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Should I Replace my Projector Lamp? (The Answer is Usually NO.)

By November 14, 2014Projectors

Should I Replace my Lamp?

People often call us looking for advice on their projectors.  The most common complaint we hear is, “I just changed the lamp on my projector, but it still won’t turn on!”  Projector owners are well aware that projector lamps are consumable and that they need to be periodically replaced.  What is poorly communicated is the fact that the lamp is usually the least important aspect of projector maintenance and ownership. Clogged cooling channels, burnt polarizing plates, broken fans, and overheated components are the most likely culprits of your anguish, but we’ll get to that in a bit.

Projector Lamp Repair

When do I need to replace my projector lamp?

Economics of Modern Projectors

When purchasing projectors for home or small office use, most consumers will purchase the projector which is most accessible in their local Costco and Best Buy, and opt for either the brands that are the least expensive or the brands most recognizable from their high school classrooms.  While neither of these brands are bad in any way, it is important to note that less expensive projectors are NOT built to last.  Certain unnamed projectors have come to our work benches with melted lens assemblies and melted components, that is to say, that the construction of these units were so cheap, that they melted during normal use and warped the lens assembly.  The units were of course out of warranty, and left the owners in a position where repairing the unit cost more than the scrap value of the projector.  And that is to say, these units were expensive to repair not because of our labor rates or margins, but rather the unavailability of parts.  Just like with cheap TV’s, laptops, and consumer electronics, cheap projectors are designed to last until the warranty expires, then fail.  When the manufacturer receives units for repair, they will actually scrap the broken unit and send a new one… that’s how cheap they are.

Are OEM Lamps really Original?

When purchasing lamps, it is important to read the fine print.  More often than not, an OEM lamp simply means that the lamp is manufactured by one of the 6 or so major manufacturers, and is not actually an original lamp.  It is important that you evaluate your needs; if projector uptime is critical, under no circumstances should you use a cheap OEM bulb from an unknown source.  Most critically, these cheap lamps are known to cause power fluctuations, leading to damaged PCB components and blown ballasts.  Last month, a Southern California church saved $300 by installing an ‘OEM’ bulb in their Sanyo PLC-XF46.  The OEM bulb subsequently caused over $1500 worth of damage to the projector, as we needed to replace the ballast (as well as the lamp). Many manufacturers share common components, which means purchasing lamps for your Sanyo projector from Eiki is a totally acceptable practice, as Sanyo is no longer in the projector business.

When Should I replace my Lamp?

Most people who purchase a projector neglect to fully understand the longevity of a projector lamp.  For example, the popular Panasonic PT-AE2000U’s lamp is rated to 2,000 hours on Eco mode.  That means for a business or classroom environment, where the projector is used 3 hours a day, 3 days a week, you could go 222 weeks or about 4.25 years before you would meet the manufacturer’s expected lifespan for the lamp (and we’ll give you a hint, it usually lasts longer than that).  As you can imagine, if you are a church that runs your projector once a week, your lamp might last you 5-10 years.  Some tips: run your projector at a reasonable brightness level, in a clean and dust free environment to maximize the lifespan of the lamp and follow the guidelines posted on Projector Central.  If your lamp has exploded, it should be pretty obvious, and this is the only time that a lamp replacement is the first point of repair.  However, it should be noted that a burst lamp could be caused by other issues.

Why is my Projector Malfunctioning?

There are many causes for a malfunctioning projector, and they depend on the symptom.  Very rarely is the correct answer, “My projector is malfunctioning because of the lamp.”  Is your projector discolored?  This is probably caused by dirty and burnt polarizing plates.  Does your projector power off on its own?  Then it is probably overheating and the fans are blocked and the cooling channels clogged with dust.  No power at all?  Then it’s probably the power supply or ballast module. There are many causes and many symptoms, and none of these are user-serviceable.  You can see a thorough list of issues and causes on our page projector repair, or you can send your projector to us for an estimate.

Need a new lamp? No you need to clean your projector!

The Projector Lamp Light could mean your projector is clogged, not that it needs a new lamp


Is my projector worth servicing?

As we discussed earlier, there are many low-cost, high-resolution options available to you to replace your malfunctioning projector.  But chances are your projector is a high-lumens, long throw projector, or business class projector that cannot be as easily replaced.  If that is the case, help reduce E-waste and repair your projector.  Read our most recent blog post on Pro A/V E-Waste here.

How can I maximize the lifespan of my projector?

Your projector is like a powerful, light-emitting vacuum.  The hot components require a lot of cool air to keep the components in functional shape, and you can help maximize the lifespan of your projector by running it in intervals, keeping it in a cool and dust free environment, and bringing it in for a semi-annual cleaning, calibration, and service.

What qualifies Digitron Electronics to make these statements?

We have been in the projector repair business for nearly 20 years, and we are an authorized serviced partner for Panasonic, Sanyo, and Eiki, as well as for Sony and NEC.  We’ve repaired thousands of projectors in the last year alone including Dell, Epson, Optoma, InFocus, Viewsonic, Christie, Mitsubishi, Barco, Runco, and Digital Projection.