Every time you say you don’t believe in visualists, a bulb dies. Photo by -cr.

In an informal poll of a variety of people, I’ve been unable to get agreement on a pretty fundamental question in projection:

Is it bad for a projector to hang it vertically?

For instance, to project on the floor, your first temptation would be to hang the projector perpendicular to the ground, with the lens pointed downward. But some projectionists argue this can increase the failure rate of the projector. Why? I’ve heard to explanations: one is that it’s “bad for the electronics” and somehow unnatural and evil. That one I have an extremely tough time with: the lamp, internal electronics, and fan themselves would have to be pretty poorly put together to be unable to withstand something this simple. The most delicate electronics are all solid-state. The second argument I could believe: that airflow in the vertical position is different than airflow in the horizontal position, increasing heat and reducing the life of the projector. The obvious argument otherwise would be that the fan should still operate and convection will continue to move air around. But there’s enough doubt here that I wouldn’t want to experiment on a projector to find out.

So, brave CDMers, what do you think? Is this just a projectionist “old wive’s tale”? Or is there truth to this somewhere? (And is it best to err on the side of caution, swallow my pride, and just use a mirror?)

The answer: a definitive “yes, it is in fact bad.” I’m satisfied now in that we not only have a “just because” answer:

  • Manufacturers specifically advise that this is bad.
  • Airflow and lamp orientation provide specific technical reasons for why this could reduce lamp life/increase failure rates.
  • Some of you have shared specific anecdotal experience.

Thankfully, mirrors easily solve the problem.

Thanks to everyone for writing in!

  • Firstly, Ive never ever heard of this. Secondly, many projectors have a vertical flip option, *BECAUSE THE DESIGNERS EXPECT THEM TO BE HUNG UPSIDE DOWN FROM THE CEILING*

    I can understand the air flow issue, but I really dont see it being a problem in any scenario.

    I say hang em however you want.

  • I agree totally, Anton. Good news: we've now got a local projection house asking around local manufacturers!

    I think they're largely done with mirrors just for convenience, as that can sometimes make the mounting easier.

  • Crosius

    Some high-intensity bulbs (high pressure metal vapour lamps, for example)have preferred orientations and do have very different life-expectancies based on horizontal or vertical mounting. Bulb life can vary by 40% between the two positions.

    So if a given projector had such a bulb and the non-standard orientation you were considering did rotate the bulb from horizontal to vertical, that would affect bulb life. This would depend entirely on how the engineers had designed the light path in the projector.

  • Crosius — what about the more everyday bulbs you find in <5000-lumen projectors? Does it still just vary from bulb to bulb? Or is this unique to those projectors, and people have incorrectly applied it to all projectors?

  • Paul

    Its lamp orientation AND airflow. The flip option that Vade mentions is for flipping the projector 180° on its lens axis, ths affects only the image. any projector can be mounted upside down.

    If you're pointing the projector at the floor or ceiling however, you might be asking for troubble depending on how the lamp is oriented in the projector. If the lamp is orientated 90° to the lens, you're probably OK with regards to lamp-life. Pointing the projector at the floor in this case involves rotating the projector on its lamp axis so the lamp is not 'burning base up', which is often 'bad'. If the lamp is on the same axis on the lens you may be significantly affecting the lamp life, as Crosius mentioned.

    Airflow is also an issue, as you're changing how the lamp is oriented to the rest of the sensitive bits in the projector. Did you just put the ciruit board ABOVE the lamp when rotating that projector? maybe. Some of the larger panasonics (which CAN be rotated) have a menu option that affects the fan speeds, for just this reason.

    As for Peter's question, the technology in all of these lamps is basically the same, it may be even more of an issue in todays compact projectors where airflow space has been sacrificed for size.

    Short answer: check with the manufacturer. If they don't know, and you want to do it anyway, make sure that puppy is getting some healthy air-flow. Barring that, Listen to Peter, use a mirror.

  • fint

    Agreed with Paul and Crosius. I could not have explained it technically like that but I can simply say I've had the misfortune to experience the blowing of a lamp in a projector due to insufficient airflow while hanging vertically projecting on the floor. After removing the air filter and a protective ring in front of the lens I had no more problems.

  • Dave C

    Hiya,

    I have notice nearly EVERY user manual for a projector that I've come across recently SPECIFICALLY says "don't mount the projector vertically" (go and read yours now…I'll wait).

    I'm guessing with some of the higher end 'bomb-proof' projectors meant for live events you would probably be fine, but most business grade projectors they are designed with such a low themal overhead (i.e. they are designed to cool the lamp ONLY in specific orientations, and not in other ones that might require more force of airflow to achieve the same level of cooling) that you are definitely taking a risk on lamp life if you turn them vertical.

    Hope that helps.

    Dave

  • Jonnym

    re: the big bomb proof projectors – i have 4 very big Barco's. the kind you'll see in at huge events. anyways, there is a specific switch inside the projector that will not allow it to arc if it is rotated 15 deg's off its designed orientation… oddly enough it's call the tilt switch. airflow in and out of the projector is one issue, but it more has to do with the Xenon lamp being designed to only be used in a certain orientation.

  • Some of those cheaper business projectors seem to work best if you don't ever turn them on, period. đŸ˜‰

    Seriously, though, thanks to everyone who wrote in with this — I think we have a much more complete picture of the answer now. We'll have to make a regular mythbusters series. (To do that accurately, of course, we'd have to sacrifice projectors… now that could be fun. But this is the next best thing.)

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  • Scott Lambert

    Here's a question. The way everybody seems to be talking is as if the projector is on it's side so that the lens is facing the floor. At the moment I'm playing around with an idea that would require a data projector to be rigged on it's side so that the lens is still facing the same way, but the image is spun around 90 degrees. This obviously can't be done with mirrors unfortunately so, would this still be bad? or is there an alternative?