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Projectors for church
At Granger Community Church in Granger, Indiana, the church uses four Christie DS+6.5K digital lamp projector, each a 6,500-lumen projector, set in double stacks, as shown.

Projectors: Lamp-Based vs. Laser, An Overview

The gap that once existed between lamp-based and laser projectors, has in recent years begun to close, as manufacturers are coming into the market with LED projectors that are closely nearing the cost of lamp-based projectors at time of purchase.

Today’s churches can range from those that are projecting images and lyrics for the first time to those that are technologically savvy, integrating interactive polling, dynamic video and illuminating slides that deliver a memorable impact during their services. 

Knowing which projector will produce the best result to help turn your powerful ideas into ones that bring the most emotional impact to the church’s congregation, can make a difference. 

Everywhere we look today, technology is shifting further toward a greater use of video and images for teaching and delivering information. It starts with children being engaged more through projected video and visual images in school to stay focused and learn more effectively. 

The future and (pardon the pun) focus on projection is here. This is why you need to know which projector is right for your church, to deliver the most engaging visual experience that is possible, for the results you desire.  

Two of the main types of projectors that are available in the market today are lamp-based and LED models.  

First, a few universal things that apply to both lamp-based and LED projectors, before choosing which projector is right for your situation: 

Aspect ratio is the shape of your image, while the resolution is the number of pixels that fill the shape. The higher the resolution (aspect ratio) the crisper and more detailed the image (resolution). 

Common parts and components between either type of projector are power supplies, circuit boards, fans and possibly filters, all of which may need to be replaced and maintained at various times. 

If you are interested in learning more about projection, check out the following session, "Getting Church Projection Right – Lessons Learned from Projector Experts," slated for the WFX Conference & Expo this November in Orlando.

Lamp-based projectors 

The good news: 

Lamp-based projectors using bulb technology are more reliable today than they ever have and the cost of replacement lamps continues to shrink, while the life expectancy of many of those lamps has also improved. In addition, the upfront cost of many lamp-based projectors has decreased as well. 

The bad news: 

Lamps can still be expensive. In addition, lamp-based projectors still fail more often than LED projectors. Aside from failure rates, some lamps can be dangerous to the environment, particularly those that contain mercury, and in general, lamp-based projectors are not as bright as LED projectors, which becomes an issue in rooms that contend with too much ambient light for projection. Another enemy to lamp-based projectors is dust, which require filters, need to be cleaned on a regular basis. If not, dust will show up on the screen, and the image starts to degrade. Overall, a typical lamp-based projector will need more upkeep and maintenance compared to an LED projector.  

The cost: 

Most projector lamps are rated to last between 3,000 and 8,000 hours, with the higher number typically achieved through an “eco” mode. Lamps are measured in hours, until the brightness of the lamp drops to 50 percent or below their original brightness, as the lamp begins to lose brightness incrementally over time. The brighter the bulb is asked to run nearest its full brightness rating, the fewer hours the lamp will deliver over its life, unless the projector is run in its eco mode (lessening how bright the bulb is running at, thereby extending its lifespan).  

The average cost per individual replacement lamp can run between $200 and $500. To calculate the cost to your church, figure the approximate hours your church uses the projector, take the average hours the lamp lasts (depending on the type of bulb), consider failure rates around at the 90 percent mark, and you can figure the approximate cost of bulb use per hour. 

This helps to determine the difference in cost output and distribution, over an LED model, which generally have more upfront cost. 

LED projectors 

The good news: 

LED projectors have shown that they are more reliable, as they don’t fail as often and need less maintenance, when compared to lamp-based projectors. Most important, though, when considering an LED projector is the constant brightness and better lighting and image display such projectors can produce, versus lamp-based models. LED projectors have a larger number of colors and more saturated colors and LED projectors are often smaller and lighter than lamp-based projectors, as they have fewer parts using a laser, so they do not require lamps and other additional parts that are needed to create brightness and color. With no lamps to replace and using less energy than lamp-based models, LED based projectors are continuing to grow for their green factor as well. 

The bad news: 

There is a higher upfront cost when purchasing a LED model of projector. 

The cost: 

As noted, in general, LED projectors have a higher upfront cost, although more manufacturers are finding ways to even close that gap, by coming into the market with LED projectors that are closely nearing the cost of lamp-based projectors. When looking at things like maintenance, LED models typically have long-life filters, that in general match the life of the projectors. LED projectors typically run at full power around 20,000 hours. In general, laser projectors require almost no maintenance during their years of operation, with minimal, if any, costs associated with labor or replacement. 

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