What's the cost? How to Analyze your Projector Purchase

Whether you are an administrator weighing benefits and costs for classroom tech, or an educator writing a grant or appealing to your district budget leaders, here are a few important considerations to keep in mind.

Get to Know your TOC

Analyzing cost hardly ends with a few rounds of smart shopping. The price tag on your tech doesn’t tell the whole story. To truly come to an accurate and reliable number that will satisfy the powers that be (in charge of funds) there are a few more details to work out to reach your Total Ownership Cost (TOC).

  • Installation — Though largely a one time cost, if wiring needs to be adjusted and specialty hardware purchased to ensure student safety, this should be kept in mind. While an interactive whiteboard’s heftier weight could require up to three people to mount, a projector should be a simpler prospect (particularly if a tabletop model will suffice). Remember to include any audio/speaker needs that might be necessary.
  • Accessories — Will your choice of tech include all necessary cords, adaptors, audio components, etc. for you to use in the manner required? Will you need to purchase a specialized cart or tools to use the interactive features? Will your new projector be compatible with the software your school already uses?
  • Energy Costs — Take the time to analyze energy use stats. These can add up in the long-term and all projectors are not created equal. For example, the Casio Ultra Short Throw UT351WN has an energy cost of one third less than a comparable projector (around $200 savings over life of tech). This might seem negligible, but when you are buying multiple projectors or simply running your numbers for true accuracy, this should be considered. In order to compare your options, multiply the Power Consumption/Projector (watts) by the Service Life (hours) to reach your Total Power Consumption (watts). Multiply this by your Cost/kWh to come to your true Power Consumption Cost.
  • Maintenance — After the initial installation, will your choice of projector need additional upkeep and investment (either financial or labor resources)? Is it a system that can grow and develop, or at least remain compatible, with new technologies to avoid a repurchase before the life of the system has been used?

Lamp-Less, Cost Less

One major development has grown in the field of classroom visual tech— the lamp-less projector. New laser tech and digital developments have made relying on pricey and eco-questionable lamps as the projector lighting source, obsolete. This saves teachers a great deal of hassle, but also makes a mark on the TOC bottom line.

Previously, up to nine conventional mercury-vapor lamps would have been required during the life of a classroom projector. While replacement of the lamps themselves might be the most obvious and heftiest of added costs, other associated costs for proper disposal of used lamps, replacement filter costs, labor costs for lamp changes (typically 45-60 minutes for ceiling mounted projectors) and fees for order processing can easily drive the cost of the projector up by an additional $250-330 during the life of the tech. (Not to mention the potential for unexpected lamp-blows to disrupt educators’ schedules and lesson plans leading to precious lost teaching time.)

Sascha Zuger

Sascha has nearly two decades of experience as a freelance journalist writing for national magazines, including The Washington Post, LA Times, Christian Science Monitor, National Geographic Traveler, and others. She writes about education, travel and culinary topics.