The visual condition of signs is a very important part of a well-managed self-storage facility, says Jerry Kincade, Sign Systems Inc., Stanwood, Wash. Signs that are old, faded and in poor condition don’t send a positive message or convey an image of a clean and safe environment. Over time, certain factors—weather, rodent or bird pollution, age, wear and tear—may result in less efficient signage and reduced ability to find the way.
There are several categories of signs a facility uses: instructional, directional, advertising, promotional, safety and security. These signs help tenants use facilities safely, securely and within the rules, and also provide marketing opportunities. The best way to evaluate the condition and effectiveness of your signs is to take a tour of your property, Kincade says.
“We all know how quickly branding and parking lot appeal is lost when the lights go out,” says Julie Lapacka, director of business development for Houston-based US-1 Sign Maintenance Experts.
Signs that are old, faded and in poor condition do not send a positive message nor do they convey a clean and safe environment. Exterior signs are subjected to the elements of nature: extreme heat or cold, sun damage, wind, precipitation in all its forms, and even pollution. These elements cause faces to fade and crack, vinyl to peel, paint to chip, neon to break or dim, and lamps and ballasts to fail. In addition, simple dirt and grime can create problems. An annual sign inspection will catch problems before they escalate.
Sign cleaning creates a better appearance as it extends the life of the electrical components, Lapacka says. When your sign begins to flicker, it’s important to act quickly. Flickering is a sign of a faulty transformer or ballast, which, when not functioning properly, puts a lot of additional stress on other electrical components. Simply turning your sign off as soon as you notice the flickering and calling for service will save a lot in repair costs.
If you have individual channel letter signs, birds often nest in the letters, Lapacka says. Their droppings, in addition to being unsightly, also break down the finish on the sign. Bird spikes are an effective and humane deterrent that can be applied by your sign company.
There are no typical lighting sources for exterior lighting applications, says Larry Leetzow, president for the World Institute of Lighting and Development Corp (Magnaray International) in Sarasota, Fla. If your facility is more than a few years old, chances are you are using high-pressure sodium (HPS) or metal halide (MH). Some facilities still use low-pressure sodium (LPS), which produces only a pure yellow light. Fluorescent (FL), which produces a white light, is preferred by most customers.
The choice of lighting determines how often bulbs must be replaced. HPS has a fairly good lamp life and lumen maintenance, but does distort colors of objects, takes a while to come on, and even longer to “cycle” in power interruptions, says Leetzow. In general, the lower the wattage of sources, the shorter the lamp’s life. Spot re-lamping (burnouts) is usually done, but can be costly. If the system is five years or less in age, only lamps normally need replacement. Older systems may need capacitors, ignitors, ballast and lamps replaced.
MH loses about 30 percent light output in the first 8,000 hours of use, while consuming the same amount of energy. LPS uses more energy as it ages, is hazardous to dispose, can cause third-degree burns if not handled properly, and requires protective clothing for installation, Leetzow says.