I finished my schooling some time ago. TV’s may have been the CRT type and the internet may have had more AOL than it does these days but preparing for the return to school is something that happens at the end of every summer around here.
My question is are you ready? This is mostly pointed to teachers, administrators and instructional media folks. Anyone who has to deal with video projectors and projector lamps.
This time of year is perfect to make sure you are ready to use your projectors. Over the summer the lack of use can allow dust and debris to build up over air-vents and lenses. Take some time to give your projectors a once-over with a damp cloth(no cleaner or solvent, just damp with water). This will pickup any obvious dust, preventing it from being pulled inside and causing you grief down the road.
When you do turn on the projector, take a moment to see how many hours are on your projector lamp. If you are remotely near the end of the projector lamp’s life, replacing the lamp now would put aside another chance of projector failure at an inconvenient time.
I recommend replacing your lamp before you get the end of life warning. Once you have about 10-15% (1700-1800 hours) of the life left of the 2,000 hours, the projector lamp is going to be unreliable. Some projectors have 5,000 and even 10,000 hour lamp ratings. The 10-15% life left rule would still apply but at higher hours.
Change the projector lamp before it fails. Then you put your old lamp in the desk or closet and save it as a backup. Even with 5% life left, the projector lamp will be a good backup in an emergency. It’s always better to err on the side of replacing the lamp early than trying to play projector-lamp-roulette and pushing it past its rated life span. When people do this, it is not saving them any more. It is giving them a terrible picture, and putting the projector at risk for an expensive repair.
New projector lamps are always brighter. They always improve your picture and they are always more reliable than a worn or wearing out projector lamp.
Recycling is good for the environment. It keeps trash out of landfills that can be put back into manufacturing. Recycling can lower the cost of raw materials. Most of the time recycling is the answer to many issues affecting our environment.
In one particular case, recycling is a terrible idea.
Recycling Projector lamps.
I do not mean scrapping the Projector lamp down and recycling its components. The glass, the metal, the plastic can all be recycled on it’s own.
I mean when the lamp has the old bulb removed and then a new or still working bulb is installed and then the projector lamp is sold as new or ‘Recycled Housing’.
Projector Lamp housings are made of consumable parts. Even though they do not have many moving parts, they do get subjected to a pretty taxing environment while they are in operation.
The average projector lamp runs at 500f or so inside the bulb reflector. The heat is cooled to a more reasonable temp once it gets to the plastic and the glass, but not too much less. This continues for the entire life of the projector lamp. That means the plastic and glass and metal has been exposed to wide temperature swings for 2,000-10,000 hours(depending on the model).
That amount of temperature swing (room temp up to a few hundred degrees) causes the lamp housing to degrade. On many lamps, there is a coating applied to the lens to protect and block ultraviolet and Infrared light. This coating degrades slowly and unnoticed until it lets too much UV/IR through. Once this occurs, your projector will be cooked from the inside out. In some rare cases, the IR/UV can be so strong it could damage your eyes!
Another problem with re-used/recycled projector lamps is the degradation of the plastic. As the plastic is heated and cooled, the plastic properties begin to change. Projector lamps use glass fiber re-enforced plastic. The glass fibers will begin to ‘float’ to the surface. If you ever notice a ‘gray’ area next to the black in a lamp, that is where the glass fiber has begun to float to the surface. This causes the plastic to become less reliable structure wise. This can lead to a warped housing and the bulb being pointed away from the proper light path and may melt or cause a fire by heating an area that isn’t meant for light. The other issue with old plastic is the cooling air vents may no longer be as effective leading you to need a new lamp well before you should. These usually have short warranties or are a hassle to handle the warranty.
The connector is the most dangerous area of a recycled projector lamp. They connectors handle high voltage and high amperage. The need to be secure and strong. When a lamp gets used for many thousand hours, it will cause the connector to lose some of its flexibility. Then when it is re-installed, one of the metal pins can break loose from the plug and slide out of position without you knowing. This leads to a second arc/spark outside the projector lamp, inside the connector. The lamp connectors will then melt and burn into the TV or projectors connector.
The amount of smoke it releases is impressive. This almost always requires the projector being sent somewhere for repair. The cost of a ballast and labor can be $350-500(or more). Many times, the projector is ruined and not cost effective to repair. This only means that instead of saving landfill space you are now adding a projector and a projector lamp to the trash.
Quite the opposite of recycling…
A smaller yet important issue with using recycled projector lamps is if your model uses one of the many on-board lamp timer modules. They are a small circuit that is built into the lamp. This records the run time and hours used. If the timer is not reset, you will not have a proper run time record and in many cases the projector will shut itself down in protest.
Technically, this is because the projector thinks the lamp is worn out, but I say in protest as it doesn’t want to chance having a lamp explode inside.
Buying a new projector lamp with a genuine original bulb inside will prevent all of these possibilities. The cost savings on a recycled lamp are quickly surpassed by the cost of repair and replacement due to early failure.
A new projector lamp has a properly coated UV/IR cut lens, glass fiber evenly distributed throughout the housing, and a connector with strong connection pins.
A new projector lamp has little to no chance of melting inside your projector and damaging the internals.