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Adaptive Display's Digital Signage Blog

Heat Management Solutions for LED Signage

Posted by Adaptive Micro Systems on Fri, Mar 18, 2016

Digital LED signage is rapidly becoming mainstream and considered one of the hottest industries around.

There are a few environmental conditions that can shorten an LED display’s longevity or decrease its performance. One of the biggest hurdles an LED sign faces is maintaining the signs internal temperature within the optimal temperature range. This range is generally considered to be around room temperature where a human is comfortable. However, the LED sign is often exposed to harsher conditions such as sun (Solar Loading), rain, dust, smoke, steam, pollution, excessive temperatures, unrealistic content and much more. These elements affect the performance and longevity of a digital LED sign.

While temperatures that are on the extremes of what an LED sign are rated for are more damaging for outdoor digital signage screens, due to their location and the wider operating range of temperatures, indoor displays can be prone to excessive heat as well even in temperature controlled environments, such as an office or factory.

Excessive heat is considered an "LED killer." If not properly managed, ultraviolet and infrared rays from the sun can affect outdoor digital signage and pose a big risk. In other words LEDs like to be cool. But of course, heat build-up in the system is inevitable for many reasons. This can be from any of the reasons provided above, and may be resolved through various engineered solutions. The primary method of thermal control is by the use of thermostatically controlled fans, thermal management algorithms this ensures the system is able to disperse heat away from the LED’s and power supplies, which in turn keeps the digital sign running optimally for a longer period of time.

Ways to Manage Digital Signage Heat Build-Up 

  1. Proper placement of your sign IMG_00911.jpg

The location of outdoor LED signage is very important. An ideal location is not only visible to your audience, but preferably in an area that will receive shading throughout the hot summer months. Solar loading from the sun is the single largest external heat source the sign will encounter during its lifetime. Keeping the front or back of the LED sign from facing directly East or West into the rising and setting sun will help make a difference in the LED signs long term life expectancy. 

Choose an outdoor LED sign with a thermal management system that is designed for extreme operating temperatures. 

Take note that most outdoor signage also requires more frequent maintenance and when equipped with filters, changing or cleaning them regularly will extend the life of your LED sign. Indoor signage will not require the same maintenance schedule for filters as an outdoor LED sign.

Make sure that when the LED sign is installed, there are no obstructions in the display ventilation openings. The installation should allow free movement of air in and out of the display and in areas surrounding the unit.

  1. Ventilation Fans

A good thermal management system is the use of ventilation fans. These fans are generally used to cool an enclosure. Systems that are well designed will NOT use these fans continuously. These fans are designed to turn on at a point that will protect the LED sign from damaging internal temperatures. A good design will allow fans to keep the system well within the maximum operating temperature. Remember, LEDs like to be COOL.

  1. Thermostatically Controlled Mixing Fans

A similar method of enclosure cooling is a mixing fan. This is often used in conjunction with ventilation fans.

Thermostatically controlled mixing fans help circulate air through the system to avoid overheating. When employed in an LED sign, it will turn on before a ventilation fan extending the time required for external air to be forced into the LED sign enclosure. These fans help circulate air within the enclosure to maintain an even temperature within the LED Sign and to prevent “Hot Spots” within the LED sign. This movement of air within the enclosure also helps the enclosure dissipate temperature to the external environment without using external “dirty” air to cool the internal electronics. The proper use of temperature control using mixing fans will help reduce premature wear and part replacement cost. 

Thermostatically controlled mixing fans are not just for outdoor LED, they can be used for indoor signs to help maintain proper temperatures in the enclosure. These are typically smaller and very quiet in comparison to the outdoor version. 

  1. Software Thermal Management

A good quality outdoor LED Display is forward-engineered for optimal heat management. As such the electrical components used should be smart. Smart LED control devices monitor the temperature within the LED sign enclosure. In addition to the mechanical cooling devices, a good system will use software to protect the LED sign. There are instances where ventilation and mixing fans are not enough to keep the LED signs internal temperature within the operating range that the sign is designed for.

How can an LED sign not run at optimal temperature throughout the temperature range specified? There are several factors: operating LED signs at the high end of the temperature range for extended periods of time, poor filter maintenance, extreme content display, and forcing the sign to run too bright by not allowing auto-dimming.

In these instances where mechanical cooling is not enough, a good LED sign WILL employ software based dimming. This dimming will reduce the brightness of the sign slightly to reduce the electrical loading on the entire system. By reducing this loading, less internal heat is generated and the LED sign is able to cool down.

It is very important to note that this software dimming will in most instances not be noticeable. The sign would have to dim 20-30% for the average person to notice. The dimming can only really be noticed if you have 2 LED signs running next to each other at different brightnesses.

In every step of the digital signage building process, it is important that the highest quality components, protection, and engineering are utilized. This results in a digital system that performs well for a longer period of time, regardless of the environment it is exposed to.

Most top digital signage brands are engineered to manage the heat generated by the system and the elements. Always check with the manufacturer or the local sign company for advice. If you want the best LED Signs, look for the UL or ETL mark. UL and ETL are nationally recognized independent third party safety laboratories. A UL or ETL listed sign will ensure that the LED sign you purchased has been examined and ensures that the product will be free from risks associated with the use of substandard components. The testing covers all potential items to prevent risk of fire or electric shock from components. The testing also covers the thermal controls of the LED sign and stresses the LED sign to the high end temperatures. The testing then and checks for faults after stressing and ensures a robust system is in place to provide an LED sign with the highest longevity possible. 

Adaptive marks all of the LED signs with the UL or ETL Safety certificates.

For more information on Adaptive products or for more information about safety certifications please contact us here:

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Tags: Heat management, ul listed, etl, safety standards