Projection Lamps Life

Projection Lamps Notes from ISF-C:

How many hours will my projector lamp work?

Just like any light bulb you would use for another purpose, projector bulbs have an expected operating time, called lamp life. This value is expressed in number of hours – typically around 2000 hours. Newer models are achieving 4000+ hours of lamp life. With metal halide, total lamp life is not a very useful measurement, they typically do not burn out, but gradually grow dimmer. The lamp will continue to function long after they’re so dim you won’t want to use them. So manufacturers’ offer a peak rating—and peak lamp life is the time the lamp will last at 80 – 90% of total brightness. The lamp’s success rate is based on a bell curve, so that a majority of (but not all) lamps will meet the lamp life hours specified. Some lamps will fail sooner and this is part of the acceptable operating range of the rating.

For projectors that are used under normal operating conditions (no more than three to five hours per day in a clean, relatively dust-free environment) the lamp will have the greatest likelihood of lasting through its entire rated lamp life. Projectors that are used more often or are exposed to environmental contaminants are more likely to show a decrease in lamp life. Projectors that are operated 24 hours a day, 7 days a week are at the highest likelihood of lamp failure before the end of the rated hours.

Extending Projector Lamp Life

Projector lamps usually expire early because they are burning at too hot a temperature over the course of their lives. Below are some simple tips for extending your projector lamp life. Never Touch the Bulb-Even trace amounts of oil from a fingerprint on the bulbs glass surface can cause hot spots, thermal stresses and early failure. Only handle lamp module unless you need to replace the bulb. Use a clean, dry cloth if you need to handle the bulb and follow the manufacturer’s safety directions.

Ventilation -The single most important thing you can do to make sure your projector lamp lasts a long time is to mount your projector in a space with ample ventilation. Projectors that are mounted in corners, extremely close to the ceiling or in rooms with little to no air flow often cause the projector lamps inside them to expire early.

Vacuum and Blow Compressed Air – Dust that gathers inside your projector can cause the projector lamp to burn at too hot a temperature over time which will cut its life short. The easiest solution to this problem is to vacuum your projector and blow it out with compressed air every now and then. Use your judgment, if you are using the projector often, complete this process more frequently.

Change or Clean Your Filter Regularly – Almost every projector these days has a filter that prevents dust from getting inside the sensitive circuitry. The drawback to this is that if the filter gets clogged with dust it can cause the projector lamp to burn at a hotter temperature and diminish its lamp life. The filter on your projector is usually found behind a small rectangular panel that measures 0.5″ by 6″ long.

Use the projector in Eco-mode– Many digital projectors offer what is called Economy Mode or Eco-Mode. This is a setting that uses less brightness from the projector lamp, yet will make the projector lamp last longer. An example of this projector Eco-Mode is if you have a projector with 2000 lumens of brightness, its lamp hour rating might be 2000 hours. If you put the projector in Economy Mode, the brightness might go down to around 1600 lumens of brightness, but the projector lamp may last 3000 hours. If you go back and forth from the two brightness options, then your lamp hours would be somewhere between 2000 and 3000. A good rule of thumb to save lamp hours is not to use more brightness than you need in any given situation. By sacrificing a little brightness from the multimedia projector, you can add many hours to the life of your projector lamp.

Do Not Turn Your Projector On and Off Quickly – Turning your projector on and off quickly can have devastating effects for your projector lamp. Projector lamps typically take about a minute before they are running in a stable current. Projectors have special ballasts inside them that ignite projector lamps at a high voltage and then run them at a low voltage. If you turn your projector on and off quickly it can cause the ultra-high pressurized mercury vapor to become destabilized, which will in turn cause your projector lamp to fail permanently.

Avoid Power Surges-All electronics hate voltage spikes and projectors and projection bulbs are no different. A surge protector for your projector and other audio visual home electronics is a wise investment. Don´t move or shake your projector- While the projector lamp is still on (even while it is powering down), the lamp is very sensitive to movement. Moving the projector while the projector lamp is still on could shorten the lamp life, or worse, it could cause the projector lamp to burst Changing the projector lamp-For most projectors, installing a projector lamp is simple and usually only involves the turning of a few screws. However, keep in mind that the projector lamp housing and glass are very fragile, so you should consult your owners’ manual or the instructions that came with the projector lamp, before you attempt to install the lamp yourself.

Avoid hazardous climates-The most hazardous climate to a projector lamp is extreme cold in the wintertime. If you leave a data/video projector in your car when it’s 40 degrees or below, the data/video projector lamp will have a tendency to explode if you turn the projector on immediately. You must allow the data/video projector to warm to room temperature before turning on the projector to avoid the dangerous scenario of an exploding projector lamp. Most any electronics can also be damaged when left in a car on a hot summers day. Without air conditioning, a car can reach temperatures hot enough to fry an egg – or a projector. Make sure that your projector is always in a room temperature environment.

Projection Lamp Manufacturers

There are only a handful projector lamp manufacturers in the world that make high-quality projector lamps considered worthy enough to be requisitioned for projectors. Manufacturing a projector lamp takes an incredible amount of engineering know how and capital. The following are the major movers and shakers in the projector lamp industry –

Philips – The global consumer electronics company engineered the 100% mercury vapor metal halide lamp in 1995. Using 100% mercury vapor allowed traditional metal halide lamps to emit a brightness never achieved previously and for all practical purposes made digital projectors possible. Philips was the trailblazer in the projector lamp world and remains as a dominant force in the projector lamp industry. Some estimates have Philips controlling over 70% of the projector lamp manufacturing and sales market worldwide.

Ushio – Ushio is a Japanese company that started operations in 1964 as an industrial light manufacturer. The company is now a self-described “creator of light” and manufacturers hundreds of different industrial light formats. The company manufacturers projector lamps for Sony, Sanyo, Epson, and BenQ amoung others and is estimated to have a 20-25% share of the projector lamp market.

