Traditional illuminated signs included a welded light box, with fluorescent tubes used as the light source. Even though the life of fluorescent tubes can be up to about 24000 hours, they don’t last forever. An illuminated sign will ensure that you can attract patrons to your business or advertise your services either day or night, and is one of the most effective signs you can purchase. There are limits to their efficiency and one of these is based around maintenance. Signs, like all things require maintenance, and even though it isn’t a weekly chore, it should be attended to regularly. A poorly maintained illuminated sign will reflect a poorly maintained business, and may send unwanted messages to potential patrons.
One of the most important maintenance items in illuminated signs is checking that all the fluorescent tubes are in working order. This is simple to do, just ensure that when you sign is turned on at night; you look and see if there are any sections of your sign that are unlit. If you find that there are unlit sections, then you need to call the sign company that installed or manufactured your sign, or alternatively you could phone an electrician.
Just because there is a section of your sign unlit doesn’t always mean that there is a spent fluorescent tube, although this is often the case, it can mean a variety of things, which is why it is important that you contact a professional. If fluorescent tubes are all that is required, it should be a quick and relatively cheap job.
Disposal of fluorescent tubes
Fluorescent tubes, compact fluorescent tubes and neon all contain mercury. Compact fluorescent tubes contain the least amount of mercury, followed by fluorescent tubes and then blue neon. The amount of mercury in a fluorescent tube is about 15 mg of mercury, for this reason it is important that everyone is careful about their handling and disposal. Each city council will have guidelines relating to disposal of mercury containing tubes.
Steps for disposal of broken fluorescent tubes:
- Check with your local council as to their rules and regulations
- If the tube has been broken indoors:
- Open any nearby windows and doors and allow the room to ventilate for at least 15 minutes – ensure that all air conditioning is turned off until the tube has been cleaned up.
- Clean up the broken contents using stiff paper and cardboard – avoid using a vacuum or a broom as this can spread the contents of the lamp and contaminate the person cleaning the tube. If using a brush to clean up the contents – ensure that it is disposed of after the clean-up.
- Place any broken pieces of tube into a glass jar, and seal it with a lid.
- Ensure that the cleaner is wearing disposable rubber gloves.
- Use sticky tape and/or a damp cloth to wipe up any of the remaining glass fragments and or/powders.
- NB: if vacuuming is required on carpet, the vacuum bag must be discarded or the vacuum canister is to be wiped thoroughly.
- All items contaminated by the cleaning process should be disposed of in the outside rubbish bin – NOT the recycling bin.
Disposal of fluorescent tubes – at the end of their life.
- Check with your local council for their guidelines
- Ensure that you wrap your fluorescent tubes or CFL’s in newspaper – so as to prevent them from breaking
For your guidelines for your specific council please refer to their websites, I have provided links for the Brisbane City Council, Moreton Bay Regional Council, Gold Coast City Council, Sunshine Coast City Council, Ipswich City Council and Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency. For further information see Safe disposal of mercury containing lamps. There are many recycling facilities, for Example Planet Ark.