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Commercial vs. Residential Displays: Knowing The Difference

There is one thing that commercial and residential displays have in common, and that’s their appearance. This is why so many companies make the mistake of relying on consumer grade displays instead of those intended for commercial use. It’s an understandable, if not tempting choice, because commercial displays are more expensive than consumer televisions, often to a significant degree. And, of course, consumer televisions are available at big box stores everywhere, so when one burns out, just go get another one, right? It is a viable choice, but only if money is no object, because consumer displays are just not equipped for commercial applications, and they will merit constant replacement if thrust into a commercial role.

Commercial vs. Residential Displays

Digital DIsplayThe old adage that you get what you pay for is relevant here, to a huge degree. Think about what residential televisions and commercial displays are expected to do, and then consider that the underlying engineering in both products reflects those expected tasks. It should immediately be clear that residential and commercial displays are not interchangeable, in either direction. Specifically, though, what separates the two? There’s a lot, including:

1. Quality of engineering – This is the big one. Residential televisions are designed to operate four to six hours a day, while commercial displays are, at a minimum, built to withstand 12 hours of operation daily. Many are designed for 24/7 operation, and the quality of construction is essential to getting that level of expected performance.

A consumer television is built with a plastic housing, smaller heat sinks and without cooling fans. As such, if it is left on around the clock, it will quickly suffer from thermal damage, which can quickly compromise the display’s function. Also, the cheaper housing is fine in the home, but in a high traffic commercial zone, it is liable to sustain physical damage, either through vandalism or inadvertent contact. Commercial displays are usually housed in durable metal, and their circuitry is protected with sizeable heat sinks and onboard fans. Overheating is not an issue, then, for commercial displays.

The difference is noticeable in terms of performance life. A residential television will provide a year, maybe two, of performance in a commercial setting. Whereas a commercial display will give five years or more in the same setting. The cost difference is wiped out in this area alone.

2. Warranty – Manufacturers build their residential and commercial displays for those applications, and their warranties reflect this as well. A commercial display is protected with a multi-year warranty that often offers on-site maintenance and replacement, and such warranties can often be extended.

A residential television warranty, though, is very limited if the television is placed in a commercial role. Typically, the warranty switches to a minimal 90-day warranty, over the counter, so constant repair and replacement is expected from the manufacturer. In many cases, the warranty is voided altogether if the display is used commercially.

3. Performance quality – This is particularly relevant in hazardous workplace settings where facility managers must adhere closely to OSHA standards regarding warning signage.

Residential televisions are built for the home environment, where ambient lighting is low, at least compared to the intense lighting found in factories and warehouses. With less backlighting and limited grayscale, residential televisions are less apparent in brightly lit areas. Commercial displays, though, are built for maximum visibility in areas with intense ambient illumination, so they can effectively replace traditional warning signage in most commercial and industrial settings.

4. Burn-in image protection – Residential televisions are expected to display moving images constantly, while commercial displays often cycle through a series of fixed images and layouts, or maintain a single layout for days, weeks or months on end.

When a single image is presented for long stretches of time, this can result in “burn” or image retention problems. It’s often referred to as a “ghost image” that looks like a shadowy copy of the image that remains even as other images are presented on the screen. It’s an eyesore, and it’s a frequent issue with residential televisions used in a commercial role. Such televisions are not designed with image retention protection, understandably, while commercial displays are, so they can hold a single layout for a long time without doing any damage to the screen itself.

5. Mounting options – Homeowners aren’t looking to get cute with how their television is arranged in a space. Horizontally-mounted to the wall or placed on a stand is how the vast majority of homeowners place their television, as the only goal is ease of viewing.

In the commercial world, though, business owners have to consider where exactly the displays is going to be mounted, what material it is going to be mounted to, and what can be done to enhance the display’s aesthetic. For this reason, commercial displays are made with VESA compliant mounting connections, intended for use with many industry mounting options. That’s not something that residential televisions are typically built with. Also, commercial displays can be arranged vertically, with no loss of performance quality or display durability, to provide some interesting display layout options. Vertical configurations can also help businesses save on space and place more displays into a smaller area – a popular option for restaurant menus installed above the counter.

And there’s more to it than that, but these points should make it obvious that there is a real difference between residential and commercial displays, and that those differences should steer a business’s approach to A/V communications. That’s not to say that all commercial displays are quality purchases, but this is a challenge that A/V integrators can help business owners overcome. An experienced A/V integrator can help a business choose the ideal display and offer solutions to any obstacles along the way.