Osram/Sylvania – Osram is a German company that claims to be the second largest lighting manufacturer in the world. The company specializes in producing the ARC tube found in metal halide lamps, but they also manufacturer complete OEM projector lamps for several projectors. Osram controls a 7-11% share of the projector lamp manufacturing market.

Panasonic– A Japanese company who designs and manufacturers lamps for their own projectors.

The Rest – A handful of projector lamp manufacturers are located in Taiwan, Japan and China. Most of them do not manufacture high enough quality projector lamps to be considered for mass distribution inside brand new projectors. However, there are some projector lamp manufacturers that have been successful and received work orders to fill lesser-known brand name projectors with their projector lamps

Lamp Explanations and Refurbishment Dangers

Please note that many respected suppliers of projection lamps exclude any type of lamp refurbishment/re-lamping from the services it offers to its customers. This includes the sale of “bare bulbs” without housing. After serious concerns have been raised over the safety and quality of lamps that have been re-lamped we feel it would be unprofessional to put the safety of their customers and their equipment at risk. The safety reasons for our decision are outlined below. Since projector manufacturers generally do not intend their lamps to be sold without plastic housing, the authenticity of ANY projector lamp (with or without housing) sold by a company offering lamps without housing can be questioned. Always make sure to ask if the lamp you are getting is a manufacturer original lamp or not.

Warranty concerns –

The constituent parts of a projector lamp module are assembled by the manufacturer in a highly precise process and are not designed to be taken apart and refurbished with a third party bulb. Often after a module has been taken apart even trained professionals may find it difficult to re-assemble the module. Putting a refurbished lamp in your projector may void its warranty and lead to reduced performance.

Mercury dangers –

Projector bulbs contain mercury gas, which, if the lamp is damaged during a bulb replacement, can escape. Mercury has been found on the plastic housing of lamps that have had their bulbs replaced, which poses an obvious and serious health risk.

Used products may result in reduced performance –

During operation the entire lamp module is exposed to extreme temperatures, so replacing only the bulb leaves the customer with a used product that will give reduced performance compared to a brand new lamp. The wear-and-tear of connectors (a component of the plastic housing) can influence the stability of the lamp’s electrical supply, resulting in a flickering image.

Dust build up –

Dust particles build up around the bulb and module during a lamp’s life which is difficult to remove 100% successfully, even by experienced engineers. The dust particles retain extra heat within the housing as well as disrupting air-flow which cools the lamp. Both of these elements shorten lamp life and can cause the projector to overheat or malfunction.

Compatible Lamps (Copy Lamps)- Compatible lamps or Copy Lamps as they are also known are often grey market imports with no warranties, and of unknown manufacturing standard. Copy Lamps are often produced by non-regulated companies. They are supplied in boxes often lacking labels, for prices that sound (and often are) too good to be true. Compatible lamps are frequently supplied as “bulb only”, without plastic housing. Bulb only products can be unsafe and require technical knowledge of electrical wiring when installing the lamp. For a genuine value alternative to manufacturer original lamps consider Original Alternative Lamps.

Lamp module- A term used to describe the bulb and its lamp housing. Most lamps are supplied in this form to make replacing the lamp in your projector quick and easy. To replace a lamp module you simply undue the necessary screws on your projector, lift out the old lamp module, insert the new lamp module and tighten the screws. Specific instructions on how to replace the lamp module may vary from projector to projector so it is advisable to consult the instruction manual.

Bulb only- A few manufacturers offer the choice between a replacement lamp module and a replacement bulb for their projectors. A lamp module means you are buying a complete unit – the lamp and the housing around it. They are intended to be user-replaceable and no advanced technical knowledge is needed. By buying just the bulb you do not get the housing around the lamp and installing it can be difficult, often resulting in damage. More care and attention is necessary when handling bare lamps. Always use gloves or a suitable cloth and ensure the terminals are not over tightened as the ceramic can be cracked and reduce the electronic insulation of the filament. Similarly, if the lamp is under tightened it can cause arcing on the terminal. This will put undue load on the ballast and can lead to lamp failure. We recommend purchasing a complete module unless you have a background in electrical engineering.

Lamp timer- Also known as a lamp counter this feature allows you to check and monitor the number of lamp hours used. Most projectors are fitted with this device. Some lamps now even come with an electronic timer built on the actual lamp so lamp life can be monitored more accurately.

Mercury or Metal Halide Lamp –

This technology is a development of the high pressure mercury lamp, to which trace additions of various other metals are added in the form of their halide compounds. These are vaporized into the discharge and contribute their spectral output. Materials are selected which fill in the gaps in the mercury spectrum to deliver a light source having considerably improved color properties. The luminous efficacy of the lamps is also increased owing to a reduction in the generation of invisible ultraviolet radiation. This type of lamp is used in 90% of projectors.


A type of metal halide lamp. An abbreviation for Ultra High Efficiency lamp it is well known for low operating temperatures and minimal power consumption less than half of that of halogen bulbs. The lamp is also small in size and has helped to reduce the overall size and weight of projectors.


A type of metal halide lamp and an abbreviation for Ultra High Performance lamp . Where other lamp types can experience a significant performance and color shift after a period of time, UHP lamps guarantee virtual constant performance over its lifetime without hotspots. UHP is a trademark of Philips Electronics.


A type of metal halide lamp and an abbreviation for Ultra High Brightness lamp.


Common in most Panasonic projectors this high power lamp is a trade mark of Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Ltd

Xenon Lamp –

A small percentage of projectors use Xenon lamps, mainly high-end versions and those used in cinemas. A Xenon lamp produces a more natural color and stable light, enabling vivid, true-to-life color reproduction