Projector Lamp FAQ

What is a Projector Lamp?

The technical description of a modern projector bulb is that it is an ultra-high pressure mercury vapor ARC lamp. Projector lamps are categorized as either metal halide lamps or ultra-high pressure mercury vapor lamps. Philips has trademarked the name "UHP lamp" for their projector lamps.

How Does a Projector Bulb Work?

In a projector bulb, there is an ARC gap that is filled with ultra-high pressurized mercury vapor; the lamp operates by sending an electrical current across this pressurized ARC gap. The current lights the mercury vapor, and causes the lamp to produce an extremely bright light. This bright light is shone onto an LCD or DLP panel which in turn produces the amazing images projectors are known for.

Projector bulbs are an extremely complex technology, with specifications for each bulb that are developed at a great cost to the manufacturer. Therefore, the price of projector lamps can be pretty high.

Please follow this link for a detailed explanation about projector lamps.

Where is My Projector Lamp Located?

A projector lamp can be found by locating a square or rectangular plastic plate somewhere on the outside of the projector; the plate is usually on the bottom of the projector, but can sometimes be found on the top or sides.

This cover is usually secured by two screws; undo these screws and lift the plate off to reveal the bottom of the plastic housing (the module) that holds the projector lamp in place in your projector.

This plastic housing usually has a handle attached to it. Pull gently on this handle to remove the projector lamp from your projector.

The projector lamp is the most essential part of your projector, because it creates the light that shines through the DLP or LCD system and makes the vivid images your projector displays.

Replacing a Projector Lamp

Whether you have purchased a lamp with module (the black plastic housing) or a bare projector bulb, replacing your projector lamp is very easy.

For installation information visit the instructions here.

When Will I Know My Projector Lamp is Dead?

Often a projector will have a built in timer that tracks how long your bulb has been running inside the projector. Usually a few hours before the expected lamp life is finished, a message will display on your projector bulb screen. This warning message is a good indicator that it is time for you search the MyProjectorLamps database for a new projector bulb.

If your lamp is still functioning and the warning message has appeared, it is possible to disable the warning message. Please search for this topic in your projector's manual , or by navigating the onscreen menu to learn how to disable the warning message.

Not every projector works the same. Some projectors will shut the projector lamp down when the timer reaches a certain point, even if your bulb has not been completely exhausted. In this case, it is useful to reset your lamp hour counter, as it may allow you to gain more hours from your projector bulb. Once again, please refer to your projector's manual for the procedure on how to reset your lamp hour counter.

If you are regularly using your projector lamp for important presentations, weekly events, or regular home theater events, it is always a good idea to have a back-up projector lamp in stock so you never miss a minute without your projector.

Projector Lamp Anatomy

There are several elements involved in the manufacturing of projector lamps. These components include the ARC tube, ultra-high pressurized mercury vapor, electrical wiring, a quartz globe or reflector, a fastener, a spoke, a nut, a screw, and finally the black plastic housing itself (which is generally referred to as the module).

ARC Tube

The ARC tube is a piece of blown, high temperature resistant glass measuring about 3 inches in length. It protrudes up from the base of the quartz globe. When the lamp is being manufactured, the ARC tube is positioned by highly precise instruments then set it in place with extra strength plaster.

Mercury Vapor

The mercury vapor inside most projector lamp ARC tubes is ultra-high pressurized and highly sensitive to electrical current. The ballasts inside a projector regulate the electrical current that stimulates the mercury vapor. When the projector is turned on, the ballasts produce a high voltage to ignite the mercury vapor. Once the gas is lit by the current, the projector ballast reduces the voltage to a level required to maintain the projector lamp's brightness.

Electrical Wiring

The electrical wiring on a projector lamp is fused inside the quartz ARC tube and runs out the top of the tube through the side of the reflector. The electrical current runs as a circuit from the back of the lamp, up through the side and back into the projector via the electrical wiring. The amount of electricity supplied to the projector lamp is regulated by ballasts inside the projector (as referred to in the section above: "Mercury Vapor").

Quartz Globe

The quartz globe, also known as a reflector, is the hard exterior of the projector lamp. The globe is usually coated on the inside with a highly reflective metal material. The coating reflects the light generated by the ignition of the ARC tube's mercury vapor.

Fasteners, threaded spoke, nut and screw

A fastener, threaded spoke, nut, and screw hold your lamp's electrical wiring in place (this is the same electrical wiring that is written about in "Electrical Wiring" above).

The fastener is a small metal piece that is on the side of the projector lamp, and is either attached through glue, solder, or a clamp. This fastener uses a screw to attach the wiring to the projector lamp.

To complete an electrical circuit, there is a metal threaded spoke plastered into the back of the quartz globe. The threaded spoke usually sticks out about an inch and a half, and is used, along with a nut, to hold the second wire in place.

