As they say, knowledge is power, and this is so true. BUT unfortunately when it comes to LEDs and lighting a sign, knowledge gets left behind and price means everything.


Visual Technologies - Vue Apartments  1, Gelong


Originally Published: May 2016, Inview Magazine (Visual Connections)

Gone are the days of buying something that is actually made to a decent standard that will last for years to come. I can still remember playing with my dad’s electric train set that never stopped for years and years it just kept going, even after he had used it for all his childhood. These days, you would be lucky to get something out of the box without it breaking.


We livein a throw out world with short lived products that are almost designed notto last, but yes, they are cheap, and everyone seems to want cheap.

In many cases, the sign game seemsto be following a similar recipe:

  1. Win the job by quoting a cheaper price than your competitor (often under-quoting it)
  2. Manufacture the sign as cheaplyas possible to cut costs, use cheapacrylic, LEDs and un-certified power supplies (because they’re cheaper)
  3. Test the lighting for 5 minutes in the workshop... all looks good, the sign will light for 100,000 hours, won’t it?
  4. Send out the finished product and forget about it. Who cares ifit doesn’t work in 12 months time, someone else can deal with it, right?

Whilst this is a recipe for disaster, it seems this is where the market is currently at in many cases. And it’s often the big sign companies thatare the culprits here. More often thannot, the end client doesn’t even know what they are getting inside their illuminated signs. Even if a particular product has been specified, often they’ll end up with a non-approved low grade alternative. When it comes to warranties, some clause ridden service contract usually is usually signed (somehow), that virtually negates any product warranty periods and ends up costing the end client if something goes wrong.

Everyone is trying to drive their prices down to remain competitive, which is part of business. In an illuminated sign scenario, this often translates to the use of the cheapest LED product you can find. The humble LED is often the first item on the chopping block as LEDs are supposed to last 100,000 hours, what could go wrong? Many things can go wrong with an LED in a sign, that’s why it’s so important that you at least buy reputable LEDs and power supplies. Go with something that comes with a decent “real” warranty. Importing your own, or using an unknown brand with little history, is very risky business. You only have to look at Europe or the US to see they went through a similar pattern before they started to use quality again... I wonder why.

We get many calls from people whose original suppliers have left them in the dark as they have either closedbusiness, do not stock that productline anymore, don’t want to honourthe original warranty period, or simplydon’t care. As mentioned in previousarticles, check your supplier’s productwarranty and read the fine print. Quiteoften, the words “5 year warranty”may sound impressive, but if you readthe fine print, there tends to be somerather interesting clauses that makethe 5 year warranty suddenly seem likemore of a 2 year warranty. Examples ofthese are “based on running 10 hoursper day maximum use” or “basedon use of an automatic timer to limitoperation to less than 12 hours perday”.