Dealing with a broken projector can be a confusing and frustrating challenge. Replacing the bulb on your projector may help solve projection problems, but what do you do if your projector is still too dim or not lighting up even after you have swapped out the bulb?
If changing out your projector’s bulb and other regular maintenance is not fixing your technical issues, you may have a problem with your projector’s ballast.
The ballast is an electrical part in your projector which often goes overlooked. This article will help you understand what the ballast is, how it works, and will help you to know when it may be the cause of your projector’s technical problems.
By the end of this article, we will walk you through
- What is a projector’s ballast?
- How to find and troubleshoot problems with your projector’s ballast
- How to repair or replace your ballast, once you know it’s the cause of your problems
- What is a Projector Ballast?
- Identifying and Troubleshooting Ballast Failures
- Repairing and Fixing a Ballast Once You Know It Has Failed
- Final Conclusions
What is a Projector Ballast?
The projector ballast is a piece of electronic equipment in your projector. The ballast controls the electricity that enters into your projector from the power cord.
Ballasts work like the power supply you might find in a computer or laptop. The ballast converts the electricity coming into the projector into the right voltage that the rest of the projector needs to work.
The ballast also helps to ignite the bulb in your projector so that it can produce the bright light needed to create a picture. The bulb needs specific electric voltage to work right, so the ballast is important for regulating electricity going to the bulb.
The bulb in most projectors is filled with high pressure mercury vapor. Projector bulbs work a lot like incandescent light bulbs. They produce light by igniting the vapor inside the bulb.
The projector ballast sends a high voltage electric charge to the bulb when you start the projector to ignite the mercury vapor and produce bright light. While the projector bulb is running, the ballast regulates the voltage so the bulb does not burn too hot or too dim.
Identifying and Troubleshooting Ballast Failures
Your Ballast is Making a Buzzing Noise
If you notice an unusual buzzing or humming sound when your projector is running, that might be a sign that your ballast is about to fail.
The sound may be caused from the ballast not converting voltage efficiently, meaning your bulb may not be getting the right voltage it needs.
Your Projector is Dimming or Flickering
The ballast keeps the bulb light by igniting it with a high voltage electric charge. If the ballast can’t give a consistent or steady charge at the right voltage to the bulb, it will produce less light than it normally would, causing it to flicker or dim.
A dim or flickering bulb might also be a sign that the projector’s bulb is nearing the end of its lifespan. It can be difficult to tell if the problem lies with the ballast or the bulb.
Most bulbs have a lifespan of about 2000 hours of use, so you can keep track of when the bulb must be replaced. If your projector is still dim and flickers after you have changed the bulb out, or if you are seeing a problem with a new bulb, you can assume the ballast is the cause.
Your Projector is Producing No Light at All
The primary job of the ballast is to ignite the mercury vapor in your projector’s bulb. If your projector produces no light when you turn it on, the ballast probably didn’t ignite the bulb and get it running. If you did not notice the bulb burn out or stop while running, this is probably a ballast failure.
Hot Spots and Changing Colors
Since the ballast ignites your projector’s bulb, you might find that the light is burning too bright if the ballast is sending too high of a voltage through. This can create an area on your screen that is much brighter than the rest of the projection, known as a hotspot. Problems with the voltage can also affect the color balance on your projector as well.
Swollen Casing on the Ballast
If you are having trouble telling the difference between a bulb burn out and a ballast failure, remove the ballast from the projector and physically examine it for damage.
If you notice that any of the casing on the ballast has distorted or changed shape, that is a clear sign that the ballast has failed.
Burn Marks on the Ballast
If your ballast is not regulating voltage well, it’s going to cause an excess of heat to build up in the electronic components of the ballast. If you see any signs of burning or melting on the ballast, it’s a sign that an electrical problem has damaged the part.
Signs of Water Damage
Moisture can wreak havoc with sensitive electronics, and the ballast in your projector is no different. If you have been running your projector outside or in an area with a lot of humidity, then moisture can cause damage to the ballast. If you can see any signs of water or moisture on the ballast itself, the ballast has failed.
Oil Leaking From, or Present on the Ballast
If your ballast has a magnetic coil on it, it’s possible that oil could leak from the coil and damage other electronic parts. If you see any leaking parts or oil on the ballast assembly, the ballast will probably need to be replaced.
Repairing and Fixing a Ballast Once You Know It Has Failed
Once you have identified the ballast as the problem in your projector, your best bet is to reach out to the manufacturer and ask for their help to repair any damage or to replace the part.
Ballast are complex pieces of electronic equipment. Designers do not have clear rules and conventions based around ballast use in projectors, so the ballast in your projector could be incompatible with the ballast in a similar model of projector.
It’s difficult to tell which specific ballast you might need to order to replace a broken one in a projector, or what parts you might need to repair a broken ballast. The manufacturer of your projector can tell you what model of ballast your projector uses, and you will need that information to make repairs.
Hopefully, your projector is still under warranty when that ballast fails. If so, I would highly recommend you take advantage of any warranty to have a professional repair or replace a faulty ballast in your projector.
Repairing a malfunctioning or broken ballast is a highly technical process that demands skill with electronics repair. It’s possible to repair a ballast yourself, but you will need a specialized set of tools.
I would recommend attempting to do your own repair if your projector is out of warranty and professional service is not a choice, as you might further damage the projector while repairing the ballast if you make a mistake.
To repair a broken or malfunctioning ballast, you will need:
To repair a broken ballast, you will need to use a voltmeter to test the electrical resistance of its components to see what part of the ballast is not transferring or modifying electric voltage like it should.
Once you have found the faulty components, you will need to use the soldering iron to remove them from the electrical board and replace them with new components. The exact process will vary depending on what part is specifically broken on your ballast, but it should resemble the process in this attached video.
Fix it Frank uses the voltmeter to troubleshoot each part on the ballast one by one, then once he finds a faulty part, he marks it on the bottom of the circuit board. After that, finds a replacement part, removes the broken piece by melting it out with a soldering iron and welds the new part in its place.
Fix It Frank had the spare parts from the same model of projector lying around. He also had the technical skill to use a soldering iron and make the repair. I would recommend seeing if you had access to a technician that can help you, if you do not feel that your repair skills are up to the challenge.
If you are using a projector at work or school, you can probably find an IT professional that can do the repair for you. If you need to make a repair on a home theater projector and your model is out of warranty, ordering a replacement part and changing out the entire ballast for a new one is a much safer choice.
Consumer electronics like projectors are no joke. They have highly complex mechanisms working to keep them going, and the ballast is one of the more complicated parts of your projector. A suspected ballast failure can be a challenging problem to solve.
When facing a ballast failure, do not be afraid to reach out for help and technical support. Replacing a projector’s ballast is much more complex than replacing a projector’s bulb, which is expected to need regular replacements throughout the life of the projector.
Consult the manufacturer of your projector before ordering any parts for your projector or attempting any home repair. Doing so will probably save you time and money since it can be easy to order the wrong replacement parts by mistake.
With a little patience and research, you will be able to get your projector running again. Ask for help when you need it for the technical repairs, and do not get frustrated if you need to call the manufacturer’s technical support.
Vance is a dad, former software engineer, and tech lover. Knowing how a computer works becomes handy when he builds Pointer Clicker. His quest is to make tech more accessible for non-techie users. When not working with his team, you can find him caring for his son and gaming.