Plastic Housing (Module)

The plastic housing, or module, is a black, high-temperature resistant plastic that holds the lamp in place inside the projector. A retaining clip usually locks the lamp into this module. The projector lamp may also be held in place by screws and the module itself always has screw that fastens it to the projector.

For more information about projector lamps, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Who Makes Projector Lamps?

High quality projector lamps that meet the standards required by projectors are only made by a few projector lamp manufacturers in the world. Manufacturing projector lamps is an incredibly expensive and technologically challenging process that only a few companies are able to meet.

The major manufacturers in the projector lamp industry are:


Philips is the pioneer of the projector lamp world. They began researching and developing the first metal halide lamps in 1995. Eventually they developed a mercury vapor projector lamp, which they called a UHP lamp or ultra-high pressure mercury vapor. The new development made it possible for projection systems to emit a brightness never seen before, and made digital projectors possible. Philips remains a dominant force in the projector lamp industry, and some estimates indicate that Philips has more than 70% control over the projector lamp manufacturing and sales market worldwide today.


Ushio is a company that was founded in Japan, but now has offices in the South Africa and around the world. The company manufactures hundreds of different industrial lights, lamps and bulbs. The company started operating in 1964 as an industrial light manufacturer. Ushio manufactures projector lamps for Sony, Sanyo, BenQ, and many other companies. Estimates indicate that they have a 10% share in the projector lamp market.


Osram is a company that started in Germany. The company specializes in producing the ARC tube in metal halide lamps and mercury vapor lamps. Osram claims to be the second largest lighting manufacturer in the world, the company has about a 7% market share of the market.

The Rest

There is a handful of projector lamp manufacturers located in Taiwan, Japan, and China. The most notable manufacturer is Matsushita, which is a subsidiary of Epson and manufacturers all of Epson's lamps. Most smaller manufacturers of projector lamps do not produce high quality lamps and are not commonly found in brand new projectors.

Why Are Projector Lamps So Expensive?

One of the shocks customers experience when purchasing a new projector lamp is the cost, there is a good reason for this. Compressed inside the ARC tube of the projector lamp, is an ultra-high pressurize mercury vapor that is ignited when electricity jumps or arcs, across the gap filled with this gas. The ignition of the gas when the electrical current jumps or arcs through it is what produces a projector lamp's extremely bright light.

Thus, the technology and engineering that goes into the making of a projector lamp is not cheap. In fact, the machines that are required to produce a single projector lamp can cost the manufacturer millions of dollars.

In addition to the purchase costs of the machinery, manufacturers also have to hire expert scientists and engineers that can ensure that the projector lamp you are purchasing meets the standards required by your projector. The mercury vapor must be exactly pressurized and the ARC tube and quartz reflector must be precisely positioned at the correct angle. If any of these elements are not calibrated exactly as they need to be, the projector lamp may not produce the brightness expected, may burn the LCD panel within the projector or may fail to ignite.

Every projector lamp also has different ignition and running voltages and wattages. These configurations produce different brightness levels (ANSI lumens rates). Therefore, the machines that manufacture projector lamps are complex and expensive to maintain. They also have to be recalibrated for each specific new lamp setting. There is no short way around this process if the manufacturer wants to produce a high quality projector lamp.

Projector lamps are cost intensive to make, and that is why there are only four or five major manufacturers of high-quality, ORIGINAL projector lamps in the world. These manufacturers have spent a lot of money researching and developing projector lamps. They also have to maintain the assembly plants where the projector lamps are made. The costs to develop and make projector lamps limits competition in the market, both these factors increase the cost of projector lamps.

Projector Lamp Compatibility

Wouldn't Any Lamp Work in My Projector?

Projector lamps are manufactured to meet your projector's very specific technical requirements. These requirements include the exact pressurization of the mercury vapor, the positioning of the ARC tube within the quartz globe at a precise angle, and manufacturing the ARC tube to withstand the mercury vapor's ultra-high pressure.

A projector lamp is manufactured specifically for each batch of new projectors on the market. There is not a one projector lamp fits all solution in the industry. It is not possible to install a 150W projector lamp into a projector that needs a 250W projector bulb; it is also not possible to install a 250W lamp into a projector that may require a 250W bulb, but requires a different ignition and running voltage.

It is also not possible or recommended to install a lamp with the same ignition and running voltages, AND the same wattage settings without also ensuring that the ANSI lumens rate is identical. If the ANSI lumens rate (the brightness) of the bulb is different, the projector will not be able to perform as it should. The projector will run too hot and burn your LCD panel or DLP wheel or too cold and will not be bright enough.

Are There Any Projector Lamps Compatible with Multiple Projectors?

Yes! Several projector manufacturers team up and license or source the same product from a projector lamp manufacturer.

