Projector Lamp Life and Brightness

Let’s start off by saying the most common Lamp life specs out there for both business and home theater projectors are:

At full power: 3000-4000 hours
In low, or “eco” power: 4000-6000 hours

This article about Projector Lamps was originally written in 2009, updated late 2013, and again in 2015

There are exceptions, some projectors trying to pack maximum punch will drive the lamps harder – shorter lives.  There are still a number of 2000 hours at full power projector still on the market at this time.

There are also manufacturers claiming beyond 6000 hours.  I’ve seen 7000, 8000 and even one projector group claiming 10,000 hours, but beware, these days, it’s not always apples to apples.  I will explain below.

We are talking here, about the traditional high pressure mercury lamps used in the vast majority of projectors. There are also very expensive Xenon lamps, used in some high end projectors, and those typically have an even shorter life and far more expensive so used only in special circumstances.   Since they are the rare exception in business or home, we’ll not focus on the Xenon lamps here.

Most manufacturers rate their lamp life, not to failure, but to the point where the lamp is half as bright as it was when new.

With that in mind, remember that your projector will be noticeably, but not drastically dimmer as it approaches the end of its rated life. In our reviews, we try to take that into consideration, when trying to explain what is “bright enough”

How much loss in brightness is 50%? That’s easy, consider any room. Imagine two 100 watt lights each with its own wall switch.

Start with both lights on. Now turn one off. Bingo, there’s your 50% drop. I’ll bet you can imagine that!  What that tells you, also, is that if you have some ambient light, if you can half the ambient light by the time your projector lamp is old, you can maintain the same relative brightness between image and room ambient.

It’s not a bad idea is to buy a projector and screen for your room, that when new, you can enjoy watching (brightness wise), with the projector on the low power setting. On most projectors that is 25-35% less bright than full power.

If you do that, as your lamp gets dimmer, kick the projector into full power and while that won’t offset the full 50% drop near end of life, it will make the loss in brightness rather minimal to the eye.

Full power vs. Eco (or low) power mode

I’m not sure who coined “eco-mode” but it has become popular, or perhaps I should say “trendy” with a many if not most projector manufacturers referring to their low power setting as Eco-mode.

Bottom line, is whether a manufacturer calls it  low lamp, or low power, or eco-mode, pretty much are all the same thing.

For you home theater fans, be aware of this:

There is normally some color shifting between full and eco modes. The same calibration settings won’t deliver really close to identical results.  One might have visibly more red – a lower overall color temperature.  Not drastic differences but real ones if you want highly accurate color.  If you are looking for great color for home theater, you might want calibrations done for both brightness levels.

But who said there are only two.  I’m now seeing some projectors with three, and a rare fourth mode.  What gives?

In some cases there really are 3 different brightness modes, but more often than not, with a projector with three (or four) settings, at least one is simply a smarter mode.  More below…

Be sure your projector will be bright enough

With business projectors this really isn’t an issue, as most can spend a few dollars more for a projector with more than enough brightness.  3500 lumen projectors start for less than $1000, and that’s bright!

In the Home Theater Projector space, however, purchase decsions are more often made primarily around picture quality, and placement flexibility, and many people will choose a less bright projector, if they feel it does a better picture. As a result, projector brightness is something people grudgingly accept. “I bought projector X because of its great picture, but really wanted a projector 25% – 35% brighter, like projector Y, but Y just doesn’t have the picture quality.”

In terms of lamp life ratings, the amount of brightness drop is not necessarily an indicator of how much the lamp life will increase. Some projectors claim a minimal increase of 25% or less in lamp life when switching to eco mode. So it’s more a dollar saving mode than a lamp life extender.

Some Projectors get tremendous Lamp Life in eco-mode with smart management

Despite the general trend of 4000 / 6000 hours in eco modes, there are some even longer. More projectors are adding hours to their lives by being smart.  Turning off projectors automatically under various circumstances, isn’t new, but what is new these days, is that some projectors  will kick into an idle mode while still on, saving electricity, and not hurting the lamp as much.  Typically those are modes claiming over 6000 hours, and most recently I’ve seen a 10,000 hour claims.

