How Long Do Projector Bulbs Last?

There isn’t a scientific process by which the life expectancy of a projector bulb can be predicted, unfortunately.  There are many factors at play here that will determine the overall life expectancy of a bulb.

On average, however, the answer to the question How long do projector bulbs last is:

2000 hours

The article below will explore the ins and outs of how to try and determine how long your projector bulb will likely last.

How often do projector bulbs need to be replaced?

The life of a projector bulb is measured in hours.  Projector manufacturers call this lamp life.  The lamp life of a particular projector model can be found by searching for the model of the projector on the manufacturer’s website, and somewhere on that page, you will find the figure next to the lamp life entry.  The number next to this is the number of hours that the manufacturer believes the bulb will last.

Therefore, to work out how long in terms of years and months that a bulb would last, will require you to find out on average, how many hours a day you are using it.

For example, if you on average use a projector with a 2000 hour life expectancy, for 3 hours every workday (Monday to Friday), then you would use the following calculation to work out the number of weeks the bulb will last for:

Lamp life ➗ days per week ➗ hours used per day = life expectancy in weeks

Using the example above the calculation would be:

2000 ➗ 5 ➗ 3 = 133 weeks (approximately 2 years, 6 months)

The advertised life expectancy of a bulb will vary depending on the following factors:

Ventilation

As projectors create a lot of heat when in use, most projectors use air channels and fans to keep the projector units cool.  To prevent the fans from sucking lots of dust particles into the unit, projectors use foam air filters to block the particles from getting in while letting air to ventilate around the unit.

Over time these filters can become clogged up with dust, which in turn restricts the airflow inside the projector and will cause damage to the bulb as well as other projector internals.

Regularly keeping the air filter clean will therefore increase the lifespan of the projector lamp.

Operating Mode

Generally, projectors come with at least three operating modes – normal, bright, and eco.  These modes dictate how bright the projector lamp shines and therefore the number of lumens it emits.

Projector bulbs create the vast majority of the heat for the entire unit.

As the heat increases, it will eventually begin to damage the bulb or at least reduce its overall brightness over time.

Setting the projector to eco mode will increase the lifespan of the projector bulb at the cost of it running approximately 20% less bright.

Normal mode will maintain the manufacturer’s lamp life.

Bright mode will decrease the lifespan of the bulb the most as the projector bulb will emit at a higher level of lumens with the knock-on effect of increasing the temperature of the projector unit.

Allow the projector to cool

When the projector has been used, the normal procedure is for the projector to turn off the bulb while keeping the fan turning to cool down the unit for a short time until the temperature of the unit has decreased to a safe level for the bulb and the rest of the projector components.

It is therefore important to ensure that you do not switch the power off for the entire unit until the fan has been able to cool itself down.

If the bulb is left too hot, it will become more and more damaged over time and therefore break before the manufacturer’s advertised lamp life.

Allow sufficient space around the projector

As mentioned above, internal ventilation is important to the projector as the projector’s components including its bulb require as much cool air to move around them as possible.

If the projector itself is located in an environment that doesn’t allow much air to circulate around the outside for example, in a cupboard or between some shelves, then the projector will quickly heat the air outside the unit and overheat.

How do I know if my projector bulb needs to be replaced?

There are a few telltale signs that a projector bulb is in need of replacement.  Some are more obvious than others.

We will begin with the most obvious signs that the lamp is reaching the end of its expected lifespan.

Projector warning message

Projectors usually have a built-in lamp life timer.  The projector will keep a record of how many hours its current bulb has been installed.

As the projector nears the end of its life, the projector will overlay a message on top of the projected image for approximately 15 seconds when the projector is switched on.  This is a very handy feature.  

We would recommend that you replace the bulb as soon as possible at this point.  Remember to reset the timer via the projector’s menu when you replace the bulb.  This will help the projector keep an accurate record of the new bulb’s life. 

Projector warning LED light

Projectors will display a red or amber warning light on the unit if the projector lamp has failed or is about to fail.

If the bulb has failed, your projector won’t usually switch on, so please replace the bulb as soon as possible.

If your projector is displaying a bulb warning light but still allows the projector to power on and display as usual, replace the bulb as soon as you possibly can to prevent any damage to the projector unit itself.

Dim image

Projector bulbs become dimmer, the older the bulb becomes.  If you notice that you are finding it harder to see the image or that you need to switch off the lights in the room to be able to clearly see the projector image this may be a sign that the lamp requires replacement.

