Education Center: FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Which LED sign is best for my business or organization?

A: There are a number of factors to consider when choosing an LED sign, but the most important are the sign location and your marketing/ messaging goals.

Applications for on-premise signs vary greatly, from 2-lane streets with minimal setbacks to 6-lane highways with signs 50 feet above the ground. These considerations dictate which Watchfire electronic message center model you will need and the best LED pixel density or "pixel pitch" for your site.

Q: How much does an LED sign cost?

A: To answer the question directly, typical LED signs are similar to new automobiles in price. But this is a trick question. What you actually want to ask yourself is: Where will the budget for your LED sign come from? It's easy to think of an outdoor electronic sign as a capital expenditure; but a smarter place to look for funds might be your advertising and communications budgets.

When you consider advertising facts such as newspaper circulation versus traffic count, radio audiences versus traffic count, and how much it costs on a per-day basis, an LED sign beats newspaper, yellow pages and radio hands down.

Your Watchfire dealer partner or local Territory Manager can help you calculate the return on investment (ROI) of a new sign by analysing your traffic count, sign purchase price, cost of operation and the sign's potential as an advertising vehicle.

Q; Can signs be leased or financed?

A: Absolutely. Authorized Watchfire dealers can provide LED sign financing options through qualified Watchfire leasing sources. Your Watchfire Territory Manager can help guide you through the process.

Q: Can LED signage costs ever be deducted as a business expense?

A: Certain business investments, such as signage, may qualify for depreciation and IRS Section 179 deductions. Talk with your tax professional to learn more.

Q: Are there special programs for businesses that are part of a national chain?
A: Yes. Watchfire is a corporate-approved digital signage vendor for over 70 national accounts. Our national accounts team will work with you to select a sign company, and can even provide custom sign artwork and sign scheduling services.

Q: What's the best message to capture the attention of passers by?

A: Providing a reliable source of simple information (such as time and temperature) can turn your sign into a landmark that people will use on a regular basis. LED signs are also great for promoting timely information, such as events and/or special offers. The ways you choose to format and display messages on your LED sign are up to you, from videos to animation to EasyArt images.

Q: What's an LED?

A:  LED stands for light emitting diode. An LED is an electronic light source. A diode is not a light bulb. Traditional incandescent light bulbs heat tungsten filaments until they glow, like a toaster heating element. These filaments gradually evaporate until they break and burn out. LEDs work on a totally different premise, similar to transistors or other similar electronics. There is no filament to burn out. LEDs are also a much more efficient light source, producing considerably more light per watt than a traditional bulb. Most LEDs are about 2/10 of an inch in diameter and about 1/3 of an inch in length. Whereas typical household lamps require 120 volts, an LED uses just two or three volts.

Q: What is the difference between red or amber LED signs and full color LED signs?

A: Monochrome (red or amber) LED signs have represented a strong advertising value for over 10 years, and are still the right selection for some budgets. But if you want to display glamour shots of your products, play video and take advantage of other advertising tactics previously only available on TV and the Internet, you might want to consider a color LED sign.

Q: What's a pixel?

A: "Pixel" is simply an acronym for "picture element." It is the smallest point of light in screens for televisions or monitors, or in an LED sign. In a color LED sign, the smallest point includes three LEDs: one red, one green, and one blue. A display with more pixels that are placed closely together typically has higher resolution, showing sharper images with more detail.

Q: What does "pitch" mean when referring to an LED sign?

A: "Pitch" is the distance between light points (pixels). Usually given in millimeters (mm), Watchfire outdoor display pitches range from 12mm to 35mm. A smaller pitch corresponds to more tightly packed LEDs (or pixels) and, therefore, higher resolution. This allows the LED sign to display life-like images and video.

Q: What is "viewing angle" for an LED display? How do you measure it?

A: LED light patterns are similar to spotlights. The light source is brightest head on, but falls away as one moves away from that center axis. A certain point is reached where the light intensity is exactly 50% less than the "on-axis" brightness. Two times that 1/2 brightness angle is the engineering definition for "viewing angle." However, the actual useful reading angle is typically greater, but of course less bright. Watchfire manufactures LED signs with two different engineering-rated viewing angles: 90° (horizontal) x 40° (vertical) and a wider-angle 140° (horizontal) x 70° (vertical). Look at an illustrated representation of a Watchfire LED sign's viewing angle.

Q: I'm concerned that my local ordinances and zoning issues may not permit an LED sign. What should I do?

A: Don't worry. While you are ultimately responsible for adhering to local laws, your local Watchfire sign dealer may be able to work with you, your attorney and your local governments to help revise outdated zoning regulations concerning digital outdoor signs and avoid costly redesigns. Whichever LED sign you buy, it should only be from a company prepared to support you along the way.

Q: How can I be sure I'm buying a quality product? How can I know I'm getting full value for my investment?

A: While most any sign will get your message across for the next year or so, you should consider what will happen 5 or 10 years down the road. Watchfire LED signs are rigorously tested for moisture resistance and durability underwater and in extreme temperatures from -40° F to 140° F. Just a small part of why we're so confident offering our gold-standard 5-year warranty.

Q: Will I need to buy a new computer to program and operate my Watchfire sign?

A: Provided your computer is no more than 2 or 3 years old, you can normally use your existing PC. View PC requirements in our KnowledgeBase.

Q: The computer I use to connect to my sign has crashed. How do I install Ignite on a new computer?

A: When your sign outlasts the useful life of the computer you use to create messages, Ignite can easily be installed on a new PC. Visit these articles in our KnowledgeBase to learn how to install Ignite version 8-11 or Ignite 11.1 or newer.

Q: Once my Watchfire LED sign is installed, how will I get help?

A: Our service KnowledgeBase is available to all for quick and easy self-help. You can search for tips and solutions there, or connect to one of our support technicians through live chat. Our Help Desk is also available for more in-depth assistance and troubleshooting. Your local Watchfire dealer will provide on-site service and routine maintenance.

Learn more about Watchfire Service & Support.

Q: I have a small multi-tenant shopping center. In order to make a new LED sign as an advertising investment possible, I need to establish an advertising rate for our tenants. Can you suggest a rate structure?

A: This question arises frequently. While there is no detailed research available, we believe that most clients resort to a "capital recovery" period of five to seven years, spreading the capital cost over that time period. In some instances, larger tenants (anchors) pay a larger percentage, while other shopping centers divide the cost equally among all tenants. Either way, the monthly net advertising cost per tenant can be quite reasonable.

Q: I've heard LED signs called by a lot of names. Are they all the same, or is there a difference?

A: As with any evolving industry, LED signage has had its share of names: electronic message boards, electronic message centers, electronic displays, digital displays, reader boards, marquee signs, message signs, message centers, video displays, electronic display boards and LED display systems, among others. And while they all mean the same thing, if yours says 'Watchfire' on it, there's definitely a difference.