Nova Scotia schools switch to lamp-free LED projectors

Just over a year ago, Sharp’s Audio Visual demonstrated Casio’s lamp-free LASER & LED Hybrid Light Source projectors to technology specialists at the Department of Education in Nova Scotia, Canada. The Joint Department and School Board’s Technical Committee recommended that schools begin buying these projectors, and they responded by switching almost 50% of the projectors they purchased to Casio hybrids, a percentage that’s expected to rise.

Tim St. Louis, vice president of sales & marketing for Calgary, Alberta-based Sharp’s Audio Visual explains that, “One reason we originally brought the Casio projectors to the department’s attention is the extremely low failure rate we’ve seen from their products. Looking back over the last year, I don’t believe we’ve had a single failure of any of their LED/laser hybrids.”

The biggest advantage of lamp-free projectors comes down to dollars and cents. According to Wayne Hamilton who chairs the technology committee, under this year’s contract, Nova Scotia schools will pay about 40% more for a Casio LED/laser hybrid than for a comparable lamp-based projector, but, over a projector’s lifespan, he expects the total cost including replacement lamps, technician time and repair service to be at least 35 - 40% less.

“We’re hoping to save 50% over six to seven years,” Hamilton said, “but 35% is a conservative estimate. Typically what we find is, if it’s a ceiling mounted projector we will replace the bulb once or maybe twice, and if it’s a portable unit, it could be as many as three times over its lifetime. With the cost of a replacement lamp more than 30% of the capital cost of a projector, if you buy three replacements, you’ve spent as much on lamps as you did for the original unit.”

One reason Nova Scotia schools, like most school systems, do not buy more replacement lamps is that, as projectors age, the purchase of a lamp versus the purchase of a new projector becomes a poor investment. “When it’s time for the replacement, it may be cheaper just to throw out the unit rather than buy a lamp and repair any related damage.”Although Hamilton says he’d like to get six to seven years out of each new projector, most often it’s hard to justify more than four years, since the projector’s value depreciates as maintenance and repair costs rise.

Another important consideration for the Nova Scotia schools was the environmental impact of using projectors with lamps as compared to lamp-free LED technology. “Any time we build or completely renovate a school, we are required to secure LEED certification,” Hamilton explains. “This past year we’ve been mandated to move to gold certification, which is the highest standard under LEED.”

Other projection lamps contain mercury, and if not disposed of properly, they can release this toxic substance into the environment. When they fail, they could in extreme circumstances release minute amounts of mercury vapor into classrooms. So any potential health concern for students and staff is taken seriously. For these reasons, LEED encourages applicants to find alternatives to mercury-based products whenever possible, and they award points to projects that reduce the use of mercury. “Achieving gold certification is challenging,” Hamilton says, “and every component is essential.” He says the lamp-free projectors assist in any project built under LEED guidelines.

St. Louis explains that the Casio hybrid projectors fit nicely into this standard as well, since they include digital HDMI audio/video inputs, as well as the VGA/component connectors needed for older classrooms. The projectors also include the ability to accept Wi-Fi transmissions, USB, RS-232 and (in the newest models) RJ-45 Ethernet connectors, although these additional features are not normally used in P-12 level schools in Nova Scotia currently.

“Like anyone else, we try to be proactive and do things when it makes good sense,” Wayne Hamilton commented. “We’re consistently testing new technology and we adopt it when there is a good fit for our educational requirements. If these new hybrid laser & LEDprojectors did not give us the clarity or the brightness, or if the kids in the back of the room could not see as well as with lamp based projectors, we would never have gone with them. But if you can contribute to a healthier environment, achieve all of your curricular goals, get better performance and save money, why wouldn’t you?”