How Long Do DLP Lamps Last?

By Samuel Chi

How Long Do DLP Lamps Last?

Digital light processing (DLP) is the technology patented by Texas Instruments to make the rear-projection television---an alternative to LCD or plasma television sets that are designed for high definition television (HDTV) viewing. In DLP television sets, a lamp supplies the lighting to create the pictures and provide contrast for the television set. But these lamps eventually burn out and need to be replaced.


DLP TV is a good alternative to LCD because it is considerably cheaper (by about 25 percent) than LCD and it comes in much larger screen sizes (LCD maxes out at about 42 inches, where most DLP models go from 40 to 70 inches). It also compares favorably to plasma sets because of both price (about 50 percent less) and a considerably longer life span.

Why Use Bulbs

Plasma TVs use millions of tiny bulbs filled with gases; after about 50,000 hours, these gases run out, rendering the TV useless. The DLP TV, on the other hand, uses a single lamp for all of its lighting. The bulbs for this lamp are replaceable, much like a light bulb for a regular desk-top lamp, so the TV can be used indefinitely.

How Long Do Bulbs Last

Generally, a DLP bulb lasts about 8,000 hours (if a TV is on 10 hours a day, every day, the bulb will last about two years). A bulb can last longer if it's used less frequently. Typically, a bulb in a DLP TV for household use should last at least three to four years before it starts to flicker and needs to be replaced.

How to Tell If a Bulb Needs to be Changed

Unlike a bulb in a lamp that can suddenly burn out and go completely dark, the DLP bulb typically starts to flicker before eventually burning out. The TV set gives a warning, usually a blinking warning light, that signals the bulb needs to be replaced. The TV picture may suddenly fade out and gradually come back in as the bulb struggles to relight before finally going dark for good.

How to Change a Bulb

The bulb may be replaced without special assistance. Make sure the power is off and the TV is completely cut off from its power source for at least a few minutes. Then, using a screwdriver, remove a small door in the back of the TV and gently slide out the old bulb. Place the new bulb on the slide and push it back in. Finally, screw shut the door and turn the TV back on.

How Much Does a Bulb Cost

Bulbs typically cost between $150 and $300, and they are widely available from TV-selling retailers (such as Best Buy, Wal-Mart and other electronic stores) or at a number of online stores. A better way of acquiring new bulbs is by purchasing a service contract when the TV is bought. These contracts usually cost $100 or less per year and can be bought on a multiyear basis. With a contract, the DLP bulb will be replaced without additional cost.

How to Get a New Bulb

A bulb can be bought at a retailer or directly from the manufacturer of the TV. With a service contract, it may be obtained from the contract service provider. It's not necessary to wait for a bulb to flicker or burn out before getting a new bulb, especially if a service contract is bought. It might even be a good idea to stock up on bulbs before the service contract runs out.