"So what are my options?"
1.Fix it at a TV repair shop
Calls to television repair shops produced a range of estimates, i.e. $300 for an on-site consultation and no guarantee of repair. Shipping or transporting the TV to a repair shop could could add insult to injury as it is quite large and might be damaged even further during shipping.
2.Buy a new TV
With new plasma TVs costing about $1000+ for a similar model, it's a tough call between getting the old one fixed or just purchasing a new one. If repairs are more than $500, you'd be better off just chucking the old one and buying new. Since the Dell wasn't smoking or on fire and looked like it was still in very good condition, throwing it away seemed like a waste.
3.Take it apart
While my buddy contemplated what he wanted to do (see options 1 and 2 above), I resolved to just take the dang thing apart to see what I could see. I'm fairly electronics savvy and I love taking things apart, so this was an opportunity not to be missed.
The Bottom Line
Long story short, a $1.09 part took down a $4000 television.
The information contained herein is only a journal of my experiences. It is not meant as a tutorial for someone else to fix their own TV. If you use it as such, you do so at your own risk. Don't blame me if you destroy your TV or get hurt in the process. With that said, please continue reading....
Step 1: Symptoms
2. TV still powers up, blue led lights up, and relays click at turn on
3. Sound still works
4. Picture may come back for hours at a time but not reliably
5. Picture may appear for a split second when turning off.
How it happened
It all started one day when I went to turn on the TV and, while the power LED lit up and the power relays clicked as usual, the screen was blank. I thought it was on the wrong input so I used the controller to switch inputs but the on-screen menu would not show up either. The sound, however, was working so it was definitely on the right input already. I left the TV on for a while and after a couple minutes, the picture magically appeared! Great, it just needed to warm up I thought. After being left on for a couple of hours however, the screen went dark again. The TV was basically unusable because turning on the TV would usually result in just a dark, blank screen. Since the sound continued to work, I suspected something to do with the power supplied to the plasma screen proper.