Can Projectors Hurt Eyes? Projector Safety 101

You are told to never stare directly at the sun. You’re also told to not stare too close to the TV set. Eye strain among office workers looking at their PCs is a real issue, such that it’s recommended that you take breaks from work so prevent serious ocular damage. Ditto when it comes to marathoning those TV shows or movie series.

This is also the case when it comes to projectors, actually. Indeed, can projectors hurt eyes? Yeah, most any light that you stare into directly can hurt your naked eye. Most projectors have light sources that stay around 6 kilowatts, which is entirely unsuitable for the human eye. It can blind you if you’re not careful.

Can a Projector Light Damage or Harm Your Eyes?
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Can a Projector Light Damage or Harm Your Eyes?

If the projector’s light bulb falls directly into your eye you risk damaging your eye; if it’s the projection on the screen, then not so much. Maybe you can get tired eyes by watching movies or marathoning TV shows on your projector. However, this tendency is reduced if you were to watch the movie at a safe distance the same way you’d watch TV from your couch instead of up close.


  • Almost Nil with Regular Viewing: Your chances of damaging your eyes from regular viewing from your projector are almost nil. It’s the same way as it’s almost nil for you to damage your eyes from watching multiple movies in a darkened theater or how seeing daylight every day won’t hurt your vision. It’s when you look directly into the projector barrel can you get eye damage similar to looking directly into a light bulb or the sun for too long. Avoid doing that.


  • Use Projectors as Intended: You have no chance of ending up with eye damage if you use your projector as intended. Use it with its accessories like the screen. Don’t do something strange like aiming the projector lens directly into your eye then turning it on. Normal projector usage makes it unlikely to damage your eye, pupil, retina, and so forth. Make sure your children won’t point the projector in their eyes or peer through the projector while it’s running for good measure.


  • Children and Parents Beware: Responsible parents should warn their children not to look directly into the lens of the projector the same way they’d warn them not to touch any open fire or stick a fork into an electrical socket. Many kids are unaware of the negative effects of directly looking into a projector lens so they should be educated early on. Getting blinded or partially blinded by a projector is something that’s hard to survive or deal with.


  • Infra-Red and Ultraviolet Light: Another reason why you should never directly look into the lens of a projector while it’s projecting a video, movie, or user interface of a computer is that just like sunlight, it gives out a lot of ultraviolet and infrared light. It produces more IR than the remote control you use to change channels on your TV. It doesn’t produce as much UV rays as the sun but it’s plenty enough to damage your eye when you look directly unto it instead of what it’s projecting on our projection screen.


  • A Quick Glance versus Staring Right into the Lens: Like with the sun, a quick glance won’t damage your eye and it might even reflexively look away in a fit of self-preservation before real damage could occur. The longer you stare the more damage your eyeballs will get. Prolonged staring to a projector with a difference in contrast settings will affect the eye to a certain extent versus a projector with a more muddy contrast, but that’s only because its lamp or bulb is probably dying already, leading it to emit weaker light.


  • Why Is The Projection Screen Safer to Look at Than The Projector Lens? For one thing, the projector lens light is more intense from up close without enough throw distance from the lens to screen. For another thing, the intense light is filtered when they reach the screen at a certain distance and turn into visible light. You won’t get eye strain when you look at the screen, even when you’re staring at a 4K high-definition projection so sharp and clear you feel like you’re looking at a huge television screen.


  • Filtered Light and Blinking Reflex: The striking light has a minimal chance of damaging your eye’s retina when you have the proper setup and an excellent display screen. This is also the case with your children because they’ll probably get used to blinking at abnormal bright lights when staring at the projection screen versus the concentrated beam of light from the barrel of your projector. On that note, you shouldn’t flash a full-intensity flashlight into their eyes either, especially the high kilowatt security guard flashlights versus medical flashlights.


  • Do Projectors Emit Blue Light? Yes. Blue light might not seem strong but because it has a shorter wavelength they can be quite potent to your eyes when you stare directly at it. When your eye is exposed to high-intensity blue light, it will pass through the top layer and directly it your retina, causing pain or even eye damage. When people discuss how damaging projector light can be they usually talk about the dangers of looking into blue light.


  • Laser Projectors Are Weaker: Curiously, laser projectors aren’t as harmful when directly looked at its lens—but you still shouldn’t do that—because its laser produces mostly visible light. Most of these laser lights have a capacity below 5 milliwatts so they’re less likely to do harm to the eye. However, looking directly into one can cause passing blindness. Insisting on looking at it longer can do further damage but not compared to a 6-kilowatt lamp. Don’t tempt fate by looking directly at a laser projector lens.
Safety Precautions for Your Eyes When You Are Looking at Projectors
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Safety Precautions for Your Eyes When You Are Looking at Projectors

Here are some safety precautions you should observe as a family when using projectors in your home theater for movie viewing or TV marathoning. 

  • Never Look at The Projector Lens: Don’t allow your child or anyone else to stare directly into the lens of the projector while it’s turned on because it emits a large amount of light that includes short-length blue light into a small area like a high-powered laser beam.


  • Err on the Side of Caution: Never look into the lens of any projector, even a laser projector with a supposedly weaker 5-milliwatt laser light that only causes “temporary” blindness. Ditto with looking at TV or computer screens emitting blue light up close.


  • Use Eye Gear When Opening a Projector: Avoid opening up your projector with it aimed at your face and eye without using proper eye gear. This can temporarily or permanently damage your retina if you’re not careful.


  • Don’t Operate on an Open Projector: Light becomes more filtered if you aim a projector at the screen with proper throw distance. Without that lens-to-screen distance, you’ll get exposed to UV and IR light leakage that can cause eye burn and momentary blindness. Turn off the projector before opening up its panels or operating it. In fact, it’s better to use remote control.


  • Use Proper Accessories: Always use proper accessories when using a projector such as good mounts and appropriate screens. Make sure it’s projecting at a proper throw distance and no one will get exposed by its projector light by accident. Avoid sitting to close to it and maintain a distance away from it.


  • Safe Placement:  Another way of saving yourself from being blinded by projector light is to mount it at the ceiling or any place that can prevent eye contact from its lens. Have its projector light emit its projection unimpeded by the audience who might accidentally stare at it and get exposed to eye strain and retinal damage. Ditto when you’re doing a presentation.


  • 20-20-20 Rules for Eyes: When watching movies or playing games on a projector for a long time, you should always follow the 20-20-20 rules for eyes. It states that for every 20 minutes looking at a projector screen, you should look at something 20 feet away for about 20 seconds to rest your eyes. This significantly reduces eye strain from not only looking at projector screens but also computer and smartphone screens.

 See more: Projector FAQs 101: Do Projectors Emit Blue Light?

To Summarize

We can conclude that the wise use of a projector that involves avoiding direct eye contact to the lens that’s emitting light will keep you from damaging your eyes from its intense light that’s about 6 kilowatts in intensity. It’s like how you shouldn’t stare directly into a light bulb for too long, except much worse because projectors have a lens that magnifies the light.

Laser projectors are more low-powered than their lamp counterparts at 5 milliwatts, so it makes for healthier viewing and less likelihood of it blinding you when you accidentally glance at its lens. You still shouldn’t stare down its lens still for a prolonged period of time. In fact, don’t stare down at the lens or “barrel” of any projector like you would a gun, for one thing! It’s especially damaging if it uses 6-kilowatt light, for another thing!

James Core

I love my projector system and I am here to help you find the right projector for your needs.

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