Owning a projector also means you will inevitably have to replace the lamp. Many times the lamp will fail in spectacular fashion and leave no question that you need to replace it. There are plenty of other times that you may need to replace the lamp even though it still seems to work.
You have a picture. That means the lamp is fine, right?
The real answer is a loud maybe. There are plenty of instances where buying a new lamp before the old one explodes is the prudent (and less expensive ) option.
A projector lamp has a finite lifespan. They are built with components that consume themselves as the lamp runs. Once those components are fully consumed the lamp will not light and may even burst. The best time to replace the lamp is before that happens. Almost every single projector has an expected lamp life that is designed into the unit by the manufacturer.
The skeptic in me immediately figures the manufacturer does that on purpose to “make you buy a lamp”. They even build in reminder messages on the screen “REPLACE LAMP” or have the Lamp LED on the projector start blinking after a certain amount of hours have passed. However, the skeptic in me also decided to see what the lamps look like when they reach that point. My findings humbled me to a degree.
When the manufacturer says the lamp life is 2000 hours in standard mode(we’ll discuss eco mode), it means that the lamp will have consumed most of its materials under normal conditions. They actually want you to replace the lamp before it fully fails. They found (and I confirmed myself) that when their lamp is used to the 2000 hour mark, the arc-point electrodes have degraded to the point to where the arc is no longer uniform or reliable. That means your image is as dim as it’s going to be and probably has some flicker to it. It also means that the arc tube may overheat and burst from the projector trying to ignite a lamp that has reached the end of its useful life. If the lamp is run past the useful life you are putting your projector at risk for some serious damage.
I personally have seen $30,000 Runco projectors damaged incredibly bad because they ran their $330 lamp an extra 200 hours. The lamp burst, it sent molten quartz glass into the color wheel and mirrors. This caused an additional $1000 in repair. But hey it got them another 200 hours… Had they listened to the manual and replaced the lamp at the warnings appearance, they would have only been out $400 instead of $1400(plus shipping a 80 pound projector).
As skeptical as I am, the evidence shows that while it does seem like a printer ink sort of situation it truly is not. The lamp timers and lamp replacement indicators really do have a valid reason for warning you to replace the lamp. When you see the message or you see a flashing light that refers to the lamp life expiring, take this advice and buy a new lamp. If your old lamp is still working, you can put it away as an emergency spare. Do not run any lamp until it bursts or I may see your projector and use it as an example in another blog post.
Another lamp replacement indicator is erratic flickering. Flickering bright to dark(not to be confused with flickering colors). Let us say you are watching your favorite show and the image seems to act like someone is turning your brightness up and down quickly. This indicates that the bulb is probably close to failing. The arc inside is changing its shape and brightness because the electrodes have eroded to the point to where they are unable to keep the arc uniform. I mention this aside from the timer because this can happen well before the lamp timer runs out. If the projector is older, or maybe hasn’t been cleaned internally, the lamp will run hotter and with more wear and tear. Lamps fail or wear out early from excessive heat. The fans do their best but if the lamp is running hot or is not being cooled as well as it should, the consumable parts will wear out faster. Try not to wait for the lamp to burst as I said above. Once you do go to replace the lamp, give the projector a good cleaning of dust in the vents with a vacuum and maybe some gentle use of canned air. ExcessiveHeat+Use=Early Failure
The third instance where your lamp needs replacement is if you have a built in lamp hour counter module. Many higher end projectors use a small circuit board on the lamp housing that controls the lamp hours being recorded. Once that circuit is run to the top hour limit, it may shut the projector down. They will almost always(I want to say always but I can’t be 100% on that) give you a few hundred hours warning before putting the projector into ‘safety mode’ and not allowing the lamp to run until replaced. The lamps we sell that use those modules are all tested and verified so that when you install the lamp, your projector will resume proper function for another 1000-3000 hours depending on the model. Some versions have an Eco mode. This eco mode will allow you to run past the standard hour count as the lamp is run in a lower power mode. It will not be as bright but it will run longer. At that point it is a trade off in brightness for lamp life, but depending on your needs, this may be perfectly fine.
You may even want to replace it now if you have a big event coming up and the existing lamp is getting long in the tooth(or short in the arc electrodes). As I mentioned above, you can put that existing lamp in the closet as a spare and you will be amazed at how much brighter a new lamp is.
The moral of all of this is do not wait to replace your lamp until it fails if you can help it. A good replacement lamp from PurelandSupply is now the best value in many years. You can buy a lamp with the same parts as the OEM so that you can expect the same amount of performance.