Scary Electrical Discoveries

Look What We Found! Scary Electrical Discoveries

Scary electrical Discoveries On occasion when we are doing repairs we make some very scary electrical discoveries. In most cases the work is not really dangerous. It is just sloppy or inefficient. However, sometimes we come across situations that are potentially dangerous. Here are a couple of photos of a pole sign in the Dallas area that had been retrofitted with electrical hardware that is designed for interior, residential lighting. Scary electrical DiscoveriesWe were shocked when we removed the sign face. We saw pairs of fluorescent lights plugged into a dozen electrical sockets. These sockets were not rated for external use and posed a significant risk for catastrophic failure. At least they were smart enough to keep the electrical off the bottom of the sign where water can collect and short out unprotected circuits.

Worldwide Chain – Bad Electrical

Recently, this has occurred when we took over sign and electrical maintenance for a large, International restaurant chain. We repaired several external lights for one of their local restaurants. We found that a ballast had been replaced for one of the lights, however, the ballast was physically larger than the one being replaced. The problem was the new ballast was too big to fit in the protective enclosure. As a result the ballast was attached to the wall exposed to the elements. Our assumption is that the previous electrician did not want to get the right size ballast and so used the one they had on the truck even though it did not fit. Now it no longer works.

Ballasts and Tubes Should Match

We have replaced numerous interior lights in high ceilings over the last year. At three separate locations we found that mismatched hardware was a contributing factor to the failure of the lights. Ballasts and fluorescent lights are rated for their output. If the tubes are not rated the same as the ballasts then one, the other, or both will fail much sooner than they should.

It is not necessarily dangerous that they are mismatched but it can contribute to a ballast burning out early. Or the ballast can overheat which will cause the units internal switch to shut the ballast off. Once the ballast cools down it will activate again. If too much power is forced into a fluorescent tube it will begin to develop dark spots near the ends as it overheats. Dark spots are a natural consequence of tubes burning out but it should be years not months for this to occur.

To avoid your own scary electrical discoveries find a sign shop that has a history of providing high quality installation and repair work.

Vehicle Wrap

Flow Plumbing vehicle wrapOne of the best ways to advertise for a business is to wrap their vehicle. However, there is a wide array of options available for consideration. In this post I will highlight some options and then describe the process we use to lay a wrap.


A business must take several things into consideration when they are deciding on how to advertise on their vehicle(s). How many miles is the vehicle driven each week, is it important to have your vehicle present your business well to your customers, how much do you need to say on the vehicle to effectively communicate, and how much can you spend. Depending on how you answer the previous questions will give you an idea of what you should do.


Cecil Wilkins

Many businesses just use cut vinyl (which can be cut into any font or image that you wish) on the doors of their vhicles along with any required licenses that the state requires. This can be very effective, especially if most of your clients reach you through other means: not because they saw a company truck. It is recommended that you include your company name, any tagline, your primary phone number, and a website address. Notice on the Cecil Wilkins vehicle to the right the required state license numbers are list below the company name. The Wilkins company deals directly with a number of long-time customers so they did not want to add contact information.


Total Fire

By using a larger area of the vehicle you can promote additional aspects of the business. This can still be done using cut vinyl so is much less expensive than a vehicle wrap. As you can see in the photo of the Total Fire truck it is possible to use multiple colors to make an eye-catching and professional look. Notice the red lettering just behind the cab where they promote some of their primary services: fire alarm, sprinkler systems, etc.



To get a more complete coverage of the vehicle and to allow for full color graphics a partial wrap may provide a very good alternative. For a company that depends on their vehicles for awareness of their services as well as to communicate to their customers that their professional service technician is on the job a partial wrap can be very effective. The photo of the RSI van is an illustration of how a partial vehicle wrap can be very effective.


There are three basics steps to doing a wrap. First, working with the customer to understand what they are trying to accomplish and the budget they have available for a vehicle wrap. Second, developing the decals that will  be used. Third, installation.

The first step begins with the customer providing to us the basic information of what they want from the vehicle wrap and any specifics that they would like to see included on it. If something more extensive than door lettering is needed then our graphic designers will create a draft of what we will do for the client. We use Adobe Illustrator as well as the latest version of Pro Vehicle Outlines to build something that clearly shows what the customer will see in the finished product.


The first step when the decals are ready to install is to thoroughly clean the vehicle. We use 91% isopropyl alcohol because it cleans completely and dries quickly. Then we use 3M’s 94 primer at the edges and in any crevices. This is an adhesive made for vinyl decal application that strengthens the bond to help prevent the wrap from coming loose over the years it is used.

RSI wrap installationDuring the installation process our installers position the decals on the vehicle using super strong, rubber coated magnets. This insures that the decal is positioned correctly and allows the installer to apply one section at a time. In the image to the right Brent is shown applying the ice cube decal used by RSI, a commercial refrigeration company. You can see the black and orange magnets at the upper left of the photo. He is pulling the vinyl so he can lay it tightly into the crevice of the metal. He will use the blue squeegee in his mouth to insure the vinyl lays flat.

Though it is time consuming to develop and install a vehicle wrap can provide years of effective advertising for business of any size.

In the video below you can watch a time-lapsed video of the installation of decals to a Breadwinners van.


Sun Damaged Signs

Sign Burned by the Sun; sun damaged signs

Sign Burned by the Sun

The sun can be the worst enemy of any sign especially in Texas. The intense sun with associated heat will eventually burnt up vinyl and fade the colors of a sign. Sun damaged signs can give a bad impression for prospective customers of your business so it is a business owners best interest to redo their sign every 10 years or so. In the same way that a business owner will update their business vehicle, logoed business shirts, or any other aspect of the business that influences how a potential customer feels about the business.

Sun Damaged Signs – Example

You can see on the left hand side of the sign that the white vinyl has been burned brown and has cracked and split apart. This is an extreme case of what can happen over years with a sign that is facing south and has no shade throughout the day. In this case it took it more than a decade to get to this point. The brown spot on the left shows how the white vinyl became scarred in the heat. And the intense green color and lettering shadowing have faded significantly.

It Gets Worse with Age

A sign that already looks bad can get even worse as the years go by. It is possible in many cases to remove vinyl from a sign and replace with new material. However, if the vinyl is too far gone it will be almost impossible to remove the vinyl from the base material. This will necessitate buying a completely new sign. This is not a huge expense but can add some to the total cost of a sign.

Sun Resistant Signs

To avoid this issue a company can build a monument sign that uses metal letters or some other type of sun resistant material. Though this option looks great it can easily cost 10 times what a vinyl or direct print sign can cost. One option that can provide extended life with the value of a money back guarantee is to use Gemini letters. These letters have a life time warranty so if any fade or break then the letter is free. Installation is not covered by this warranty, however, getting the letter at no charge can save hundreds or thousands of dollars.