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Comparing Quotes for L.E.D. Signs
By: Logan Baker

Purchasing an L.E.D church sign is no small undertaking. It requires time, diligence, and learning some new terminology. As you may be aware, a quality L.E.D. will cost several, if not tens of, thousands of dollars. 

For buyers who simply go after the glossiest proposal or firmest handshake, this can be a disappointing venture. 

However, if you persevere through the process and partner with a firm who is willing to not only disclose all the specifications about their proposal, but also fully understand your goals, vision, and budget, the end result can be fantastic and satisfying, and you will have spent those dollars wisely.

The best way to go about researching the possibility of designing and purchasing a new L.E.D. sign for your church is to start with one vendor. Many times, we see church clients form a committee and send members out to multiple vendors to request quotes without having a basis of design or rough drawing of what they want. This always results in each member returning with a wide variety of quotes. 

While the quote might spark some ideas, it gives very little direction towards progress. Work with a single vendor to pick out the best location on your property for a new sign, determine the most appropriate and allowed size sign, and, finally, work with them to create an appealing design. Obtain a quote, which should include materials, labor, and, of course, the specifications for the L.E.D. portion of the new sign.

The two most important concepts to grasp are Pitch and Matrix. As the ultimate measuring stick when evaluating quotes, be sure to request the Pitch and Matrix be included on any proposals you receive.

What Are Pitch and Matrix?
The Pitch of an LED sign is the distance between each pixel or group of L.E.D.'s. This distance is measured in millimeters from the center of one pixel to the next. The closer together the pixels are, the higher the resolution or image quality of your sign. 

Therefore, a 16mm Pitch L.E.D. sign would be higher resolution than a 20mm Pitch L.E.D. sign.  If you were to only ask sign companies to provide you with a quote on a 4' tall x 8' long L.E.D. sign, which vendor is going to have the lowest price?  The one offering the worst quality resolution or Pitch. 

The Matrix of an L.E.D. sign refers to the number of rows and columns of pixels. This, combined with the Pitch, will not only allow you to get "Apples to Apples" quotes from other vendors but also help you identify the capabilities of the sign.

It takes 8 vertical pixels to create 1 line of text. If a sign company has provided you with a quote for a 20mm (pitch) 48x112 (matrix) L.E.D. sign, you can divide the number of rows by 8 to see the maximum number of lines that can be displayed; in this instance, the proposed sign can show 6 lines of text (48/8 = 6). 

Likewise, if the proposal was for a 16mm 32x96 L.E.D. sign, it could show a maximum of 4 lines of text. Knowing the Matrix will also tell you the number of characters per line. This is not as precise as calculating the number of lines of text because not all characters are the same width. 

As a conservative rule, we tell clients that an L.E.D. sign can show one character for every 6 pixels.  This calculation allows for space between each character. In other words, a 20mm 48x112 L.E.D. sign can display an average of 18 characters per line (112/6 = 18). 

These two concepts are very important for managing your expectations as to the capability of the sign, but also for enabling you to tell several other vendors, "We would like a price on a Full Color, 20mm Pitch 48x112 Matrix double sided sign, please."

Understanding the concept of Pitch and Matrix leads one to ask the question, "What Pitch and Matrix L.E.D. sign should we be considering?" 

This is a must-have conversation for you and a sign company whom you feel has your best interests at heart. The answer largely depends on the location of the sign on your property, the speed limit on the road where your sign will be located, the maximum viewing distance from which your sign will be seen, whether you want or are allowed the ability to show pictures and video clips, and, of course, the budget you have set aside for the project. 

Remember, ANY sign company can and would love to sell you an L.E.D. sign. The key is to educate yourself, ask questions, and if a sign company isn't asking any of the questions listed above, move on to another vendor.

There are plenty of professional firms out there, both local and national, who are experienced enough with L.E.D. signs to provide you with a great product and sign purchase experience.

Other Variables to Consider
Once you have a basis for design and are collecting quotes from other sign companies, be sure to request each and every item that the first vendor provided.

Consider items such as removal of your existing sign, trenching data cable for the sign, connecting antennas if the L.E.D. sign includes a wireless connection kit, software, training, length of the warranty period, electrical connection, obtaining necessary permits from local zoning authorities, etc. 

Ultimately, the number of items and depth of information that should be discussed with your sign company of choice are too great to list in this article. 

However, if you seek out a sign company that is responsive, professional, and willing to ask questions regarding your project before flippantly throwing you a general and vague quote, you are headed down the right path.

Logan Baker is the founder and chief executive officer of Golden Rule Sign Company in Louisville, Kentucky. Golden Rule Sign Company is a national manufacturer of custom outdoor L.E.D. signs, www.goldenrulesigns.com.

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