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Long-Term Costs of Operation

By Art Feierman

Long Term Costs of Operation

Factors that affect your long term cost include both predictable and unpredictable ones.
The costs of replacing lamps when needed, and the cost of electricity, are predictable.

For each lamp, we know how long it is expected to last (doesn’t mean it will).  Some lamps out there are $199, or even less, but $299 to $399 are most typical for home theater projectors.

Lamp life varies from about 2000 hours to 5000 hours at full power depending on the projector, while in “eco-mode” that range is now about 2500 to 6000 lumens.  Most common today, is probably 4000 / 3000 hours (eco / full power), about 1000 more hours in each mode than 3-4 years ago.  If you are a light user – 5-15 hours a week, you probably don’t need to concern yourself, as you’ll likely get at least 4 years (at 15 hours a week), at full power (3000 hours).   Thus, lamp cost will be less than $100 a year, and could be far less (depending on hours used, and lamp cost).

For a heavy user – where the projector typically is treated as a primary TV, and the hours per week are up more like 30 to 50, the differences start to dent your pocketbook.  At 40 hours a week, a typical lamp 3000 hour lamp will last 1.5 years, so with a $400 cost, that’s more than $267 a year, while a 4000 hour lamp costing $300 would cost only $150.

NOTE: The chart below assumes 30 hours per week of use, and is ranked in order of increasing cost.

Cost per year* of different projectors versus LCD TVs
Projector or LCDTV Max claimed brightness (lumens) Technology Max Power Consumption Cost/year (official federal rate)** Cost/year (California rate)***
LG 47” LCDTV N/A LCD TV 235W ~$40 ~$136
Epson Home Cinema 8350 2000 3LCD 272W ~$47 ~$157
JVC DLA-X35 1300 LCoS 330W ~$56 ~$190
Toshiba 65" LCD TV N/A LCD TV 360W ~$62 ~$208
Epson Home Cinema 5020UB 2400 3LCD 364W ~$52 ~$210
BenQ W7000 2000 DLP 416W ~$71 ~$240

*Actual cost will vary.
**Federal government’s official cost of electricity of $0.11 per kilowatt. However, that number is likely very low today.
***Ex: Highest California incremental rate of $0.37 per kilowatt

Cost of electric should also not be an issue for those running 15 hours a week or less, but can get very pricey, especially in a state with absurdly expensive electric, such as California.  Here I’m paying $.37 cents per kilowatt for my top tier.  A projector drawing 350 watts (typical DLP)  at 15 hours a week will cost at my California rate, approximately $2 a week, call it $100 a year.  At 40 hours a week, we’re now looking at about $5.25 a week – over $260 a year!  That’s right, at California’s top tier rate, the electricity will cost you more than staying in lamps, over the life of your projector.

The thing to note, is that different technologies draw different amounts of electric, with 3LCD projectors typically being the most efficient.  Consider:

Thus, as a heavy user, relative to similar brightness, expect LCD to be the lowest cost to operate, and DLP’s the most expensive.  Again, if are not a heavy user, don’t be concerned.

For comparison to LCDTVs, our 4 year old Sony 40” LCD draws about 170 watts but today’s 42” are typically under 110 watts.  A 65” LCDTV draws about as much as any home theater projector, in the 300+ watt range, more than many projectors.  PlasmaTV’s known for better picture quality than LCDTVs draw even more per inch of size.

Bottom line, electrical cost can be a real dollar factor for heavy users.  That aside, almost any projector you can own will be a huge bargain compared to any LCDTV or Plasma, in terms of cost per square foot of viewing size.   For the same electrical cost of filling a 110” screen using an LCD projector, you can likely buy only a 50” LCDTV.

That concludes: Understanding Projector Performance As It Relates To Your Situation (Part 2 of this Guide)

NEXT is Part 3: Choosing A Screen For Your Room

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