Other environmental elements that must be considered include heat and humidity. Palmer Digital’s outdoor systems are designed to maintain an internal temperature below the operating temperature of the integrated components, primarily 122 degrees Fahrenheit. Lewis aims for temperatures about 10 degrees cooler—a feat that he accomplishes with exhaust fans that draw heat out of the display.
Likewise, adequate airflow within the units is essential to combating condensation in high-humidity areas, a condition that can occur during the night as temperatures cool. When the display heats up, water can trickle over sensitive components, causing voltage spikes or even failure.
In coastal areas, salt water exposure can be particularly troublesome because it can lead to corrosion of electronics. In these situations, “you may have to design a closed-looped system,” Lewis says. “That means you may have to introduce an air-conditioning unit instead of just ambient airflow, or you have a complete closed kiosk with internal fans that circulate the air, creating an internal vortex eliminating hot spots.”
Brightness is another unique technical issue to consider, since outdoor signs are typically exposed to varying levels of sunlight throughout the day. Ault recommends using displays with at least 2,500 nits (the unit for measuring visible light). On billboards, brightness can be adjusted remotely on an automated schedule, optimizing readability throughout the day. Drive-thru menu boards can be outfitted with canopies or other physical aesthetics to ensure readability.
Finally, don’t forget about the connectivity issues an outdoor signage installation may pose, as well as maintenance hurdles.
“With an existing structure, the challenge is getting power and data to the sign in the most economical fashion,” Ault says. “If it’s new construction or a remodel, it becomes a little bit more palatable, but a lot of times [it] takes drilling under parking lots.”
In the same way that facilities prewire networks for anticipated capacity, Ault suggests building for the future if possible. During new construction, for example, consider creating a central hub that connects with key outdoor locations. “If there’s an idea down the road that outdoor signage will be needed, go ahead and spend on that infrastructure now,” he advises.
For large installations where maintenance can be a challenge, some display manufacturers offer models with dozens of diagnostic metrics including internal temperatures and brightness levels. “You can monitor display operations remotely and proactively switch out a part rather than react when a failure has happened,” Ault says.
Photo courtesy of Palmer Digital Group