Are LCDs Still a Luxury?

Despite vendors' claims, new monitors might not provide huge energy, cost savings.

This is an interesting time—workers are purchasing "consumer-oriented" equipment for their offices that is superior to the dregs issued to them by their employers. This is especially true when it comes to monitors, where consumers are gobbling up LCDs while enterprises often are stuck with curved-screen CRTs that are hard on the eyes in more ways than one.

Recently, monitor vendors have striven to win back corporate customers, and theyre beginning to find success. With LCDs, for example, vendors including NEC Corp., Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. and ViewSonic Corp. are pitching reduced energy costs as a substantial benefit over older CRT technology.

However, although its true that LCD monitors use less than half the power that CRTs need, they are not necessarily less expensive to operate, even when factoring in rather high energy rates (those in California, for example).

Most 15-inch to 17-inch LCD monitors use up 20 to 30 watts when on, diving down to less than 5 watts of consumption in standby mode. Although new CRT-based displays can drop down to 5 watts in standby mode, they consume between 80 and 100 watts of power for a 17-inch display. Even the most energy-efficient CRTs come in at twice the wattage of an LCD.

But even based on a relatively high energy rate of 20 cents per kilowatt hour, LCD monitors make only marginal sense if total cost savings are the main purchase driver. At this rate, LCD monitors cost about 5 cents a day to operate, while CRTs cost a little less than 13 cents per day (using 80 watts of consumption on average). Assuming that monitors are in use 8 hours per day and 25 days per month, LCDs will cost $1.20 to operate per month and CRTs $3.20 each. Annualized, these costs are approximately $38 for the CRT and $14 for the LCD.

That means it would take nearly 10 years to make up the difference in operational costs when considering the price differences of the monitors ($500 for a 15-inch, high-quality LCD vs. $300 for a 17-inch, high-quality CRT). Of course, for a company running 1,000 monitors, theres a difference of $20,000 a year between LCDs and CRTs—and energy companies often offer rebates for lower costs to highly energy-efficient companies.