There are a few things that a digital projector user can do to extend the life of their projector lamp. While the cost of the projector has continued to drop, the cost of replacement lamps has not come down significantly. Advancements in technology has allowed some companies to offer projector lamps for $200, but many still cost $500 or more.
Projector lamp life will vary based on many factors. Some depend on how the projector is used and the type of content that is played through it. Most of the factors to projector lamp life have to do with how the projector is installed and the amount of cooling that the projector receives. Taking care of the projector lamp is important to get the most out of the unit.
Projector Lamp â Permanent Installation
A projector that is properly installed in a permanent location will tend to have longer lasting lamps. This is because a projector lamp is most vulnerable when it is hot and being moved. Never move a projector when it is hot as this could easily shorten the life of a lamp.
Permanent installations of projectors should have plenty of cool air flowing into the unit. Most projector owner's manuals will have a set of requirements for the amount of air the projector needs. This is usually represented in the amount of space between the projector and any other object. If the exact requirement is not listed, a good rule of thumb is 2' to the next closest object.
Care should be taken to assure that there is not excessive dust buildup in the projector's vents. With a permanent installation it is good to have a cleaning schedule. It is easy to forget that a ceiling mounted projector is not getting cleaned as often as the rest of the items in the room. A recommended cleaning interval is every three to six months. This should be adjusted according to the operating environment.
A projector can be permanently mounted on a portable table which makes it easy to move, while keeping it from being knocked to the floor. The key to protecting the lamp is to make sure there is plenty of air flowing into the projector for cooling. Some installations need to protect the projector from being stolen. This is best done with a cage around the projector instead of a box that will trap hot air.
Projector Lamp â Portable Installation
When a projector is used in a portable setting, or is mounted and removed before and after each use, care must be taken to let the projector lamp cool. Traveling representatives are most at risk for hurrying out of a presentation and not allowing the lamp to cool properly.
A basic rule that will extend the life of the projector is to always wait at least five minutes after shutting down the lamp before turning off the projector or unplugging the unit. Some projectors will not power down until its internal sensors have determined the lamp is properly cooled. However, a user can unwittingly disconnect the power before the lamp is cooled.
When used as a portable projector it is important to pay attention to where the cooling air is coming from. Many times when a projector is pulled out for a board meeting, or for a quick presentation, they are used with a notebook computer sitting beside them. If the computer is exhausting its hot air into the air intake of the projector, it will take much longer for the lamp to cool.
Projector Lamp â Proper Use And Care
Sometimes papers, or books are put in front of the unit in an attempt to hide what is being projected. As long as there is no obstruction of air flow, this is not a problem. Do not prop a book immediately in front of the lens. Most projectors have vents all the way around them because of the much needed cooling. A piece of paper or a book covering the lens or top of the unit can easily restrict air and shorten the life of the projector lamp.
Another practice that will quickly shorten the life of the projector lamp is placing the lens cap over the lens when the bulb is turned on. This creates excessive heat by allowing the lens glass to heat more than normal. A rubber stopper or plastic cover over the lens will prevent it from cooling as it was designed to do.
It is a good idea to use a new projector and projector lamp for at least 20 hours as soon as possible after purchase. If a lamp is going to fail prematurely it will probably fail during that time. This allows the user to exchange the lamp for a new one while still under warranty. Most new lamps are covered under warranty for three to six months after purchase-not from the time it is installed. Any spare lamps should be tested by using them at least 20 hours within a few days of purchase. The original lamp can be kept as a spare or re-installed for use until it no longer functions.
When changing the lamp, the user should never touch it with bare hands. Oils from the skin can cause the lamp to heat unevenly. This will shorten lamp life. Using a clean cloth or gloves when replacing the lamp is recommended.
Projector lamps are usually rated between 2000 and 4000 hours of life. This actually refers to the half-life of the lamp. The half-life is the point where the lamp is half as bright as it was new. The lamp will still work at its half-life, but it will continue to gradually lose brightness. When purchasing a new projector, it is good to consider what the typical life of a lamp is. At $200 to $500 per bulb, this can make a big difference in a purchase decision.
With a lamp life of 3000 hours, a projector lamp should last more than 5 years if used 10 hours a week. However, the life of the lamp can be greatly shortened if the projector overheats or gets moved while the lamp is still warm.
By being careful to protect the lamp from overheating it is realistic that a projector lamp will serve its user for several years.