PROJECTOR LAMPS GUIDE
There are various types and brands of projector lamps on the market and unless you work in the AV industry, the range of options may be confusing.
Before we delve deeper into the various types, it is important to understand what we call a projector lamp and how they are made.
WHAT IS A PROJECTOR LAMP?
A complete projector lamp is a whole lamp ready to be fitted into a projector without additional equipment required.
It consists of two parts:
- A bulb: this is the glass part
- A module, or housing: this is the metal and plastic frame that holds the bulb and connectors.
The bulbs for projector lamps are manufactured mainly by Philips, Osram and Ushio who are the world leading bulb manufacturers.
These bulbs are then fitted into the modules from the various projector manufacturers such as Epson, Hitachi, Sony etc. to form a complete lamp.
There are several types of lamp available, as follows:
TYPES OF PROJECTOR LAMPS
Original complete lamp
Also known as: original lamp or OEM lamp
An original lamp is the lamp as supplied by the original manufacturer, ready to fit in the projector.
They are produced to a high standard and designed to provide the brightness and longevity specified for the projector.
Original inside lamp
Also known as: genuine alternative lamp, genuine lamp
An original inside lamp is a complete lamp, ready to fit in a projector. It includes the same bulb as the one used in the equivalent OEM lamp but with a module manufactured by a third party.
They are produced to high standards and go through thorough testing and strict quality checks to ensure the highest quality and performance levels.
As original inside lamps use the same bulbs as in OEM lamps, they provide the same performance and longevity as the original lamps, but because they have a lower production cost and shorter route to market, they are slightly cheaper than their OEM equivalent.
Manufacturers of original inside lamps include GO Lamps, Diamond Lamps, Vivid Lamps and Pro-Gen.
Premium compatible complete lamp
Premium compatible lamps are complete lamps including a bulb and module, both manufactured by a third party.
They too are produced following high manufacturing and security standards using high quality parts however performance may be slightly reduced compared to OEM and original inside lamps.
Manufacturers of premium compatible lamps include Codalux, SmartLamps and Genius lamps.
Also known as: bare bulb
Bare bulbs are just the bulb, without the module. They are the same bulbs, produced by Philips, Osram or Ushio, as the ones used in the OEM lamps.
On selected lamp models, it is possible to easily swap the bulb in an existing lamp for a new one, re-using the module.
Because the bulb is identical to the one in the OEM lamp, it provides the same performance as the original lamp, but because a module is not included, the cost is much lower than a complete lamp.
Bulb only options are not the same as refurbished or relamped bulbs. Refurbished and relamped bulbs are old bulbs where the burner has been replaced and the ceramics remoulded. A bare bulb is a brand-new bulb and is the only bulb only option we would recommend.
Also known as: compatible lamp, imitation lamp
Copy lamps are produced to the lowest standards by third parties using the cheapest components available. They often infringe on copyrights and some are fraudulently advertised as original lamps.
Copy lamps are commonly found on auction websites and/or from foreign trade sellers, advertised at very low prices.
Because they use low quality components, they usually have very poor performance and tend to fail early, many within one to two months. Additionally, there are safety risks associated with the use of copy lamps as some are known to have exploded during use.
We strongly advise against the use of copy lamps. Always buy from a trusted specialist dealer in the UK.
Can I use any lamp with my projector?
Projector lamps are designed to fit a specific projector model, or sometimes a small range of projectors. They have different modules shaped to fit the space inside the projector, with the connectors in different locations depending on the model. The bulbs are also different from lamp to lamp, with different specifications to match the brightness required for each projector model.
There isn't a one size fits all lamp, so while you can choose between an original lamp, an original inside or a premium compatible, you need to make sure the lamp is for your particular projector model.
If you don't know which lamp you need, talk to a specialist who will be able to advise.
How many hours should the lamp in my projector last?
Just like any light bulb you would use for another purpose, projector lamps have an expected operating time.
