Traditional lamp projectors reigned supreme over the market for decades until their laser counterparts came around. And one of the main reasons newer projectors (like LED) quickly overtook halide projectors is the longer bulb life. However, do projectors get dimmer over time?
Yes, projectors get dimmer over time. This usually happens because their lamps get older, burn more gas, and damage due to use, heat, and dust.
Most people who buy projectors want to use them for several years in advance. However, many people don’t know much about projector lamp lives, and some don’t even know that projectors can get dimmer a few years ahead. In this guide, I’ll go over projectors and how their brightness fades over time.
Why Projectors Get Dimmer Over Time
Projectors get dimmer over time as their lamps get older, burn more gas, and damage due to use, heat, dust, contaminants, and (possibly) abuse.
Each projector type has a different lamp lifespan. Traditional ones have the shortest longevity by far, averaging around 2,500 hours of use.
Laser projectors are second, with a lifespan of around 20,000 hours in most models. Meanwhile, LED projectors blow the waters with lifespans exceeding 50,000 hours.
Projector Lamps Explained
Projectors have small but concentrated lamps that emit powerful light onto a wide surface, typically a projector screen.
In the past, projectors were small light bulbs that projected manually-inserted images onto a larger screen.
In older projectors, light bulbs weren’t very different from the ones we use to light our homes today.
But, unsurprisingly, they also have much shorter lives than the bulbs of modern projectors, which are far more nuanced.
Projector lamp brightness is typically measured in lumens. Older projectors that used halide lamps typically shone a few hundred lumens bright, but modern projectors can easily break the 10,000-lumen mark.
As a general rule of thumb, a brighter projector lamp will dim faster (in absolute terms!) since it takes more energy to increase the brightness. However, brightness isn’t the only factor.
For example, an old projector with a halide lamp will still dim faster than a new one despite being dimmer multiple times.
And although brighter projectors dim faster, they could still shine brighter than their lower-lumen counterparts.
Will My Projector Get Dimmer?
Yes, this is an inevitable part of projectors—they all get dimmer as they age.
Though more efficient projectors will take longer to dim, you will notice their effect much slower since you’ll likely get used to the ever-decreasing brightness until it becomes too apparent.
How Long Does It Take Before Projectors Get Dimmer?
Traditional halide lamp projectors have the shortest bulb life, averaging around 2,500 hours. However, they can push for a few thousand more hours.
However, LED projectors completely blow the numbers away, and it’s not rare to see them with bulb lives over 50,000 hours.
Moreover, that long lifespan is standard among all types of LED lamps, not just the ones in projectors.
Lastly, we have laser projectors, whose lamps usually last 20,000 hours, a fraction of the LED lamp’s longevity.
Still, if you use your laser projector for 6 hours every day, it should last you over nine years, so it’s not as little as you might think.
External Factors That May Dim Your Lamp
Internal gas-burning and powering aren’t the only factors that can dim your lamp. As usual with electronic products, external factors like dirt, mishandling, and abuse can also cause damage.
Contaminants like dust and debris can make your projector overheat faster, decreasing its longevity as it takes more energy to keep its performance.
Abuse is usually a more significant risk than dust, though. For example, if you keep your projector on for too long or put it in a hot environment (such as outdoors in the summer heat with no shade), it’ll overheat, and the same issue occurs.
Can I Replace Dim Projector Lamps?
Unfortunately for LED and laser projector owners, you can’t replace lamps of these types.
The good news is that when these projectors’ lamps get dim, it’s probably time to buy a new device since it’ll have been so long.
And as we mentioned above, laser projectors have a standard lamp life of around 20,000 hours, nearly a decade of everyday use for several hours.
And for LED projectors, that lifespan is about 30 years!
When Should I Replace My Standard Projector Lamp?
There’s no rule or consensus on when you should change the lamp. Some people are OK when their projectors are 70% dim, while others start to face problems before the 50% mark.
Some people like to replace their lamps when they reach their half-life (50% performance). If your projector has a bulb life tracker, you can easily tell when you reach this stage.
For the most part, modern projectors use efficient lighting technologies like LED and laser.
These technologies boast very long lifespans and can last several years (or decades for LED projectors) of everyday use before they get dimmer.
You only have to be worried if you have a traditional halide lamp projector since those have much shorter lifespans, typically only a few thousand.
However, you can replace their lamps, unlike with LED or laser projectors.