What Happens to a TV Lamp When It's Burnt Out?

By Kay Ireland

Unlike plasma TVs, which use irreplaceable gas-filled lamps to create light and color, both LCD and projection -- also known as DLP -- TVs use replaceable lamps to help extend the life of your television. Just like the lamps that you use to light your house, the lamp in your TV will burn out over time. Since it's a common issue, most manufacturers offer warnings when the lamp is close to burning out, so you can quickly replace it without interrupting your TV-watching schedule.

Lamp Lifespan

The average LCD or DLP lamp lasts for about 8,000 hours, which equals about five hours of viewing time per day for four years straight. While that's fewer hours than the 50,000 to 100,000 hours promised by a plasma set, it's important to remember that once burned out, plasma lamps cannot be replaced and the TV is rendered useless, whereas a burned lamp is a completely fixable issue in LCD and DLP TVs.

Signs and Symptoms

If your TV lamp is about to go out, you'll probably notice a few telltale signs. TV lamps rarely go out all at once, so you might notice a flickering in your TV as the lamp starts to die, much like the flickering of a reading lamp bulb. If your lamp goes out suddenly, you might hear a popping noise, after which the screen goes dark. You'll still be able to hear your TV but you won't see the picture. Some TV manufacturers install a warning to change the lamp when it starts to burn out so you're not left without your TV.

Lamp Replacement

Sometimes a manufacturer warranty will cover lamp replacement, especially if the lamp burns out in less than two years or during warranty terms. In that case, you'll receive a replacement from the manufacturer. If you're no longer under warranty, a TV repair store will have the right lamps -- just bring your TV make and model with you to pick it up. You can replace the lamp on your own, so long as it doesn't void your warranty. Start by unplugging your TV, unscrew the small trap door from the back panel of the casing and slide out the burned lamp. Then, slide in the replacement and replace the door. If you're concerned about completing the fix yourself, a repairman can complete the service in a few minutes.

Lamp Disposal

Don't just throw your old lamp in the garbage; it contains mercury, which can be harmful in landfills. Recycle the lamp material by participating in a manufacturer buy-back program or by finding a recycling depot near your home. This is the safest way to discard the old, burned-out lamp you no longer need.