SMART Projector Lamps

 A Quick Word about Projector Lamps

For many years we have benefitted from DLP Data Projectors.  Projectors have given us the fantastic computer resolution and large sizes needed at very reasonable rates.  Almost all of these projectors have used the same type of lamp/bulb technology and no matter what brand or model projector you have, your lamp is vital to the use of the projector.

These lamps are designed in a way that makes them dim with age and use, and eventually die out.  One day they either don’t switch on, or might “pop!”. Calwest is a long time specialist in projection and we offer some basic tips to help you get the most out of your lamp life:

1- Lamp warranties:

Lamps usually have their own specific warranty aside from the projector. The projector warranty may be 2-3 years, but the lamp is usually 500 hours or 90 days whichever comes first. This is because a lamp is so heavily affected by it’s environment and use.  Always look to see your projector and lamp warranties when purchasing.

2- Regular Usage Conditions:

Lamp life ratings on manufacturer documents are usually stated in Thousands of Hours. In a K-12 Classroom factor on 1,000 a year as normal. The Environment is neither too hot, cold or dusty, and regular projector maintenance (basic cleaning, filter cleaning if applicable) is CONSISTENTLY PERFORMED. Also, the projector should not be switched on and off too many times and the projector is switched off correctly, allowing the fans and cooling process to occur normally.

3- Irregular Usage Conditions:

There is such a thing as switching the projector on and off too many times (read on). Power problems inherent in having too many things plugged into the projector power source like motors, fishtanks, microwaves (we’ve seen it!)  If the projector has accumlated a lot of dust without regular cleaning then that is a bigger problem, covering the vents of the projector with some type of posters or if the projector is in a place where a heater or cooling vent/fan is blowing on it. Each of these instances may be unavoidable in the environment so we have to identify and try minimize these concerns.

4- A Word about Dust:

Dust is a thousand things and is insidious. Much of the dust we see sucked into projectors is actually human skin (it’s true!) but also chalkdust, environmental dust, dust from nearby fields and construction sites, dust/moisture combinations, pollens and many other things too numerous to name. Projectors are constantly sucking in air to cool itself down and keep at a consistent operting temperature, and in goes that dust!

The average Corporate/Government and Military Indoors facility is usually not dusty at all and accumulations of dust on the projector is not an issue. Note that adults usually have a lot more layers of clothes on too. It is K-12 Rooms that have the most to gain from good projector preventative maintenance and cleaning. Every room in a School has it’s own “dustiness!”

5- How to use the Projector Correctly – On/Off and “OverStriking”:

When you switch on a light bulb enough times, the filament itself begins to age quicker, and the longer a lamp is left on, the more it decays over time.  If a projector is switched on and off many times a day to conserve lamp life it may be that the lamp is still aging quicker anyway. Try not to switch your projector (any projector) on and off more than THREE TIMES a day.

Switch it on 5 minutes before usage and right after the entire usage need has been completed. Don’t let it run idle after it has been fully used for the day’s activities. If you are a teacher, then shut it down for lunch for sure.

But what about the times of no use for short periods like between lessons etc?

6- How to use the Projector Correctly – the MUTE/BLANK Button:

Every Projector remote control and many projectors themselves have the ability to Mute or Blank the image. At home we use TV Mute to stop the audio, but a projector is a visual device so we Mute or Stop the Image. Why?

A- You want to hide some information from the audience like setting up presentations, grading, emails for a short period of time.

B- You might want to begin and end a test with showing and then hiding the questions.

C- You just want less of a distraction for a few minutes while something else is being worked on.

When you Mute the Image, you are not switching the projector Off – the Projector is still ON, it is still sucking in air and dust, it is still clocking time on the lamp…. Only the image is off, but the projector is on….. so Mute is not the same as OFF.

Image Mute/Blank is a great tool to use to administrate your presentation but also preserve the life of your lamp. If you want the projector display off for a few minutes, or even longer – Mute! If you want to put some multitasking time into your presentation – Mute! Just be wary of switching the projector on or off trying to do the same thing.

7- How to use the Projector Correctly – Basic Cleaning of Dust.

Each Projector Manufacturer specify how to remove lamps and clean the projector correctly as a consumer. All projectors allow the consumer to replace lamps on their own and perform the most basic of cleanings. Many manufacturers agree on the basics:

A- We can ignore the cleaning, but the cleaning won’t ignore us. Whatever the process, doing the physical cleaning work is very important and should be consistent. Dust accumulations inside projectors can cause bigger problems.

B- You never blow air into a projector as a consumer. You only remove dust or vacuum. Authorized Warranty workers have their own methods, but the average consumer will be vacuuming vents, lamp cavities, lamps and such – NEVER blowing air into the projector which may force dust into areas we don’t want it.

8- Fan Failure

     The SMART SB680i3 and SB680i4 uses the UF55 and UF65 projectors, mounted on an arm. Sometimes, dust gets into a part of the projector called the color wheel. This causes the wheel to turn slowly and out of sync, causing flashing colors on the image or a full-blown failure, with a solid red light on the “wrench” indicator on the projector. Likewise, if a fan fails, it will also cause the projector to stop working because of cooling issues. Both of these issues may be corrected in the same way.

You need a ladder, Phillips screwdriver and a can of air with the nozzle

 Unplug the projector at the wall.
  1. Remove the lamp cover on the projector by hand, and then remove the lamp with the screwdriver. Also, on top of the projector arm is a screw you can remove allowing the top arm cover to lift above the projector. Now, all the cleanable areas have been opened up.  (When you blow the air out the can in small bursts, watching to avoid the liquid coming out because of tilting the can.)
  2. Use the air can to blow dust away from the lamp itself.
  3. From under the projector, blow air into the lamp area carefully to blow dust out the side. Short spurts of air aimed correctly cause any dust that is on the side vents and fan to blow out of the projector. If you try it, you see what I mean.
  4. Once this is all done, look in that lamp area where the lamp was projecting – onto a black plastic side with a little round hole and inside the hole is a colored bit of glass – that is the color wheel. Carefully blow some air right into this area in short spurts at different angles.
  5. Now go up the ladder and look down onto the projector. Above this color wheel area there may be an open vent, a small rectangular one. If you look into it you look right down onto the color wheel. Carefully aim the nozzle (bend it down) into this hole and blow air in small spurts in all directions at as many angles as you can. This blows dust away from the color wheel and it’s axle, freeing it to spin properly.
  6. Put everything back together and try the projector again. With any luck, the projector has had its dusty critical areas cleaned and the projector works fine. This doesn’t always work, but it is a good attempt at dealing with the constant infiltration of dust.

In Review, any projector you get has it’s User’s Manual on the Internet and possibly printed and left with the projector. Find it, read it! Within 2-3 pages the Manufacturer tells you the correct way to care for your projector, how to clean it, how to use it properly.


Projection Technologies continue to evolve and we are beginning to see over the next vista of projector technology – cheaper larger flat panel displays, LED Projector Models that will have different Lamp specifications, Regular lamps that should last a lot longer and are cheaper… Care for your image!