Thank these projectors for extending life by “observing” the type of  usage, and powering to low levels when the projector is essentially idle.  It might even kick in if there’s legitimate content up there, but if the content hasn’t changed for a period of time.

The thing is, to get those maximum hours, they aren’t talking about fully utilizing the projector for that many hours.  It might get you there, because you forgot to turn off the projector for hours at a time.  Most projectors do have some sort of timer or power down option if there is no active source. But powering down doesn’t buy you more hours of life because technically the projector is off.  But dropping down to a really dim image for 6 hours, counts those hours while you are not using the projector.

Let’s just say one needs to appreciate which number mean what…

If operational costs are an issue for you, and you are a heavy users – say 1500 hours a year or more, then lamp life and replacement lamp costs can be a significant issue. Consider – myself, I run my own projector roughly 2000 hours a year, so for my JVC home theater projector, that’s an extra $350+ a year, to keep me in lamps. In reality, though, it’s higher.  For home theater users, some will replace before the half life, because they need all available lumens, and don’t want it ever to drop down a full 50%.

Don’t take that price mention as a fixed price for lamps…

Projector Lamp Costs

Except for some entry level projectors, most lamps retail for $199 to $449 range.  It’s the bigger more powerful business projectors on one hand (think 8000 lumens and up), and some of the mid-high end projectors – $4000 and up, where $400 or $500 is not uncommon.   On some high end names, for the home, such as Runco, SIM2, etc., lamp costs can run double. I am not talking about Very Large Venue projectors with 20,000 lumens and up, I don’t get to play with those, and aren’t on top of their lamp life issues.

Prices seem to be significantly moving down on portable and projectors suitable for classrooms.

What’s the lowest cost for a good long life lamp?  Epson, it should be noted, offers lamps for most of their projectors that fit that description, for $79 to $99 for school purchase.  $99 to $199 is becoming the sweet spot for education pricing.

Overall, for projectors whether business or home usage, that sell for under about $3000 most lamps are $300 or less, but rarely under $130 (unless education pricing).

For you home theater people out there, and expensive lamp is never fun to need.  For those companies like JVC and Sony who’s lamps are typically over $300 (some times a lot more), just think you could get a new Blu-ray player and a dozen movies.  While lamp life and cost should not be a top selection criteria, you should know what your investment is over time, it may well influence your projector purchase.

News And Comments

  • AKA_GodinGal

    My projector has 900 hours on the original lamp and it is 10 years old. I am noticing that unless I power it on at least an hour before I want to watch a movie, it is very dark and almost devoid of colour. Time for a) new lamp or b) new projector
    I have a viewsonic PJ510


      Greetihgs AKA!

      Sorry, I just don’t know. I doubt it is the lamp, but I’ve heard of stranger things. Of course with 900 hours on a 2000 hour lamp, your lamp is probalby already down about 25-35% in brightness, but lamps just don’t take 30 minutes to stablize, unless there’s a power supply issue, or something else on the projector’s end.

      A call to Viewsonic couldn’t hurt, but, all considered, if it’s the projector, it’s probably time for a much better projector than that one, for a small fraction of what you paid for it. And you’ll have a fresh warranty, lamp, etc, higher res, and a far better picture. Start counting your money… -art

      • AKA_GodinGal

        Well, thank you for your response. Much appreciated. I decided that something else was wrong, so I replaced my component cables with new ones and voila, new life into an old projector. Feels like almost new again. The red component cable had failed. I replaced the three of them, as they were the same age. Thanks again for your reviews and advice. Now, I can take my time to research a new one. Thinking about the Epson pro8200

  • Nida batool

    Well, My projector runs almost 1800 hours with one lamp. I use Osram lamps

  • Kathryn Soraiz

    We’ve used our BenQ MX615 (old, I know) in Theater setting since
    2011. We’ve gotten messages to replace the bulb (based on hours usage) for a
    while. On Jan. 2, 2014 we got the message that we’d exceeded the timer’s 5000
    hour max count time, to replace the lamp, and reset the counter.

