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Thursday, June 17, 2010

How to extend the life of your projector lamp

Getting the longest life from your projector lamp

Unlike traditional ANSI coded projector lamps such as FXL and ENX type bulbs, the modern multimedia projector uses a metal halide lamp. These projector lamps do not have a filament that burns, but have 2 electrodes that create an arc and ignite the gas mixture inside the tube. Whereas the life of and ENX lamp is only 75 hours, the newer metal halide projector lamps is usually 2000 hours or more.

When you buy your projector lamp you quickly realize why you will do almost anything to extend its life. The cost of these bulbs range from about $250.00 and to over $1000.00 per module.

Follow these tips to make your projector lamp last longer

1)     Keep your projector in a clean environment. Dust and smoke will clog the air filters and coat the lamp. The arc tube in the projector lamps reach temperatures well over 1000 degrees Fahrenheit and any foreign substances will burn off. If you smell something burning after you turn on your projector, it could be an accumulation of dust and you may want to vacuum the projector as best as you can.

2)     Never touch the inside part of a metal halide projector lamp. The oil on your fingers will cause devitrification of the quartz glass composite tube when it reaches its maximum temperature and change the molecular structure of the arc tube and cause early failure. Any contamination of the projector lamp tube is undesirable, especially oily or sticky substances. Using cotton lint free gloves is a good way to prevent accidental contamination and usually an alcohol wipe can be used to clean the quartz/glass tube if necessary.

3)     Clean the filters frequently. If your projector uses sponge filters, these can usually be rinsed in clean water, dried and reinserted in their slots. You can also use a small vacuum to clean any dust built up in the filters or elsewhere in the projector. Cleaning these filters every 30 to 60 days will increase the life of your projector lamp as it will allow more clean air to flow over the lamp and regulate its temperature.

4)     Give your projector room to breathe.  Your projector lamp module requires good air flow to pass over the bulb. Blocking input or output vents will restrict this critical movement of air. Not allowing this super heated air to escape will only increase the temperature of the lamp module and decrease the life of the bulb.

5)     Don’t unplug the projector or turn off the power until the lamp has properly cooled. When you turn off the projector, you will usually hear the fan continue to run. This is necessary to completely cool the lamp. Unplugging the projector during operation or cutting the electricity will not allow your projector to cool the lamp evenly and it will decrease the life of your lamp. If it is possible, buy a small backup battery (or UPS) and attach to your projector. This will allow additional protection against power outages and accidental plug pulls. The cost of these batteries is usually under $50.00 and you could save yourself hundreds of dollars from an early failure.

6)     Use lower lamp settings. Some projectors allow you to adjust the light intensity with an “Econo” mode setting. This can increase the life of your projector bulb by up to 50% or more. Make sure that you are using the correct bulb. Some projector manufacturers like Panasonic have a regular version lamp and a long life version. They both operate the same, but you will only get the long life benefit from the long life version lamp.

7)     Avoid dramatic temperature changes. If your projector has been sitting in the trunk overnight in cold weather and you turn on the lamp before it reaches room temperature, the projector lamp will not tolerate the shock of the dramatic shift in temperature. Most likely the reflector will crack, or the arc tube might explode.

8)     Buy from a reputable distributor. A good distributor is easy to reach by phone, has a good return policy, does not mislead you by selling a bare bulb instead of a complete lamp module, or sells you a generic lamp when you were expecting the original brand. A good distributor cannot stay in business long if they are consistently replacing bulbs for customers. It creates a lot of overhead cost, man hours and poor public relations.

Manufacturing these bulbs is an intricate and multi step process.  Some bulbs must have professional glass blowers create the arc tube as there is no automated way to manufacture them inexpensively. Because of this extensive and complicated process, no two projector lamps are exactly alike. To test for life expectancy a large group of bulbs will be burned in a controlled environment and when ½ of the lamps expire, a life expectancy is determined. Half of these lamps exceeded the life expectancy and half fell short. What is the likelihood that you will get a lamp that won’t make it to its rated life? I would say about 50/50. 

What about the bulb manufacturer? No longer are we forced to buy the original manufacturers light bulb. Now you have options and as bare bulbs and generic manufacturers have made inroads to the projector lamp market prices have come down. Nothing like a little competition! But which bulb is best?

Although generic manufacturers have made significant improvement in the performance and quality of their lamps, we have not seen many that will exceed the standards of the original manufacturer’s lamp. That does not me you are stuck with the original manufacturer projector lamp and its corresponding high cost. You can get the exact same bulb in a generic housing which does nothing to increase or decrease the life of the lamp. These hybrid bulbs are exactly the same bulb as that which is in your projector when it was new. You may also consider getting a bare bulb replacement. Even though the manufacturer did not design the modules to be easily disassembled, it can be done and sometimes at a significant savings.

If you have any questions or comments about this article, please contact me at 866-470-9877 . Or visit our website at

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