When to Replace Your Projector

So you have a projector that you want to use for your big presentation or wish to watch Netflix on for your birthday. However, it’s pretty old and you’re unsure of how much longer it will last. When should you replace it? This is likely a problem among those who aren’t rich enough to replace projectors every time a new model or feature like 4K projectors come out. What’s the lowdown on when to replace your projector? 

What’s the First Thing That Fails in a Projector?

You should be aware of when the light bulb or lamp of your projector is failing. You should be aware of the signs that your bulb needs replacing as well. It includes the following:

  • Dimmed lights
  • Lower intensity projections
  • Flickering from the projector
  • Faded blacks and an overall smoky picture
  • It takes longer for your projector to turn on
  • Blurriness and loss of sharpness from the projection
  • Your projector is on but the lamp won’t activate at all

With that said, you should take breaks in between every projection. Just like with any device you have, from your smartphone to your computer, they need to be restarted or shut down from time to time because they all have moving parts that get worn down over the years or have limited cycles before they fail outright.

Remember, immediate bulb replacement will reduce the wear-and-tear on your LCD (Liquid Crystal Display), LCoS (Liquid Crystal on Silicon), or DLP (Digital Light Processing) projector. Don’t get too attached to the failing bulb.

Major Signs a Projector Bulb Needs To Be Replaced (Projector lamp problems )

Here’s a closer look at the major red flags that tell you your projector bulb should be replaced ASAP. Keep an eye out for these issues to keep your projector in perfect working order.

  • Loss of Image: Image loss is the primary symptom that’s something’s amiss with your projector’s projection abilities. If you turn on your projector and no image comes out that’s obviously an issue. If a bulb is dead then at least it’s fixable but if the projector itself is damaged then it’s game over for you. It’s like if the motherboard itself has failed on your computer. You might as well buy a new projector.

More often than not, loss of image is caused by a dead bulb. To fix it, you should find a replacement projector lamp. Before your bulb is dead, you might notice the aforementioned signs and symptoms of luster fading, brightness dimming, or the overall image becoming more gray or faint. 

  • Flickering Image: Another common indicator of a failing projector lamp or bulb is a flicker in the images. If it occurs once or twice you can ignore it as a glitch. However, the more often it happens the likelier you’ll need to change the bulb because those are its death throes in visual form. Your bulb can also be faulty if it was recently replaced with a non-OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) projector lamp. 

Remember that the human eye adjusts to dimming or even flickering images so you might not notice the dimming at first. However, once an image is too dim even your naked eye won’t be able to adjust enough to ignore it. If your image is still dim after you turn up the color on your projector, your bulb should be replaced ASAP. 

  • An Indicator on the Projector: Thankfully, many projectors or even DLP TVs now have an indicator that turns on when you need their DLP lamp replaced. It could be flashing red or yellow warning on your projection screen. It could also be a bulb icon. They’re like the automobile check engine light.

It indicates exactly when you’re in need of replacing your bulb or lamp. Consult your user manual that came with the projector if you’re unsure where the indicator is found or what it even looks like. Maybe you’re looking at a different icon and mistake it for the lamp’s version of the check engine light. You have the option to continue using your projector until its bulb burns out. 

  • Color Loss: A strong bulb is needed in order to operate the color wheel inside of a typical DLP projector. This is also the case when it comes to your LCD or LCoS projectors. They have their own color wheels present that depends on the brightness and liveliness of your bulb, otherwise, the color fidelity of the picture suffers. Your picture or video will look like it’s fading to muddiness or blurriness when your light bulb is failing.

In DLP projectors, the DMD chip and the color wheel cannot accurately convey the colors of what you’re watching if the bulb is dying out. You can’t get a quality picture until you replace the bulb. If it’s the projector that’s failing itself, usually it just won’t start at all. Fading colors and muddy pictures are other symptoms of a dying projector bulb, for your information.

Major Signs a Projector Bulb Needs To Be Replaced
Image Credit: By Chris O’Brien

How to Test and Replace a Projector Lamp Bulb

Keeping your projector in perfect working order is all about maintenance and knowing the signs of bulb burnout early on. At the first sign of flickering and muddy projections where you can’t tell what’s what, you should replace your projector bulb post-haste.

With that in mind, here’s what you need to know when testing and replacing your projector bulb. You need to make sure that the bulb is the problem first before replacing it, after all.

  1. Turn on the device. If it powers on but there’s no image that means your bulb is burned out.
  2. Look for the indicator light that flashes red or yellow on the projector chassis. It indicates lamp life. See if the icon is for a bulb or lamp.
  3. If the projector still turns on, look at the projection. Is it flickering? Is it wavering? Is it muddy? All of these are symptoms of a bulb that’s about to kick the bucket.
  4. Look if the projector is displaying “Low Lamp” or something similar. This indicates a dead or dying bulb.
  5. If you’re sure it’s the bulb that requires replacement, removes the lamp compartment door and lamp assembly. While it’s open, clean the lamp compartment.
  6. Sometimes, dust is what’s keeping the contact for the light bulb to open up. Other times, that won’t do much to revive the dying bulb.
  7. Insert the new lamp assembly and then replace the lamp compartment door. Afterward, reset the lamp timer. You’re now good to go. 
Projector lamp problems
Image Credit: by Jeremy Caesar

Things to Consider Before You Buy Replacement Bulbs

Extending or reducing the lifespan of the projector lamp depends on how long you use it and how many breaks in between usage you follow. Make the most out of your projector’s operation by reading the following tips and useful information below.

  • Projector Bulb Lifespan: Manufacturers and companies vary when it comes to how long their lamp or bulb will last. Usually, the lamp will last longer than the bulb until you need to replace the lamp along with the bulb. Usually, a standard bulb lasts 1,000 to 2,000 hours or 41 to 83 days of nonstop operation. Newer models last 5,000 hours or 208 days. LED lamps last 20,000 hours or 833 days or more than 2 years.


  • Lamp Hours Info: Many projectors have an item on their menu known as “Information” which includes how many hours you’ve been using the lamp. These lamp hours give you an idea if your LED or standard lamp bulb is in need of replacement soon in light of their average lifespan indicated above. Older models require you to press the On/Off button for about 20 seconds in order to display the lamp hours for a brief time period. This varies from model to model.


  • Availability of The Bulb: When buying a bulb take note of the season. Weirdly enough, during holidays like Chinese New year, the projector bulb becomes scarcer. It must be because many of these bulbs are made in China. Ditto when it comes to the Gregorian Calendar New Year that occurs every January though, so it might be a year-end production issue. Shipping becomes limited and bulb production slows down. Avoid problems by ordering bulbs early.


  • Shopping for Replacement Bulbs: Buy replacement bulbs from authorized dealers to ensure bulb compatibility. As much as possible get an OEM bulb since cheap knockoffs can potentially damage your lamp or projector no matter how “universal-fit” or “generic” they claim to be. You can find lower-price lamps on the Internet but do so with the use of online coupons or promos instead of resorting to buying low-grade, short-lifespan bulbs that produce poor images.

In Conclusion

The thing is that projector failure happens on a case-by-case basis. What brand is it? How long have you been using it? Do you remember to take care of it? Or have you used it so many times that it’s practically turned on all day and every day? This practical guide should help you sort things out when push comes to shove. 

Please remember that different manufacturers use different names for the components that produce light in their devices. Some projectors use halogen, LCD, or LED bulbs. Others use lasers. You should check the manufacturer if they have OEM replacement bulbs or not. Otherwise, you’ll have to check with a projector repairman.

James Core

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

Recent Posts