    We hadn’t noticed diminished brightness and have, by our estimates used the same lamp over 1100-1200 additional hours since then. Today it showed the first signs of failing so I’m researching to see if we want to upgrade or purchase a new

    We’ve bought three projectors in 10 years. All three projectors are by different
    manufacturers – Toshiba, Epson, BenQ. All three have given us thousands of
    hours of use.

    We run them our machines pretty hard. The first was a Toshiba and we retired it when we were unable to find a lamp for it. We probably could have had it longer had a newbie not turned the projector off after hours of use, quickly turned it back on, turned it off and then on, again, in rapid succession — yes, he was confused about the instructions being given.

    Long lamp lives could be
    luck or it could be technique. We do try to keep dust out the projector and — here’s what I think is key — we set a small 4″-5″ diameter fan directly next to
    each projector to blow air into the fan side of the unit and help keep the
    machine cool. The fan connects via usb or wall plug to an outlet and cost
    about $6 at Walgreens.

    Hope the suggestion helps someone…$6+ a projector is a whole lot cheaper than a new lamp.

  • amar saeed

    i have infocus in35w it has 1955 hours and displays lamp indicator. i want to just reset the counter if i will ? what happens?


      I believe the IN35W claims 2500 lumens at full power and more in eco mode. Some projectors give you lots of warning, although I’m suprised that it would be working you before 2000 hours, with a 2500 minimum. Is the warning message going away shortly after power up, or staying on?

      What happens if you just reset the projector’s lamp counter is projector model specific. Some lamps are smart enough that the projector “sees” the wear on the lamp, and might ignore your reset, from the practical standpoint.

      Some projectors will simply shut down when you hit the stated usage (2500 hours). Assuming the projector can’t tell that you haven’t replaced the lamp (some use electronics in the lamp itself to monitor, then a reset would give you zero hours, and the lamp will keep running until it fails. However, sometimes when you run lamps beyond their claimed life, they don’t just die, they explode in the projector. That makes a mess – remember there’s mercury in the lamp.

      I would really suggest you contact InFocus and find out from them what will happen. But you do want to avoid the lamp exploding. The msrp on the lamp is $299, so not cheap. -art

  • avbug

    I have a BenQ W600+ that warned me at 3500 of 4000 hours to order a new lamp. It has been running well for 3 and a half years. It is now at 3900 hours and still provides a decent picture without noticeable brightness loss. It has been run on a ceiling mount and with a battery backup. Just got the new replacement lamp for $230. I will swap it out when I hit the 4000 hour mark and see if there is a change in the brightness.

  • Kristi

    My lamp light is turning on and the projector turns off after a few minutes of my projector being on. I looked it up and seen a few selling just the bulbs for projectors. Is this what I need for my projector to work again?


      Hi Kristi, No, that’s not the problem. When a lamp blows it stops working. You have some other problem. Contact the manufacturer or your dealer. Your projector probably has indicator lights, when a projector acts up, those usually blink in some pattern to indicate an error, although not always. -art

      • Kristi

        Thank you. The only other thing I didn’t mention was that my lamp reminder did come on a day before that happened. So I was thinking I needed a new lamp, I just wasn’t sure of what the difference was between a new lamp and a new bulb :)

      • TruthToBeTold

        Hi, I hope you can help me. I’m not sure if I need a new replacement the original bulb for my 7 year old Planar PD 7060 or not. What is happening is that it dims down slowly then brightens back quickly. Almost like a flash. In normal mode it takes a few minutes to dim and then flash back up to the “normal” mode brightness. In Eco mode it only takes about 10 seconds to dim then flash back up to “Eco” mode brightness. In “boost” mode the brightness is at full power. It doesn’t seem to dim down at all. However, the unit becomes much louder with a annoying hum. I don’t think I even have a 1,000 hrs on the projector.

        Does it sound like it’s time for a new bulb?