The brightness of a projector lamp will decrease gradually as it gets used. Manufacturers recommend that a projector lamp is replaced when it reaches 50% of its initial output; they call the time it takes for a lamp to reach this level 'lamp life', expressed in number of hours of use.
Generally, the brighter the projector, the lower the lamp life.
Some years ago, it wasn't uncommon for a lamp life to be around 1000hrs, but today's projectors often boast lamp lives of up to 10.000hrs in eco mode. To put this number into perspective, 10.000hrs means nearly 3.5 years of using the projector every single day of the year for 8 hours before needing to replace the lamp.
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.
Some projectors will allow you to continue using the lamp beyond the stated lamp life, until it fails, but note that the image quality will be much lower with an old lamp and there is a risk of it shattering if it is used well beyond the recommended replacement time.
For projectors that are used under normal operating conditions, the lamp will have the greatest likelihood of lasting through its entire rated lamp life. Projectors that are used more often, for extended times 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.
Projector manufacturers state the expected lamp life for their models so check the specifications of your projector for an indication of how long it should last in ideal conditions.
How can I tell if my projector lamp needs to be replaced?
The most obvious sign that the lamp needs to be replaced is when it stops working.
When this happens, the projector will not turn on, and usually the LEDs on the projector will indicate if the lamp has failed.
To make sure the lamp is the issue, check your projector manual for the various LED codes which will confirm what the problem is.
As mentioned previously, projector lamps become dimmer as the longer they are in use. They produce 50% of their original brightness when they reach their stated lamp life.
If your projector is still projecting but appears significantly dimmers than when you first used it, it may be an indication that the lamp will need replacing soon.
If your projector has this feature, check the lamp counter (usually accessible from the on-screen menu) and if it is close to or over the expected lamp life, you should change the lamp.
Some projectors also have an automatic message being displayed on screen when it is time to change the lamp.
How to help projector lamps last longer?
The number one cause of lamp failure, aside from age, is overheating.
Projector lamps run at very high temperatures due to their high brightness output; they therefore need adequate cooling not to overheat. This cooling is provided by fans inside the projector drawing cool air from outside and pushing hot air out through air vents.
To prevent overheating, ensure the projector filters (if there are any) are cleaned or replaced regularly, especially in dusty or smoky environments as clogged up filters will restrict air intake.
You also need to ensure there is enough space around the projector not to obstruct air intake and exhaust vents, or restrict air flow around the projector. Your projector manual will indicate the required distance between the projector and any other object for optimum air flow.
Another common reason for early lamp failure is not following the correct shutdown procedure.
On many projectors, the fans continue to run for a few seconds or minutes after the projector is turned off to allow the lamp to cool down in a controlled manner. Pulling the power plug out to turn the projector off or before the fans have stopped will affect the cooling of the lamp and in turn it may reduce its life.
Always follow the procedure described in your projector manual to turn the projector off.
Lamps can fail early if they suffer knocks, especially when hot, so always wait until the projector has cooled down before moving it.
Using a padded case for portable projector is also recommended.
Avoid repeatedly turning the projector off and on in a short period of time. If you are going to need the projector again in a couple of minutes, it is better to leave the projector on rather than turning it off and then on again shortly after. Some projectors have an AV mute feature which suspends projection when you need to stop projecting for a short amount of time.
Finally, if your projector is more than bright enough for your application, you can use eco mode (where available). It will reduce the brightness of the projector slightly and extend the lamp life, sometimes up to double the full brightness life.
Why do projector lamps cost more than other types of bulbs?
Projector lamps are highly specialised, complex types of lamps which are not easy to manufacture. To be able to achieve their very high levels of brightness, they require costly high-quality components and must be produced to exacting standards and thoroughly tested to ensure performance and safety.
The price of projector lamps has actually decreased drastically in recent years. Some models nowadays cost as low as £55.00 ex vat (correct as of 2020), compared to most projector lamps costing in the region of £200 to £300 a few years ago.
If you still have questions about projector lamps or need help finding a replacement lamp for your projector, please contact us and we'll be happy to advise.