Last updated on July 1st, 2021
More and more, projector manufacturers are shifting from standard bulbs to LEDs or even lasers as their light source, but as legacy technology, most projectors in circulation today still use bulbs as their source of light to project the image on the screen.
Bulbs will be bulbs – just as they are in your home, so they will be in your projector – they’ll eventually wear out and need replacing. But how do you know if your bulb has blown, or died?
The answers to this will depend on how you begin to suspect that your bulb is no longer working. If you turn on the projector, hear a pop, and can’t get a picture, chances are you don’t need to check anything – that pop will have been your bulb blowing.
Fortunately, developments in technology make this kind of blowing a much rarer occasion than it used to be – fortunately because if it blows while it’s in the projector, it can damage the equipment.
If you turn on your projector and you’re just getting no image, how can you be sure if it’s the bulb that’s at fault?
Firstly, many more modern projectors have had the problem thought out for you ahead of time, and come with a lamp status indicator. Usually, that’s a red or yellow light somewhere on the machine, though to make sure you still feel needed, they’re not always in the same, uniform place, so you might have to hunt for them.
In fact, you might even need to refer to your owner’s manual to find out a) if your model has a lamp status indicator, and b) if so, where the dickens it might be.
If you have one – check it. It will give you a yay or nay on the life of your bulb.
If everything in life were that simple, we’d be living our best Jetson’s life. Sometimes, it isn’t.
Sometimes, you’ll have to diagnose the issue for yourself – if you’re a regular user, do you recall a dimming in the contrast or brightness of the image the last time you used it? Turn your projector on. If there’s no image, the easiest diagnosis is that the bulb has failed. Replace the bulb and if the image returns – problem solved.
If you turn the projector on and the image is there but is flickering or hazy, you might be about to give the Last rites to your bulb. Be prepared, and if possible and you have one spare, swap out the bulb before the problem gets any worse. If you swap out the bulb and there’s no difference in image quality…
Well, you’ve discovered the bulb was not your problem, and your day is about to get rather more complicated as you read the owner’s manual from cover to cover. It’s worth remembering that a dim image may not in fact be a sign of your lamp being on its way out – remember to check your brightness settings before you diagnose bulb failure.
If you had the (ahem) bright idea to turn down the settings to preserve your bulb’s lifespan, and forgot to note it anywhere, you might be panicking over a dim bulb that’s dim because you told it to be, rather than because your bulb is dying.
How do I check the bulb life on my projector?
Most projectors now come with an onboard measurement of how many hours of bulb life you have left, so you can get ready for the inevitable bulb change – and so that you can update the countdown each time you replace the bulb.
It can be a little enigmatic though, so if you’ve never found it and checked it before, here’s what you need to do.
NB: the terminology changes from model to model, but the menu options used here should get you where you need to go in the majority of models. If you see none of these options, look for something close, and navigate accordingly. You can always go back before you press something you probably didn’t mean to press.
Access your projector’s menu, using either your remote control or the on-unit buttons.
Look for something labelled Options, Info, or something similar. Select that option.
Check the options for Lamp Runtime, Info or something similar. Select that option.
Selecting Lamp Runtime or its equivalent should give you a read-out of how many hours you likely have left in your bulb.
This can be approximated with a fairly high degree of accuracy, as each bulb is created with a standard lifetime allotted to it. That said, the standard lifetime is usually between 1,500-2,000 hours, which is a fairly wide window in which the bulb could fail.
In addition to which, occasionally, there are tales of bulbs that significantly outlast their allotted lifespan, going on to shine for more than twice that time and give 5,000 hours of service.
Checking occasionally on how many hours the system believes you should have left allows you to be ready should the bulb fail ahead of, or even during, an important presentation.
Any time you replace a bulb, it’s important to reset the Lamp Runtime, because unless you do that, you’ll always be working with a false impression of how much life the new bulb has left in it – and so will anyone else who uses the projector and checks the runtime.
To reset the Lamp Runtime counter, in most projectors, you simply have to hold down the Enter button until the option to reset the runtime appears. Select OK and you will reset the clock, so your future checks on the lifetime of the battery should be as accurate as possible.
If your Lamp Runtime counter claims you have a lot of lamp life left, but you’re experiencing issues like a dimming or flickering of the image, color fade, reduced contrast, or any other sub-optimal performance, you might want to have an extra bulb handy if you’re about to give an important presentation – you may be the unlucky user who reaps the whirlwind of someone else accidentally or mischievously resetting the runtime counter.
Use your instincts on the image you see, and if it feels at all like it might be affected by a dying bulb, go prepared into any big event presentation.