          I think I need to defer to the folks at Planar/Runco (the newest version of the 7060 is sold under the Runco name). Hard to say. Bulb flicker has been an issue off and on with many projectors -and is bulb related, and seems to only happen when running the bulb at less than full power. But, that’s usually a very quick flickering, nothing at all like you describe. Give them a shout. Failing that, try the, where there’s likely to be a thread for the 7060, and you might find your answer with some other users, or find out at least if any have had a similar problem. Good luck to you. -art

          • TruthToBeTold

            Much thanks.

    • Kristi

      Thank you. The only other thing I didn’t mention was that my lamp reminder did come on a day before that happened. So I was thinking I needed a new lamp, I just wasn’t sure of what the difference was between a new lamp and a new bulb :)

  • Tobi Sama

    I want to know why the manufacturers of projectors don’t include different levels of eco-mode, in example lower levels with 10 percent of difference, from 100% (full power) to 90% 80% 70% 60% and 50%, that would be great to make a much more versatile projector, longer lamp life, less fan noise or even better black levels in some cases. Is something too hard to make via firmware? New bulbs can be very bright even in eco mode specially in small rooms.

    Plus for small rooms a quiet projector is great, but turns out the best silent projectors are big and not so suitable in small rooms, it’s kind of contradictory.


      Hi Tobi, Good question. I’ll take a stab at it. First, one issue would be consistency. Note that we only calibrate one mode – and only one brightness – normally the Bright mode, not an Eco mode.

      The important thing to note is that there are several issues with conventional ultra high pressure lamps (UHP) used in all but laser or LED light source projectors.

      These lamps have two noticeable failings when it comes to accurate home theater use.
      1. The color output of the lamp changes over time. A hard core enthusiast who has his/her own calibration software likely will re-calibrate every 500 hours or so.
      2. The output of the lamp’s color balance is different depending on how hard it is driven. That is, when you switch from full power (bright, normal, whatever its called), to an Eco mode (typically down 25-30%) the color shifts. So, if you calibrate the projector for that bright mode, in theory you should do a separate calibration for Eco mode. The differences are very noticable, typically one will be warmer than the other.

      The reason we only calibrate one mode, and at one lamp level is that the more modes calibrated, the more time it takes, the more someone will end up paying a calibrator. Since I contract out our calibrations to Mike, an independent THX certified calibrator, I, like most people, only have so much to spend on it. So, if you wanted the best picture, and say you had 6 brightness modes to calibrate, would you be willing to spend perhaps $1000+ instead of say $400, to have each mode calibrated? I think not.

      Now beyond that, some projectors have manual irises that can adjust for brightness. But that doesn’t tie to lowering brightness to reduce fan noise.

      So it mostly comes down to driving the lamp. Other techniques can vary the output brightness without necessarily resulting in a change in color balance.

      Some projectors we’ve reviewed do have 3, or even 4 total brightness modes (BenQ comes to mind), Some projectors use variable speed fans to at least limit consistent louder fan noise. Great overall, but sometimes the change in fan noise is more noticeable than a steady louder level. In your kitchen the refrigerator makes for a good example of the value of consistency. You can be sitting there talking – you don’t notice that the refrigerator is running – until the compressor stops. Then you become immediately aware of the change. But it was the change you notice not that it was on to begin with, as you forget about that background noise after a bit.

      Over the next few years, I believe we can expect laser and led light engines to come down in price. At some point, they will start replacing lamp based projectors in mass market segments. At that point, multiple brightness levels may be more practical. However, even there, another way may make more sense. Just as some companies are using their laser engines just as lamp based projectors use dynamic irises, I would think that dimming the overall output of the laser (for less than fully bright scenes) would simply require less power, thus meeting the eco requirements. At the same time the equivalent of a manual iris could limit the maximum needed for the brighter scenes, again reducing power consumption. We may end up with no need for even an Eco mode – just set it for the maximum brightness you want, knowing that the lower the setting the less “juice” needed. -art

  • Mustafa

    Hello Guys,
    I have Epson EB-905 projector
    i have used it for about 900hr and then the projection was to dark i thought of to chang the lamp and replaced with orignal epson lamp but it made no diffrence.


