What to do About a Flickering Projector

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You’re just about to settle in and watch a good movie on your home projector. But – hold the popcorn – the projector is flickering. What does this mean? It is likely that the bulb of the projector is worn or damaged.  There are a couple of reasons projectors flicker, which can be solved without much trouble.

What to do about a flickering projector?  If your projector is flickering, it is a good idea to change the bulb, as it could be worn or damaged.  Surges in the electric current can also cause flickering.  Other factors that could cause flickering are the refresh rate or the frame rate.

Although there are different types of projectors, and they have different uses, flickering is one of the main problems that can occur.  Don’t toss that popcorn yet – let’s find out what you can do to reduce the flickering of your projector.

Why do Projectors Flicker – 5 Reasons

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There are five main reasons why projectors flicker. We’ll take a look at each below:

  1. Worn or damaged bulb – A worn or damaged bulb can cause the projectors to flicker.  A bulb has two anodes, which are sharp when new.  As the bulb ages, these sharp anodes become flattened.  When the anodes are flat, the arc jumps across the gap, causing arch instability, and this causes the projector to flicker.  
  1. Damaged lighting components – If you have changed the bulb and the projector is still flickering, it may be due to faulty lighting components. 

The optics are made up of a series of mirrors and prisms (several pieces of curved glass, known as elements), which reflect and split light into component colors. The lightbulb shines on the image via another mirror, and then the light passes through the lens of the projector.   

  1.  Electrical surges – A flickering projector, maybe the result of fluctuations in the electric current.  This can be caused by a faulty wall outlet, or from line voltage surges.   
  1. Refresh Rate – The refresh rate can affect projector flickering.  The refresh rate of an image is measured in cycles per second (hertz).  If the refresh rate is lower, the flickering increases while playing the movie.  A refresh rate of 60 hertz means the movie displayed on the screen, is regenerated 60 times every second. 
  1.  Frame Rate – The frame rate of the projector can impact flickering.  The frame rate is measured in frames per second. The higher the frame rate is higher, the less flickering you’ll see.

Sometimes the movie must be formatted digitally to a copy.  When playing back a copied movie, there is often flickering, and this is because of the frame rate difference between the frame rate of the projector and the frame rate of the video camera.  

By adjusting the frame rate of both the projector and the video camera to the same frame rate, the flickering can be reduced.

Ways to Fix Projector Flickering

Causes of Projector FlickeringWays to Fix Projector Flickering
Worn or Damaged BulbReplace the old bulb with a new bulb.
Damaged Lighting ComponentsReplace the lighting components, which are comprised of mirrors that reflect light.
Electrical SurgesPurchase a surge protector to protect the projector from line voltage surges.
Refresh RateBy increasing the refresh rate, you will minimize the flicking.  This is because the flickering becomes so fast that the eye does not detect it.
Movie Frame RateBy adjusting the frame rate of the projector and the video camera, to the same or similar frame rate, it will reduce the flickering.

Problems You May Encounter After Installing a New Bulb

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  • The projector will not turn on.

First, check the power cord, the lamp cover, and the lamp connection.  

Once you have checked the power cord, make sure the lamp cover is properly on; otherwise, the projector will not work.  

Check the bulb to see whether it is properly installed.  After doing this, do not fasten the screws too tightly or too loosely, as this can cause the projector not to work.

  • The projector is overheating, since installing a new bulb.

One of the main reasons why projectors overheat is because the air filters and ventilation holes are clogged with dust.  Projectors operate on high heat and have fans blowing air on the components to cool them. A  build-up of dust prevents the air from cooling the components.  

Use a vacuum cleaner pipe to clean dust from filters and ventilation holes.  Always clean the filters, before replacing the bulb.

  • There is still a message on the screen saying you must replace the bulb.  

The projector has a lamp timer that automatically tracks the usage of the lamp.  It is designed to send a warning message on the screen when the bulb’s life is nearing its end.  Always reset the lamp timer after replacing the lamp.

  • The picture is dimmer after replacing the bulb. 

If the new bulb is not installed in a centered position, in the lamp housing cage, the image will be dim.  Reinstall the bulb.

  • The projector turns itself off automatically.

The projector has automatically detected a problem.  If you have cleaned the filters, the problem may be the bulb.  Generic bulbs don’t operate properly as they are often off-balance.  Replace the generic bulb with a reputable brand.

  • The screen color is incorrect, and the movie is flickering.

This can be caused by an old bulb.  It can also be a problem with the internal optics.  The color wheel (optical components), may be damaged, while the bulb was being replaced.  It is also known that a generic bulb can damage sensitive components while being replaced.   

Types of Projectors

Types of ProjectorsHow do they work?Where are they used?Advantages & Disadvantages
CRT:  Cathode Ray TubeThis projector was made in the early 1950s, with one cathode-ray tube.  This showed black and white images.  
They were later made with three bright cathode-ray tubes, one for each color: red, blue, and green.   The tubes have lenses to achieve color images on a screen.  The colors fused together to form an image.  
The CRT projector was used as a video projector, which projected images on a screen.Advantages:They display excellent color, just as good as technology today.
Disadvantages:CRT projectors are huge and heavy.
They are fiddly to work with.  The reel of film would frequently tangle, which was time-consuming.  
Their bulbs would blow frequently.
DLP:  Digital Light ProcessingDLP projectors are classified as either a one-chip or a three-chip.  
Each chip has millions of mirrors that reflect light thousands of times each second.  
One chip can produce 16 million colors, while three-chip models product over 35 million colors. 
The red, blue, or green light reflects off the grid of two million tilting mirrors in a tiny DMD chip.  The mirrors swivel rapidly, back and forth by an electronic circuit, which is synchronized with the colored wheel. 
 This generates precise patterns of red, blue, and green pixels, which makes up the TV scene.
DLP projectors are usually used in cinemas and home theatres.  They are the most popular projectors.Advantages:They are small and light.  
They produce a very clear, realistic picture.  
Disadvantages:They can give off a rainbow effect.They are expensive.  
They are also expensive to fix.
LCD:  Liquid Crystal DisplayLCD projectors send light from a metal-halide light bulb through a prism that separates light into three panels:  one red, one green, and one blue. 
As the light passes through the panels, individual pixels open to allow light to pass to block the light.  
This opening and closing of pixels produce colors and shades, which project an image. 
It is a video projector that displays videos, images, and computer data on a screen or a flat surface.  Advantages:They are small, cheap, and portable.They give off a very good color and light.
Disadvantages:They can break down easily and can be costly to fix. 

John Hammer

Hi i'm John Hammer, Founder and Author of Gizbuyer Guide. Ever since the original Xbox, PlayStation, and iPhone I've purchased and worked on all kinds of consumer tech products, gaming gadgets and operating system softwares. To this day my curiosity has never left, and my aim is to guide and share my knowledge on technology as I continue to experience the latest of the consumer electronics industry.

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