Your projector might be a small unassuming device you throw in your laptop bag between presentations. It might also be a venerated piece of gear carefully installed into your Home Theater. Maybe you are tasked with handling a school districts worth of SmartBoards...
In any of these situations there are 4 common mistakes people make when they own a projector. These mistakes are not only annoying but can also be costly to rectify.
1. Ordering a Cheaper lamp that "looks" OK.
Sure, that lamp might be under $50 and says it will run in your projector but as I mentioned in an earlier blog, your cost of ownership can be over 4X what it should be if you had purchased an Original Inside lamp. Check with the company and see what brand bulb is inside. Your old lamp will have markings on that bulb. Make 100% sure your new lamp is the same as the old one. The adage of "if it looks too good to be true, it probably is" holds very true here.
2. Replacing the bulb portion only.
Always buy a full lamp if its available. This is/has been advertised by many companies over the years. They offer an explanation that you can get away with only replacing the bulb since the bulb is the only part of your lamp that goes bad right? In most cases this is not true. While the plastic and metal structure of the lamp will handle tens of thousands of hours of heat, the other parts, such as the lamp's lens and wires will not. On a lamp for a DLP projector, there is a special coating that is applied to the lens. That coating blocks harmful ultraviolet and Infrared light from entering the optic path of your projector. Since that coating has degraded over the years, your 2500 hours lamp housing now is only blocking a percentage of that UV/IR light. That now un-blocked light is attacking your optics. It will cause the lenses inside to heat-up and eventually start melting. The more concerning problem is that you are exposing you, your family or coworkers to dangerous invisible UV/IR light over a few dollars. I will say, there are a handful of projectors who use a built in IR/UV filter that is made to handle repeated bulb replacement. These are few and far between. For a few dollars more you will have the peace of mind knowing you are protecting your investment as well as the safety of yourself and those around you. This BenQ 5J.05Q01.001 is a good example. The lens on the front shows the coating. This is also a problem for cheap lamps. They use an inexpensive coating that will not work as well. The glass has a 'green' shine to it. If you see that send the lamp back.
3. Resetting the Lamp timer without replacing the lamp.
This is a bad idea. While you are probably thinking you are putting one over on the manufacturer, you are only putting your projector at risk. The time limit on your projector lamp is determined by the manufacturer of your projector. They determine this by seeing how long the lamp can run before the light output drops past a certain threshold (varies per model) and/or when the lamp may be getting deformed from heating cycles(on and off). Once a lamp begins to deform, it has an increased chance of rupturing. If you lamp ruptures while running, the chances of damaging the projector also increase dramatically. That "replace lamp" warning is the best time to buy a new lamp. If your old lamp still works, then put it away as a backup. Your new lamp will be much brighter and will ensure longer functional life of your projector.
4. Not cleaning your projector often enough.
This is by far the most common mistake I see with projectors. A dirty projector is a projector that is unable to cool properly. That will lead to shortening the life of the lamp and the projector itself. No matter how clean your house is, there is dust in the air. That dust is pulled into the projector via the cooling fans. Electricity generates a static charge which causes the dust to stick to components inside. Over time that dust will cover the heatsinks that cool electronics like the DLP chip. That dust will build up on the leading edge of the Lamp cooling fan blades. Once enough blades are coated the fan will no longer push enough air through the lamp. When your lamp is running at 500F and that air stops flowing, you can expect 700F+ at the lamp. That corresponds to increased heat throughout the projector. The lamp will finally reach the temperature for the Quartz to become soft. Once that happens it’s only a moment before the arc tube in the center of the lamp ruptures. I recommend having your projector opened and cleaned at least once a year. At the least, take a vacuum cleaner and some canned air (air duster, not Perri-Air) and blow out and dust through the intake/exhaust vents on the side. In the future I will address cleaning to a more direct degree.
There are other mistakes and suggestions, but these are the top 4 that I see. A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of cleaning some NEC V260X projectors that had never been cleaned in 7 years. They had enough dust that I could weigh it. They also had bad color wheels because of the heat and would sometimes get as much as 200 hours before a new lamp would fail. After cleaning them and replacing the color wheel, the NP18LP lamp I installed will run for its entire expected life.