      If it was the lamp, there are likely indicators (LED lights) on the projector that would indicate a lamp failure. Often there are two or three different LED lights, and which combinations and if they blink, tell you what the problem is – so check your manual.

      But the easy way, if they are accessible, is to contact Epson in your area. Good luck. Not sure how old your projector is, but at least here in the US, Epson warranty on projectors like that one are typically 2 years, so hopefully you are still under warranty. -art

  • Hennergogs

    Hi there, I’m looking to buy a projector, and on Ebay, loads of sellers are claiming 20 000h lamp life or even more such as the Medialy z500 which claims up to 50 000h. My question is wheter or not the lamp life would be any where near this as I want to buy a cheap projector and this one is going for 200 euros:


      Almost all projectors sporting LED light engines claim 20,000 or more hours. That is a reasonable expectation and far longer than the useful life of any of those projectors even if it lasts half that long.

      The projector you are looking at is probably very small, and not very bright (I didn’t see any specs for brightness, but the price would make me expect that. Also it’s 1280×800 which is the lower resolution of HD, although the title indicates that it can accept 1080p (which is what blu-ray discs are, or HDTV).

      There are lots of such projectors coming out of China. Make sure if you choose one of this type that the company has proper distribution – ask where you would send it for service, and find out more about the warranty…

      In the US, I only review these small pico and pocket projectors IF they have a proper support setup. Many will have to ship the product back to China for repair, could take months… Good luck. -art

  • Robin

    The last projector lamp I bought a few years ago (?) was $400. Today I bought one for $78 on amazon, they say it is oem and reviews are good… have I been had? Why are they so much less expensive now? There is even one listed for $46… HC6800 Mitsubishi


      Only time will tell. However the price is certainly right. -art

  • John Luck

    I’m running an EUC and am very happy with it. Bright, good contrast and colour. I can even use it during the day with minimal curtains drawn to cut outside light. They are worth a look at

  • Corey Einecker

    If I put the projector in Eco mode, the brightness goes down and the fan speed goes down. SO, I’m trying to figure out if I were to leave the projector in standard mode and drop the brightness way down, the bulb will be kept cooler with the higher fan speed, right? And with the brightness turned down to a level that I would see in Eco mode, I could lower the stress on the bulb more by having it in standard mode (higher fan speed , keeps it cooler) and turning the brightness down (same benefits TO THE BULB as Eco mode). I’m wondering if anyone thinks this would work or if anyone is aware of a flaw in my thinking. Keep in mind, I am only looking to extend bulb life, I don’t care about it being louder or using more electricity.


      Hi Corey, Here’s that “flaw” in your thinking. Yes, you can turn down brightness, which will limit the maximum brightness, but at the same time you will be reducing shadow detail. If you significantly reduce brightness (to be similar to eco mode – in other words 25-35%, just about all your very dark grays and colors will be black. You really don’t want to do that. -art

      • Corey Einecker

        I knew there’d be something! Thanks. So in Eco mode the very dark grays and colors would still be visible but the overall brightness is still down 25% – 35%, correct? And I assume this loss in visibility of the darker colors is not something I could counteract with other settings?


          Now you’ve got it… Eco modes are accomplished by simply lowering the lamp brightness. Technically it might be conceivable calibrate the projector to accomplish what you want, but I wouldn’t count on it. -art

  • katnkanga

    Images from my projector will go dim and eventually out when displaying a nighttime scene for an extended amount of time. I have to pause the movie, then change the input and back again during dvd playback. If I am using my Tivo and this happens, I bring up the Tivo menu and it returns to normal but happens again if a nightime scene is displayed such as a horror movie.


      Sounds like a “smart” energy saving feature (perhaps one badly implemented). What projector? Some of today’s new projectors will do just that – dim if they think that there is a static image up there for a while (or no image) and eventually even shut down. A number of new DLP projectors do something like that as an energy saving feature, in which case you should be able to shut it off in the menus. -art