Should You Buy a Bare Projector Bulb or the Whole Lamp Module?

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Should You Buy a Bare Projector Bulb or the Whole Lamp Module?

While projector lamp modules may fit only one or a limited number of projectors, the bulb inside of the cage may fit dozens or hundreds of projectors from a wide range of manufacturers. This makes bare projector bulbs a popular and versatile product. While it's far easier to replace the entire projector lamp module, bare bulbs are often significantly less expensive.

The challenge with buying projector lamps - in housing or bare bulbs - is how to judge the quality. You can see this reflected in the wide online price range of the same replacement lamp. The lamp for a particular brand and model of a projector can range from as little as $20 for low quality replacement modules to a several hundred dollars for an OEM version.

If premium quality materials and optics is your objective, you should be shopping for original OEM lamps and bulbs. These are the identical modules or bare bulbs that were shipped with the projector when new. The manufacturers of these OEM projector lamps use brand name bulbs like Osram (P-VIP), Philips (UHP), and Ushio (NSH). This ensures the highest quality construction of the bulb inside of the module. As you might expect, OEM replacement lamps are considerably more expensive, for this and other reasons.

What is our best advice on buying projector lamps? Before you buy, determine your objective. If you have an older home theater projector that is used mostly by the kids, a value replacement may work just fine, particularly if you can buy two and still spend less money than OEM. If you have a corporate office and have a fleet of road warrior projectors for sales presentations, you don't want to worry about projector lamp quality, buy OEM. For projectors somewhere in the middle of their expected life, an "original bulb, aftermarket cage" is usually a good deal, especially if the warranty is significantly better. OEM lamp module warranties are usually only 90 days.

And for DIY types, a bare bulb can offer a decent warranty (one year for major manufacturers), as well as significant cost savings. For some older projectors or televisions, OEM and aftermarket manufacturers may no longer make the whole module, making it necessary to extend the life of the cage by replacing just the bare bulb inside it.

There are a number of precautions and tips you should follow when replacing a bare projector bulb. The most important is not to touch the bare bulb, and if you do, carefully clean it off. The oil from fingerprints can compromise thermal operation of the bulb, dramatically shortening the life of the bulb. Thankfully, the fingerprints can be cleaned off, so it is not a dealbreaker.

Replacing a bare projector bulb is much more labor-intensive than simply plugging in a new module and fitting it into the projector. For replacing the bulb, there are often numerous screws keeping the bulb in place, as well as electrical connectors between the bulb and cage. Treating these carefully is essential, as they may be virtually unreplaceable.

While is almost always recommend replacing the entire lamp module for a projector, manufacturers make the bare bulbs available for purchase by businesses, institutions, and the general public. They take more work and require more care, but they also present cost savings, and they may be the only option available for older projectors that are long discontinued.

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