MyProjectorLamps provides a list of projectors that take the same projector lamp on every product page. Look up your projector lamp model and any product page will display all of the projectors in which that bulb can be used in the bottom right hand side.

If a projector lamp ID# that you are searching for does not display your projector as a compatible projector in the bottom right hand side, it is likely that it is the incorrect lamp ID# for that projector.

If you are having problems finding the correct projector lamp for your projector, you can can perform a keyword search OR call us directly.

Extending Projector Lamp Life

An early expiration to a projector lamp is usually caused by it burning at too hot a temperature over the course of its life. Below we have provided some useful tips on how you can extend your projector lamp's life.


The most important factor determining projector lamp life is ventilation. To ensure your projector lamp lasts as long as possible, mount the projector in a place that has ample space for ventilation. Ideally the projector will be mounted two feet away, on all sides, from the wall, floor or ceiling. If the projector is mounted where there is little air flow, the projector lamp will most likely burn out early. Make sure the room the projector is in has some air flow if possible.

Vacuum and Blow Compressed Air

Dust and dirt will gather on the projector over time and this build-up can cause air flow in and out of the projector to decrease. If there is less air flow, then the projector lamp will run at a hotter temperature and may burn out sooner. The easiest way to solve this problem is to vacuum the projector or blow it out with compressed air once every two weeks. Depending on your usage, you may need to complete this process more often.

Change or Clean Your Filter Regularly

Projectors have detachable filters built into them to prevent dust getting inside the sensitive circuitry. However, filters can get too clogged with dust, decrease air flow in and out of the projector and cause the projector lamp to burn at a hotter temperature. On average, projector lamps that run at hotter temperatures burn out sooner. The filter on your projector is usually found behind a small rectangular panel measuring 0.5" by 6" long (1.27cm by 15.24cm) and can easily be changed or cleaned.

Do Not Turn Your Projector On and Off Rapidly

Turning the projector on and off quickly can have devastating effects on projector lamp life. Projector lamps typically take about a minute before they produce a stable current. Special ballasts inside the lamp ignite it at a high voltage and run them a low voltage. If the projector is turned on and off rapidly, the ultra-high pressurized mercury vapor inside the ARC tube may become destabilized, which will cause the lamp to fail permanently.

Economy Mode Can Extend Your Lamp's Life

Most modern projectors have a normal and economy mode. Economy mode will usually make the projector lamp emit a slightly lower brightness level and can therefore extend the lamp life. Unsure if the projector has an economy mode? Please refer to the projector manual or contact the projector manufacturer.

Testing a Projector Lamp

When attempting to test a projector bulb, it is important to know certain facts and to realize that projector lamps are complex and function differently than any of your other household or traditional electronics.

  1. Each projector lamp contains a ballast system that ignites the lamp with a higher voltage in the ignition phase. Once the lamp is lit and the circuit has been established, the ballast shifts the electrical current to a running voltage.
  2. Projector lamps CANNOT be tested with an AMP or OHM meter. Projector bulbs function by igniting ultra-high pressurize mercury vapor contained inside an ARC tube. There is no conductive electrical material contained in the ARC tube besides the gas. Therefore testing an unlit projector lamp with an AMP or OHM will not work.
It is impossible to test your projector bulb with typical household electrical equipment. To test projector lamps, you must buy specific testing equipment; for more information about projector lamp testing devices, please contact Philips.

Can I Touch a Projector Lamp?

It is important to know that projector lamps are similar to halogen lamps, but not identical. Halogen lamps strictly cannot be touched because the oil from your hands will create hotspots on the halogen lamp and cause it to fail. Projector lamp globes can be touched, but we recommend that you handle them as little as possible or not at all.

It is strictly essential that you do not touch the ARC tube with your fingers; this will leave fingerprints and cause the ARC tube to burn hotter in the places where it was touched. Higher burning temperatures can destabilize the ARC tube and can cause it to explode.

MyProjectorLamps recommends that the inside of the projector lamp globe or the reflector surrounding the ARC tube is not touched. Touching this area will cause hot spots to form on the reflector, which will also destabilize your projector lamp performance.

Touching the outside of the globe or reflector is possible and will only cause little damage to the life or performance of the projector lamp. MyProjectorLamps recommends against touching the outside of the quartz globe. If the quartz globe must be touched, we recommend cleaning your hands. If you do have extremely sweaty hands or you do not wish to handle the lamp at all, we suggest wearing a pair of white cotton gloves while handling the projector lamp.

If I Buy and Install Projector Lamps in Different Countries, Will It Still Work?

Voltage standards differ between different countries and regions of the world. However, if the projector lamp identification number is correct for the projector you have, it will work anywhere in South Africa. The ballasts inside projectors convert the electricity entering the unit into the appropriate voltage required to ignite and run the lamp.

The voltage that enters the projector through the outlet does not affect the ignition and running voltages inside your projector.