Yellow image

Projector bulbs become yellower, as the bulb grows older.  If you notice that the image is becoming yellower or that some other colors are no longer correct, then this is a clear sign that the lamp requires replacement.

How long do LED projector bulbs last?

Given the nature of LED technology being low power, more efficient and therefore operating at much cooler temperatures than traditional projector bulbs, LED lamps will usually last for approximately 20,000 hours.

That is an amazing life span when this is converted into weeks, months, and years.

For example, if your LED projector achieved 20,000 hours of lamp life while being used 5 days a week for 8 hours a day, that would work out as an amazing 9 and a half years of lamp life.  See the calculation below for more details:

Lamp life ➗ days per week ➗ hours used per day = life expectancy in weeks

Using the example above the calculation would be:

20000 ➗ 5 ➗ 8 = 500 weeks

The advertised life expectancy of a bulb will vary depending on the following factors:

Ventilation

As projectors create a lot of heat when in use, most projectors use air channels and fans to keep the projector units cool.  To prevent the fans from sucking lots of dust particles into the unit, projectors use foam air filters to block the particles from getting in while letting air to ventilate around the unit.

Over time these filters can become clogged up with dust, which in turn restricts the airflow inside the projector and will cause damage to the bulb as well as other projector internals.

Regularly keeping the air filter clean will therefore increase the lifespan of the projector lamp.

Operating Mode

Generally, projectors come with at least three operating modes – normal, bright, and eco.  These modes dictate how bright the projector lamp shines and therefore the number of lumens it emits.

Projector bulbs create the vast majority of the heat for the entire unit.

As the heat increases, it will eventually begin to damage the bulb or at least reduce its overall brightness over time.

Setting the projector to eco mode will increase the lifespan of the projector bulb at the cost of it running approximately 20% less bright.

Normal mode will maintain the manufacturer’s lamp life.

Bright mode will decrease the lifespan of the bulb the most as the projector bulb will emit at a higher level of lumens with the knock-on effect of increasing the temperature of the projector unit.

Allow the projector to cool

When the projector has been used, the normal procedure is for the projector to turn off the bulb while keeping the fan turning to cool down the unit for a short time until the temperature of the unit has decreased to a safe level for the bulb and the rest of the projector components.

It is therefore important to ensure that you do not switch the power off for the entire unit until the fan has been able to cool itself down.

If the bulb is left too hot, it will become more and more damaged over time and therefore break before the manufacturer’s advertised lamp life.

Allow sufficient space around the projector

As mentioned above, internal ventilation is important to the projector as the projector’s components including its bulb require as much cool air to move around them as possible.

If the projector itself is located in an environment that doesn’t allow much air to circulate around the outside for example, in a cupboard or between some shelves, then the projector will quickly heat the air outside the unit and overheat.

What is the difference between a projector bulb and a lamp?

There is a clear difference between what a projector bulb is compared to a projector lamp.  That said, the two terms are quite often interchanged as meaning the same thing, although technically, they aren’t the same.

A projector lamp is the housing that is inserted into the projector.  This is quite often made of plastic and also contains a small amount of electrical wiring that acts as the conduit for electricity between the projector and the bulb.

A projector bulb is contained within the lamp housing.  The projector bulb is what lights up to give the projector unit its lumens.

What is the difference between original or compatible lamps?

There is a subtle difference between original lamps and compatible lamps.

Original lamps are predominantly lamps manufactured by the top 4 manufacturers in the projector industry.  This doesn’t necessarily mean the manufacturer of your actual projector as they also use the lamps of these 4 companies.

The 4 companies inquisition are Philips, Osram, Ushio, and Phoenix.

A compatible lamp is a lamp that wasn’t manufactured by Philips, Osram, Ushio, and Phoenix.  Compatible lamps will work in your projector however the quality of the lamp or bulb may not be as good.  The trade-off though is that the lamp will be significantly cheaper.

Why are projector bulbs so expensive?

Projector bulbs are undoubtedly expensive when compared to a normal light bulb that you would have in your house.

That said, they are vastly brighter than a normal light bulb and therefore the manufacturing process that is required to produce such a powerful bulb is far more complex than your average light bulb.

The complexity in manufacturing any product will of course translate to an increase in manufacturing costs. 

Do projector bulbs lose brightness over time?

Projector bulbs become dimmer, the older the bulb becomes.  If you notice that you are finding it harder to see the image or that you need to switch off the lights in the room to be able to clearly see the projector image this may be a sign that the lamp requires replacement.

A projector bulb’s eventual dimming in brightness is what is referred to as its half-life.  The half-life is the bell curve of dimming in relation to the age of the unit.

