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Laser Projectors Deliver Increased Value for Schools

BenQ LU-LH930
(Image credit: BenQ)

Whether it’s for a classroom or a school auditorium, buying a projector for a school isn’t simple. There are many considerations beyond price alone that impact the total cost of ownership (TCO). Before selecting a projector for your school, be well aware of all the associated costs of both lamp and lamp-free projectors to get the most out of the budget and to prolong the life of the technology investment. 

The Hidden Costs of Lamp-Based Projectors

For decades, lamp-based projectors have ruled the classroom. While these models can seem like a great value, there’s more than just the initial upfront price tag to consider. Replacement lamps, or projector bulbs, are essential to these projectors — and the root of many problems and additional costs. Schools bear the expense of maintaining a healthy supply of replacement lamps as well as the labor to replace them and any fees for properly disposing of them. 

Related: The Technology Manager's Guide to Projectors and Screens

While keeping replacements on hand is smart, sometimes it’s hard to locate them. There is no guarantee that a model that was purchased to last 10 years will have a replacement lamp five years later. Many manufacturers are discontinuing lamp-based models or getting out of the projector business completely. If replacements are found, they can run anywhere from $50 to $400 apiece. In addition, schools have to store them securely. Lamps are valuable and can be resold easily on eBay. Should they be stolen, schools risk the expense of replacing them.

Not only does it cost money to buy and store lamps, but also to dispose of them. Many projector lamps contain hazardous chemicals, such as mercury gas, which means that they shouldn’t be thrown in the trash. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends recycling bulbs, but in many states and local jurisdictions, it’s a requisite and can incur additional fees. 

Another challenge is that a projector lamp gradually goes dim over its lifetime. A lamp typically lasts a maximum of 5,000 hours, but the average is actually closer to 2,000 hours. Even with a new lamp, the brightness can be all over the map. It’s also a fact that lamp brightness slowly deteriorates as the projector is used, and as schools can use a projector for hours every day, they’re having to replace lamps sooner to get the same brightness, which can quickly drive up costs and maintenance.

The second most expensive cost to a traditional projector is the filter, which is designed to keep dust out of the projector. Dust that is left to build up on a filter can cause a projector to overheat and eventually short it out. However, there are two expenses involved in cleaning the filter. One is the labor, which may require as little as blowing off the dust or as much as thoroughly washing and drying them before they’re put back in. For one or two projectors, that job isn’t to arduous, but with 20 or more, it becomes a much more time-consuming task. In an auditorium or gymnasium, where the projector is mounted on the ceiling, there’s also the expense of renting a lift to reach it. 

Advantages of Laser Projectors

While a majority of projectors today use lamps, the purchase of lamp-free projectors is on the rise, according to Futuresource. In the first quarter of 2020, more than a third of all 3,500-lumen and brighter projectors were lamp-free. There are three major lamp-free projector technologies: 100 percent LED, a hybrid of LED/laser, and 100 percent blue laser. 

LED options can quickly be ruled out because the brightest options available are only 2,000 ANSI lumens, which is bright enough for darkened home theaters but not a well-lit classroom. In addition, they’re not intended for hours of daily use. While adding laser light sources to LEDs does amp up the brightness, the light source warranty may be only rated for a maximum of 6,000 hours on many models. In addition, the combo of LED and laser light sources can make it hard to achieve accurate color over time.

Completely sealed blue laser projectors are the ideal choice for classrooms for several reasons. These lasers are the only lamp-free projector technology capable of delivering 5,000 lumens or higher at 4K resolution, 20,000 hours of performance, and meet Rec. 709 or UHD color standard for proven color accuracy. 

The best blue laser projector models offer a sealed engine, which eliminates the need for a filter, lowering the projectors TCO even further. Rather than relying on a paper or cloth filter for dust protection, filter-free laser projectors feature a completely sealed laser engine that prevents dust from entering and shortening the life of the unit. The most rigorously tested models have earned an international dustproof protection rating of IP5X or IP6X, a trusted certification given to today’s most popular mobile and smart watch technology. Here, it’s a testament of the projector’s ability to protect against dust over the entire life of the projector. 

Projectors have been a classroom mainstay for years and will continue to play a pivotal role in helping students thrive and learn as the cost of blue laser projectors come down. Laser projectors provide schools with a budget-friendly, zero-maintenance option that is future-ready and user- friendly.

Bob Wudeck serves as Senior Director of Business Development for BenQ