MARCH 2002 IN
RICK ASTER’S WORLD

Saving Real Estate With Flat-Panel Displays

With flat-panel computer displays now costing only a modest premium over the price of the traditional cathode ray tubes (CRTs), many people are asking the question, “Should I spend the extra money and get a flat-panel display?” The answer in most cases is, “Yes, absolutely.”

I have written before about the power savings of flat-panel displays. The cost of the electricity used to operate a CRT can be around $300 over the life of the display — possibly more than the price of the display itself. Add in the cost of the air conditioning to take away the heat that all that electricity creates, and the cost could double to $600, depending on the building and the climate. Flat-panel displays are much more efficient than CRTs. A flat-panel display might use around $50 of electricity over the same time period. But for most people, the most expensive aspect of owning a computer display is not the power or the display itself, but the real estate that the display occupies.

Flat-panel displays are just thick enough to keep from breaking. They are small enough that they can scarcely be measured in real estate terms. A CRT, by constrast, is large enough to dominate the desk it sits on. And in most cases, that space doesn’t come cheap.

Office space in the United States is mostly rented and is priced in dollars per square foot per month. A price of $8 per square foot per month is not uncommon, and a typical CRT display uses between 2 and 3 square feet. That works out to perhaps $200 per year or over $1000 during the life of the display, more than all other costs combined. Businesses measure questions such as this in terms of ROI, or return on investment, which is like an interest rate. The ROI of replacing an existing CRT display with a flat-panel display, combining the power savings and real estate savings, is typically between 50 and 100 percent. To put that in perspective, an ROI over 10 percent is usually considered pretty good in business.

Residential real estate is less expensive, but home computers usually aren’t used all day long the way a business computer is, so the display could last twice as long. The result is that even in the home, the real estate cost of a CRT display is a major financial consideration. It might be around $250 — in most cases, more than the cost of the display itself.

The conclusion: If you’re buying a new display, save real estate — that is, save money in the long run — by buying a flat-panel display. If the higher price of a flat panel bothers you, then don’t buy a new display at all. You can now buy a good used CRT display for around $100, and with so many people replacing their CRTs with flat-panel displays, that price is likely to fall lower still. Who knows, with the money you save, you might be able to buy a flat-panel display next year, as those prices also continue to fall.


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