When buying a projector, it’s an obvious question to ask ‘how long will it last?’ Old 35mm optical projectors can last for decades – but that is a dead-end technology.
To answer that, we need to break down the question to a more granular level, since there are many types of digital projectors – DLP, DILA, LCOS, LCD, Laser, Solid State, LED etc.
One of the most common reasons a projector stops function as lamp replacement. There are many kinds of lamp technologies, and each has plusses and minuses when it comes to longevity (and the possibility of replacing the lamp). These technologies include mercury arc lamps, Xenon arc lamps, LCD (Liquid Crystal Diode) LED (Light Emitting Diode) RGB lasers and other systems.
Each kind of technology can fail or at least degrade. For example, LCD components can degrade due to heat, and arc lamps fail after 3,000 to 4,000 hours of use. The ambient temperature the projector operates in can speed up degradation and additionally losing mains power while the projector is running (without the projection cooling system having time to cool the light source down) can be an issue.
DLP (Digital Light Processing) projectors (a Texas Instruments technology) have the additional issue of moving parts, which can wear over time. These can include two or more rotation colour wheels. Degradation of these wheels results in colour aberrations.
Even long-lasting Lasers will eventually degrade with light output falling and colour constancy becoming compromised.
There are various LCD approaches plus also LCOS (Liquid Crystal on Silicon). JVC has its version of LCOS called D-ILA (Direct-Drive Image Light Amplification) which is different in longevity from liquid crystal display (LCD) technology.
If that all sounds a bit complex (it is) we can simplify down to this statement. All projector lamps have a set and defined operating time. That time is called the lamp life, expressed or written as the number of active hours before noticeable degradation or outright failure.
If you start at the low end of the scale, then a standard budget halide lamp, if taken care of (not overheated or dropped) should last from around 1,000 to 2,000 hours intermittent use.
Pay a bit more, and your halide lamp could be still going strong at 3,000 hours (3 to 4 months) and a perfect modern one, if cared for, might just make it to 5,000 hours (7 months).
Lasers are right up near the top end of the scale and can last up to 20,000 hours or sometimes longer than that.
LED lamps are the Giant Sequoias in the projector forest and can last up to 30,000 hours (more if you are lucky). They might even outlast their owners.
Then the question ‘how long do projectors last’ becomes one of ‘can I still buy a replacement part?’ and also ‘is it worthwhile replacing the part or replacing the projector itself?’
How Long do Projector may Last?
Assuming you can get the spare parts (including spare lamps) then projectors will last a long time. The likely reason you will throw yours away is more likely to be because they are now obsolete and don’t do something that you now want to do.