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The Big Lie: DLP TV Lamp Life
How I replaced the lamp on my LG DLP TV and reset the lamp hours

Let my preface by saying that you should be extremely careful servicing your own TV, particularly the halogen bulb on a DLP TV, as they are very expensive, get very hot, and contain hazardous materials. If you don't know what you are doing, you can injure yourself and/or ruin your TV. If you aren't comfortable doing it, then don't. That said...

On 9-30-06, an orange LED indicator lit up on my LG RU44SZ61D DLP TV above the lamp icon. Not knowing what it meant, but having a bad feeling about it, I consulted the manual, which said that the indicator was a lamp end-of-life indicator and that I would need to replace the halogen lamp which provides the projection lighting for my TV. Wanting to do it myself and save the service cost, I ordered a replacement halogen lamp (an alternate source is www.dlplampsource.com).

Turns out it took a couple more months for the lamp to finally fail, and on 12-23-06, I had to replace it. The TV would not come on--it would try, but then the lamp indicator would flash red for a couple of seconds and the TV would turn back off. I pulled out the replacement lamp I had ordered, grabbed my trusty screwdriver (a fine-point philips with a long shaft ~8" was the perfect tool), and unplugged the TV. I got the plastic lamp access cover off (on the right side of my TV, around the back, near the bottom--two screws). At this point, be very careful touching anything inside if your lamp has just been on--items may be very hot. I then took out the cage that goes around the lamp (three screws) and drew a diagram of how the cables were attached to the halogen bulb. After that, I un-did the cables affixed to the lamp itself, took out the top bracket holding the bulb in place, and loosened the other two brackets. I then gingerly pulled the old bulb out, put the new one in, and reversed all my steps. The TV turned on just fine when I was done, but the lamp's orange end-of-life indicator LED was still on. It was at this point that I finally figured out how to get my LG TV to show me how many hours were on the lamp (see below) by poking through forums on the web. Some of the more helpful forums were AV Forums and Digital Forum. I reset the lamp hours (see below) and voila, the end-of-life indicator went out. The only thing I didn't do correctly, as I gather from reading some forums, is that I handled the new bulb with my bare fingers. You're supposed to handle the bulbs with rubber gloves since the residue from your fingers can be an issue when the bulb heats up (doesn't seem to be a problem after a few hours of viewing, though).

The LG manual doesn't say how long the lamp is supposed to last, but the salesman at the place where I purchased the TV assured me it would last 10,000 hours. He told me the lamps cost around $300 (try $375), so I did some quick math in my head and figured that 10,000 hours would get me through at least 5-6 years (which turned out to be a good guess). On 12-23-06, when my lamp failed after about 2.2 years of use, I had 4,250 hours on the lamp (see some caveats about this in the updates section below). Spending $400 every two years on the set is certainly a different ball game than every six years, and I've also read on forums that the ballast for the lamp (probably contains some sort of DC-to-high-voltage converter?) will eventually fail, too! [Note: bulbs are much less expensive as of 2008--see updates below.] I've found conflicting reports about DLP projection TV lamp life. This site says 10,000 hours, but Consumer Reports had a recent issue that claimed a typical life of about 5,000 hours--close to what I got. This is the dirty little secret that the DLP vendors are sweeping under the rug. And, to add insult to injury, you have to be careful disposing of your old lamp, because it may contain mercury (though Wikipedia claims halogen lamps do not have mercury).

I'll see how long my new lamp lasts, but I am disappointed in DLP sets because of this lamp life issue. Don't get me wrong. I do like my TV--I think the picture quality is quite good. Monday Night Football broadcasts in high def are just gorgeous, but my TV also needed two separate repairs during the first year of its life (under warranty, fortunately). At this point I would not recommend DLP TVs to people interested in HDTV, especially if LCD sets continue to come down in price (though I'd want to make sure there wasn't a similar life issue with backlight on whatever LCD TV set I'd purchase).

12-24-06: (One day after posting!) I received an e-mail which claims that "bulbs manufactured early on didn't come close to the suggested life span of the manufacturer but improvements to the bulbs and process since should have them coming very close to the suggested life span." Like I said, we'll see how my next bulb does.

2-28-07: Here's a thread about another problem that a few DLP owners are having with an uneven display.

11-7-07: I received an e-mail from a user who has this same LG DLP set and states that he got 4,500 hours on his first bulb and 8,000 hours on his second bulb, so that is consistent with the information I received on 12-24-06.

1-31-08: The cost of the bulb seems to be running around $200 these days.

4-5-08: I just had a user e-mail me that he got nearly 8,500 hours on his first lamp (he purchased his set very close to when I purchased mine), so perhaps my lamp life was on the short side of the average.

5-1-08: Here's a bulb for $130.

9-25-08: I've had two e-mails in the last month or so to let me know that the lamp life in DLP TVs can be extended by decreasing the factory brightness and/or contrast settings, so make sure you don't have these set unnecessarily high.

11-9-09: Here's a link for a $107 lamp.

8-29-10: I received an e-mail today from somebody who claimed he got 6 years of life (number of hours not specified, but estimated to be over 10,000 hours) on a Philips/RCA 260629 bulb. This person said I should view the 10,000 hour claim as an MTBF, but even if the 10,000 hours figure is an "average" value, this person is the first person I've had inform me that they got over 10,000 hours (estimated) on a bulb (I think maybe one other person got north of 8,000 hours), so I still don't buy 10,000 hours as an MTBF, especially back in 2004 when I purchased my LG DLP TV.

BTW, folks, I traded in my DLP TV for an LCD TV, so no more bulb life issues for me. Sorry!

12-1-10: I received an e-mail today from somebody who got six years out of her bulb (10,750 hours of on-time)--the last four years of it with the lamp warning light on!

9-26-11: I received an e-mail today from somebody who got six years and 12,000 hours out of his bulb (Samsung DLP TV).

10-13-11: I received an e-mail today from somebody who has 16,900 hours on his bulb (Samsung DLP TV), and it's still going.

10-24-11: I received another e-mail from somebody who got 18,761 hours on his bulb (Samsung DLP TV, lasted almost 7 years). He claims that re-seating the bulb extends the life.

Note: This does not require a service remote.
1. With the TV on, press and hold the MENU button on the TV front panel.
2. While holding that button, press and hold the MENU button on your remote.
3. Hold both buttons for ~5 seconds until the service menu comes up on the TV.
4. Release the remote MENU button first, then the TV MENU button.
5. Press and hold the ENTER (or OK) button on the TV front panel (see Notes 2 and 3).
6. While holding that button, press and hold the MUTE button on the remote.
7. Hold both buttons until the Lamp Life Hours show up on your TV screen.
8. Release the MUTE button first, then the ENTER button on the TV front panel.
9. Make a note of the lamp hours if you want.
10. To reset the lamp hours, press the SELECT button (the one between the four arrow keys with two concentric circles on it) on your remote.
11. It will ask you to confirm the reset--press SELECT again to confirm.
Note 1: To verify you've reset the hours, you can repeat steps 1-9 above and then just press the EXIT button on your remote.
Note 2: One person on a forum claimed that steps 5. and 6. above have to be switched.
Note 3: For a 44SZ8D TV, replace step 5. with:
   5. Press ENTER on the TV to enter the position adjustment
   5a. Press and hold ENTER on the TV front panel (the TV will re-enter the menu; keep holding ENTER while you press and hold MUTE on the remote. After approx 5 seconds, the lamp life counter will appear).


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