Replacing a projector lamp is something every projector owner will need to undertake at some point, whether used in a school, business, or a home theatre. As with most incandescent and HID lights, a projector lamp will typically last anywhere between 2,000 and 6,000 hours. This means, depending on your projector type, that you will need to change your lamp anywhere between 3 – 5 times over the lifespan of your model.
What is a Projector Lamp?
A Projector lamp has three main components, that when bought together are simply called the projector lamp. This is the light globe itself, a reflector, and the ‘cage’ that houses it.
Replacement Lamp Types
When replacing your projector lamp, you’re met with a vast range of options when it comes to choosing what to buy – and at times the number of lamps available can be overwhelming. With there being nearly 200 different projector brands, thousands of models and thus thousands of different lamps, knowing what replacement lamp is best for you is important in making your purchase easier. Below, we’ll go over the different types and important terminology to know.
Original Manufacturers Lamp (OEM)
OEM is the name given to Replacement projector lamps that are essentially identical to both the bulb and cage of the original projector. Not in just design, but which brand manufactured it, and making sure it meets the same quality standards.
While there are high quality off - brand replacement lamps that may seem to meet the same criteria, the differentiation comes down to detail. There are only a few main lighting brands that produce OEM bulbs for projector manufacturers, Philips, Ushio, and Osram being two examples. To be considered an OEM Replacement Projector Lamp, the light would have to be manufactured by the original supplier, and the cage provided by the projector manufacturer, fitted correctly to the original specs. It should look identical to the old lamp, and perform at the same level.
Pros and Cons: The light you get will be exactly the same, and you can be comfortable with the knowledge that there’s no risk to voiding your projector warranty by using an OEM.
That being said, OEM replacement lamps are much, much more expensive than any non-OEM, including Diamond Lamps (A leading non-OEM projector lamp replacement brand). They also, oddly, have only a three-month warranty, while other replacements can offer up to a year.
Genuine Alternative Lamps
Unlike an OEM lamp, which are identical to the Original lamp in both bulb and cage, a genuine alternative uses the same bulb as the OEM, sourced from Philips or other leading manufacturers, and is placed into a generic cage.
These are not produced by the original projector manufacturer, but an authorised reseller such as Diamond Lamps. It can only be considered a “Genuine” alternative if Philips or another OEM brand has endorsed them. This means the standards of production and quality have been assessed and considered appropriate.
Pro and Cons: As the bulb is the same as your original, so you are guaranteed the same performance as the stock Lamp. The price is cheaper than an OEM, though not cheaper than a generic compatible or copy bulb, and comes with a 1-year warranty.
As the cage is in some cases generic, there may be a risk of voiding your projector warranty by using one.
Non-branded copy lamps or compatible lamps
Copy and compatible lamps are the discount, cheap option for Projector Lamp replacements. In some cases, these lamps may use the OEM bulb, but not always. It’s a matter of who is supplying the product, which in most cases are Chinese manufacturers which much lower production standards.
There is always a risk when choosing to buy a non-branded product, and it’s down to the customer to decide is the heavily reduced cost is worth the downgrade.
Pros and cons: The cheapest replacement option, that often has a poorer light quality and does not last as long. Warranty wise is a grey area, and using one that results in damage may mean the OEM won’t support your projector warranty.
Buyer beware: While most manufacturers of these lamps will be honest about their off-brand quality, it’s becoming increasingly common to sell copy lamps in a counterfeit manner, and claiming them to be OEM. Always be vigilant of very low-priced options.
The above covers all the ways you can change your projector bulb by simply buying a full replacement, and while this is the most recommended way of changing your lamp, there is one more alternative. Re-lamping is the process of refitting a new bulb into the original lamp cage. In this case, you would only be buying the bulb, rather than the whole cage, and seeing a significant reduction in costs.
Pros and … lots of cons: Refitting a bulb into the existing housing is risky business, and while some projector owners swear by it, it’s no laughing matter if something goes wrong. You may fit the bulb incorrectly, or at worst irreversibly damage your projector. In many ways, a copy lamp would be a less risky option if you’re looking for the cheaper replacement.