Replacing Projector Lamps and Bulbs

July 31, 2015

It's easy to assume many things about lamp-based projectors if you've never had to deal with them. Just like a new car, they require some basic maintenance and the proper replacement parts. Here is what I have learned the past few years working with many different types of projectors. Hopefully this information will help you get the most out of your current projectors, give you the information you need when purchasing a new projector, and potentially save you from damaging your projector when the time comes to replace the lamp(s).

  • A typical factory lamp will last around 2000 service hours. That rating is the running time it takes until the lamp reaches 50% of its original brightness. This is only an estimate, though. Some lamps will burn down quicker, very few will burn slower. If you run a projector for 10 hours per week, which is usually a minimum for most churches, you should replace lamps at least every 3 years, probably more often.
  • Lamps usually begin to flicker towards their end of life. If your projector is flickering, it's probably time to change the lamp.
  • Some projectors will automatically shut off when the lamp life counter reaches 2000 hours. You might be able to reset the counter to gt the projector to come back on but it may shut off again fairly quickly. If it shuts off at 2000 hours, get a new lamp and replace it as soon as possible. Running a projector lamp longer than the specified hours is never a good idea and could potentially damage your projector.
  • When you buy a new projector, ask the company or person that you bought it from how much the manufacturer's replacement lamp costs. That will give you an idea of what you're going to have to spend in 18-24 months. Or, even better, go ahead and purchase an extra lamp so you're ready for the first replacement.
  • A generic, off-brand lamp is almost never a good replacement. 9 times out of 10 they will burn down quickly (usually 400 hours or less to 50% brightness), or even worse they will explode or melt and completely ruin your projector. That's simply not worth the risk.
  • Generic, off-brand lamps can look exactly like the original manufacturer's lamp. If a website says “OEM compatible” or “certified aftermarket”, that doesn't mean it's a manufacturer's replacement. That only means it is made to fit in your projector.
  • I have never seen a legitimate manufacturer's replacement lamp cheaper than $100 for nearly every projector. There are a few lower end Epson and NEC lamps that can be had for $90, but that's about it. If it's too good to be true, it's probably not true.
  • It is normal for replacement lamps to cost 15-20% of the list price of the projector. For example, our projectors listed for $5,500 new. Replacement lamp pairs (because it's a dual lamp model) cost $950. That's 17% of the original list price.
  • Replace or clean your projector's filter(s) every 3 months and each time you change lamps. Lamps get HOT and this ensures the projector vents properly. To clean your filter, simply take it out of the projector (usually accessible through a tray or door on the outside of the projector) and use a can of compressed air or compressor to blow out the dust and debris from the filter.
  • When searching for replacement lamps, search B&H or Full Compass to see if they carry your lamp. They are very good about only selling manufacturer's replacements. This will give you an idea of the cost. Any site that is more than 10% below that price is probably not a legitimate replacement.
  • DO NOT buy from these sites when buying replacement lamps:
    • Pureland Supply
    • Bulbtronics(.com)
    • Electrified
    • DH Gate
    • Projector Lamps World
    • BuyQuest
    • ProjectorLamps(.com)
    • Lamps Pros
    • Amazon (yes, even Amazon)
    • Lampedia
    • Bulbs(.com)

As an example, at our church we run projectors an average of 18 hours per week: 5 hours on Saturday for service, 8 hours on Sunday for sound check and two services, and 5 hours during the week for various events (Bible studies, meetings, setup, etc.). Our lamps are rated at 2000 hours and typically start to look dim around 1500 hours. So, 1500 hours / 18 hours per week comes to approximately 83 weeks or 20 months for our lamp cycle. Therefore, we make it easy by replacing bulbs before the 2 major church holidays, Easter and Christmas. We change bulbs on Easter, then the following year on Christmas, then skip the next year's holidays and replace lamps on the following Easter, and so on.

I know there are a lot of options out there and a wide range in quality when it comes to actual projectors, so these are general guidelines. The best thing is to check your manufacturer's specs and ratings and adjust accordingly.