Projector bulbs also become yellower, as the bulb grows older.  If you notice that the image is becoming yellower or that some other colors are no longer correct, then this is a clear sign that the lamp requires replacement.

How to check projector lamp hours

Most projectors come with an inbuilt lamp hour counter.  This is important to check in order to know how long your current bulb has been in operation and will allow you to predict when the lamp should be replaced.

How to check the lamp hours of a particular projector will differ from manufacturer and model.  That said, this option is always available via projectors inbuilt Menu system.  The easiest way to access and navigate the menu is via the projector remote.

The steps are roughly the following:

  1. Switch on the projector.
  2. Wait for an image to be projected.
  3. Select the Menu button on the projector remote.
  4. Navigate through the options until you find the Lamp Hours option.
  5. The number that is displayed next to the Lamp Hours option is the number of hours that the current lamp has been in operation since it was installed.

How to reset projector lamp hours

Most projectors come with an inbuilt lamp hour counter.  It is important to reset the lamp hours counter when you have replaced the bulb or lamp.

This is so that you know exactly how old the lamp or bulb is.  It will also prevent the projector from mistakenly warning you that your lamp is due for replacement before it actually is.

How to reset the lamp hours of a particular projector will differ from manufacturer and model.  That said, this option is always available via projectors inbuilt Menu system.  The easiest way to access and navigate the menu is via the projector remote.

The steps are roughly the following:

  1. Switch on the projector.
  2. Wait for an image to be projected.
  3. Select the Menu button on the projector remote.
  4. Navigate through the options until you find the Reset Lamp Hours option.
  5. The lamp hour counter should now be displaying a value of 0 hours.

How to tell if a projector lamp has blown

There are a few telltale signs that a projector bulb has blown or is about to blow.

Projector warning LED light

Projectors will display a red or amber warning light on the unit if the projector lamp has failed or is about to fail.

If the bulb has failed, your projector won’t usually switch on, so please replace the bulb as soon as possible.

If your projector is displaying a bulb warning light but still allows the projector to power on and display as usual, replace the bulb as soon as you possibly can to prevent any damage to the projector unit itself.

How to extend a projector bulbs life

Ventilation

As projectors create a lot of heat when in use, most projectors use air channels and fans to keep the projector units cool.  To prevent the fans from sucking lots of dust particles into the unit, projectors use foam air filters to block the particles from getting in while letting air to ventilate around the unit.

Over time these filters can become clogged up with dust, which in turn restricts the airflow inside the projector and will cause damage to the bulb as well as other projector internals.

Regularly keeping the air filter clean will therefore increase the lifespan of the projector lamp.

Operating Mode

Generally, projectors come with at least three operating modes – normal, bright, and eco.  These modes dictate how bright the projector lamp shines and therefore the number of lumens it emits.

Projector bulbs create the vast majority of the heat for the entire unit.

As the heat increases, it will eventually begin to damage the bulb or at least reduce its overall brightness over time.

Setting the projector to eco mode will increase the lifespan of the projector bulb at the cost of it running approximately 20% less bright.

Normal mode will maintain the manufacturer’s lamp life.

Bright mode will decrease the lifespan of the bulb the most as the projector bulb will emit at a higher level of lumens with the knock-on effect of increasing the temperature of the projector unit.

Allow the projector to cool

When the projector has been used, the normal procedure is for the projector to turn off the bulb while keeping the fan turning to cool down the unit for a short time until the temperature of the unit has decreased to a safe level for the bulb and the rest of the projector components.

It is therefore important to ensure that you do not switch the power off for the entire unit until the fan has been able to cool itself down.

If the bulb is left too hot, it will become more and more damaged over time and therefore break before the manufacturer’s advertised lamp life.

Allow sufficient space around the projector

As mentioned above, internal ventilation is important to the projector as the projector’s components including its bulb require as much cool air to move around them as possible.

If the projector itself is located in an environment that doesn’t allow much air to circulate around the outside for example, in a cupboard or between some shelves, then the projector will quickly heat the air outside the unit and overheat.

What warranty do projector lamps have?

The warranty offered for projector lamps will differ between the manufacturer and model of the bulb.

The usual warranty periods for projector bulbs are between 3 – 6 months.

This doesn’t sound like very long, however, the manufacturer is basing these figures on the average use of projectors over a given time period.  

In our experience, it is unlikely that a projector bulb will fail within the first 6 months of its use, however, if the projector is in almost constant use around the clock, then this is obviously going to decrease the timeframe in weeks by which it will fail.