They key to ensuring your vinyl decal or graphic lasts its full lifetime, it's imperative to consider how cold temperatures will affect the vinyl and other materials of your decal.
First thing we should talk about is the actual temperature ranges of the vinyls, laminate, and adhesives used in decal, graphics, and labels. There are two different temperature characteristics that should be accounted for when owning a vinyl graphic: Application Temperature Range and Service Temperature Range.
Application Temperature Range is, well, exactly what it sounds like. The temperature that the manufacturer recommends for applying the decal. For example, General Formulation Concept 203 calendered vinyl film has an application temp of +40 degrees F. Applying graphics below this temperature will not allow the decal to adhere to its substrate (application surface) correctly.
Application Temperatures for adhesives are important because the adhesive needs to be at the correct temperature to mold to the surface of the substrate and bind to it. For example, the adhesive applied to Avery Dennison SuperCast Vinyl has a minimum application temperature of +60 degrees F on complex or curved surfaces. Adhesives below their recommended application temperature become solidified and brittle, and you can guess how much of a problem that will create for your decal's life expectancy. The initial stick will seem solid, but after a day or so, the adhesive will lose it's adhesive properties and fall away from the surface. Combine this with the tendency for cold vinyl to straighten out and become rigid, and you will end up with a decal, graphic, or sticker that isn't going to stay put for very long.
The Service Temperature Range is the temperature spectrum that will give the decal it's longest lifespan. Assuming all other external factors are good, if a decal stays within it's Service Temperature Range, it will last it's full lifetime. This is because the decals, graphics, and labels are designed to be most effective at these temperatures. At these temperatures, the molecules of the vinyl are not close together and rigid, they are spaced out, allowing flexibility within the material.
The adhesive also benefits greatly from remaining within the Service Temperature Range. Adhesive needs to be a semi - solid goop to be able to seep into the pores of the substrate, and bind to the tiny bumps and grooves in the surface it's applied to. When it's cold, the adhesive is too solid, and instead will not bind to the surface.
Luckily, there are ways to apply a decal even when the outside weather is colder than the Application Temperature Range. The best thing to do is to bring a hairdryer along, or a heat gun if you have one. USing this, the surface can be slowly, and CAREFULLY heated to the recommended Application Temperature Range. NOTE: When doing this to glass surfaces, go twice as slow and be twice as careful, or have a professional (like AdvanTage Signs and Graphics) install the graphic for you.
So there is it, a quick briefing on how cold temperatures affect vinyl graphics and how you can work around it.
I bought a decal and it's -30 degrees out, what do I do??