Guide to Projector Lamp Replacement Modules & Bare Bulbs

BenQ projector lamp

Projection technology has become ubiquitous, with churches, theaters, and classrooms using multimedia and front end projectors to display presentations. Consumers have also been huge purchasers of projectors and rear-projection televisions (RPTVs), although these are declining in popularity as flat screen LCD and LED TVs have come onto the market.

Importance of the Bulb in Projectors

When a projector goes out, it is often not the electronics or wiring or case that fails, but the bulb that powers the projected image. These projector lamps are the essential part of the unit, producing the light that is required to project the images.

In many cases, an internal timer on the projector or TV will indicate when it is time to switch the lamp. The end users may not realize there is a problem if the picture has gradually gone darker over time, but there is also the possibility the lamp will reach the end of its life and simply burn out, just like a standard incandescent light bulb.

Module with Cage, or Bare Bulb Only?

Projector light bulbs are housed inside a plastic cage or housing. The bulb and the cage is known as the lamp module. Replacing the entire module is often easier and more cost-effective than trying to replace just the bulb inside of the module. We offer replacement module or bare bulb only options for many of the projector and TV models we sell, and generally recommend DIY-ers to replace the entire module, rather than removing (with a screw driver) the old bulb and replacing it with a new one.

If you are included toward just replacing the bare bulb, be aware that some bare bulbs are more expensive than the bulb with the housing, even when the bulbs are identical. Why is this? Manufacturers of projectors recommend against reusing (or refurbishing) the original cage, due to risk of damage to the projector, lamp module, or bulb. In order to encourage end users to replace the entire cage and bulb, they occasionally mark down the prices on complete modules in order to discourage damaged projectors and returned bare bulbs.

Compatibility of Projector Lamps

One question we frequently get about replacement lamps is the compatibility of the module and the projector. The wattage (lumen output) of the bulbs used in different projectors varies greatly depending the type of projector application: classroom, portable, conference room, large venue, etc. Additional variables are ignition and running voltage of the bulb, reflector size and shape (elliptical or parabolic), lumen ratings, and focal distances. While many lamp modules look the same, the bulb inside may have different optical characteristics to meet the specific needs of different projectors.

This isn’t to say that every module or bulb only fits in one projector. One of the quirks (i.e., confusions) of the modern projector market is that numerous manufacturers can license the same model of a projector, differentiating by resolution rates or lenses, but utilize the same exact module. This is why some of our projector lamps are used in numerous different models from more than one brand.

OEM vs. Original Bulb / New Cage vs. Compatible Lamp Modules

OEM lamp modules use the original manufacturer bulbs and original cages that exactly match what was in the projector when it was new. There are only a few manufacturers of projector bulbs that are shipped with new projectors. Each manufacturer uses an acronym to designate their bulb. As a general rule, you know you’re getting an original bulb inside the cage if you see one of these acronyms on the bulb

Epson – UHE
Iwasaki – HSCR, MSCR
Matsushita – HS, ‘M’, UHM
Osram – VIP, P-VIP
Philips – UHP
Phoenix – SHP
Ushio – NSH, UMPRD

Original Bulb / New Cage lamp modules use the original manufacturer bulbs and re-manufactured cages. This type of replacement module gives you  lamp optical performance that is virtually the same as when the projector was new, but usually at a lower price than the OEM module.

Compatible lamp modules are sometimes called “copy” lamps. The bulbs in these modules are manufactured by companies other than those listed above. The cages are also re-manufactured. Compatible lamp modules are usually the least expensive option.

Topbulb offers replacement lamps for thousands of projector models, and our trained lighting specialists answer questions every day from customers replacing modules in TVs and front end projectors.

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Nick Heeringa

Nick is a writer, publisher and editor for the Topbulb blog. Check back often for more of his writing on lighting applications and announcements for the Topbulb website and blog!

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