Update: So after a 2 week vacation, finally got the tech back out with the new panel. After a bit of a struggle pulling the tv down, replacing, then struggling to put it back up (twice, one of the connections came loose so we had to pull the back off again), I now have brand new panel. And since he used the old main board, none of my settings were lost. So, I just have to subtract 500 hours now so I know how much this panel has.
He basically told me no reason to break in, as the technology these days is good enough not to worry about IR or burn in. I'm very happy and will be watching a quick movie to check out the picture.