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Believe it or not, this is a fairly common and unfortunate problem with bulb projectors, mostly because there are so many, tiny things that have the potential to cause it. It’s not an issue that typically goes away if you try to ignore it either.

There are a number of things that could potentially cause your projector to flicker, including power issues, poor connections, mismatching resolutions, refresh rates, simple dust particles on the projector lens, overheating, and a damaged bulb. 

Fortunately, most of these things are fixable, though some fixes will require a complete replacement of a certain component. It’s also important to understand, before we jump right in, that preventative maintenance will help you avoid most of these problems.

AdobeStock_304854894 LCD video projector at business conference or lecture in a conference room or office with blurred people background

7 Causes & Fixes For a Flickering Projector

1. Power Issues

Most of the common projectors in circulation today are bulb projectors. They throw a good picture and they’re far cheaper than their laser projector counterparts. One of the problems with some of the more recent projectors on the market is the eco option.

The eco option may be termed something else, depending on the brand, but all it boils down to is the setting. When you switch the setting over to eco, to save power or reduce heat levels, it’s often just a tad too little in terms of power supply to the bulb.

Unfortunately, the easiest fix for this is to simply avoid using the eco setting. It’s counterintuitive but it often works. This is often a problem with the less expensive projectors, where corners were likely cut in the manufacturing process.

2. Poor Connections

When we talk about poor connections, we’re referring to connected peripherals, such as an Amazon Fire Stick, a Google Chromecast, Apple TV, or a gaming system (such as a Playstation, Xbox, or Nintendo Switch). You can even hook laptops or desktop PCs to a projector.

We get used to the plug-and-play lifestyle so be careful when you’re plugging something into one of the many ports that projectors often come with. For instance, if you plug a standard USB into the projector, make sure it’s completely seated and snug.

If it’s not quite plugged in all the way, it’s bound to cause issues. Also, if the ports themselves or the male half of the USB, HDMI, or VGA are dirty or dusty, it’s prone to cause issues with the connection. These problems often present themselves in the form of screen flickering, as it struggles to maintain a connection.

3. Mismatching Resolutions

Most of the time, when you connect a laptop or a desktop setup to a projector, the projector should change resolutions to match the visual you are trying to display. Not all the time, however, and mismatching resolutions cause display issues, such as screen flickering.

To ensure that the projector and computer are on the same page, you can control the resolution settings from the Control Panel.

  1. Select the Windows logo at the bottom of the laptop/PC screen
  2. Select Control Panel
  3. Select Appearances and Personalization
  4. Click on “Display”
  5. Select “Display Settings”
  6. Select “Detect”

You’ll be presented with a simplified representation of two screens. One screen represents the projector and one screen represents the laptop/PC. You can select either screen and navigate to the resolution for each.

Ensure that the resolution on the laptop is a match for the resolution capabilities of the projector before you save your changes and exit.

AdobeStock_33395231 projector on the ceiling

4. Refresh Rates

Refresh rates often become problematic when gaming or watching HD movies. Refresh rates are represented in Hertz. The higher the refresh rate, the more time the screen refreshes itself every second.

The more a screen refreshes, the better and smoother the picture, no matter what’s going on with the screen. The frame rate your projector is capable of is the most important number because it dictates what you should and should not connect.

There’s no sense in trying to hook up a PlayStation 5 and running a game that’s designed to look best at a high refresh rate when your projector is only capable of producing a very low refresh rate. There really is no fix for this other than upgrading your projector to one with a higher refresh rate.

5. Dust on the Lamp

This is the part where preventative maintenance comes in. Keeping your projector clean will go a long way toward keeping a projector running as smoothly as a well-oiled machine. Dust accumulation, at the very least, will eventually cause a subpar picture.

As dust particles move around and settle, they interrupt the passage of light, creating a flickering look on the screen. The accumulated dust will eventually cause problems far worse than screen flicker if it’s not cleaned up asap.

The best thing you can do is use a can of compressed air to blow out the dust or gently vacuum the dust out of the projector periodically.

6. Overheating

We placed overheating after dust accumulation because the latter will eventually lead to the former. Of course, there are other things that can cause overheating in a projector but dust accumulation is a major contributor.

You should always ensure that the area around your projector is free and clear so the internal fan can do its job without any of the ventilation ports being constricted. Some projectors try to self-correct by limiting power once the heat is too intense.

That power reduction can cause screen flickering, as well as the damage caused by overheating. Projectors are designed to take a lot of heat but everything has its limit.

Keep it clean and dusted and always avoid placing your projector in a place where the air is stagnant or the ventilation ports are inhibited.

7. Damaged Bulb

This one is aggravating because once the bulb is damaged or has outlasted its lifespan, there’s no coming back. The only avenue you have at this point is a replacement. Flickering on the screen generally occurs when the bulb is winding down to the last few days or hours of its life cycle.

It’s on its last legs, in other words. Fortunately, it’s a pretty simple correction. You just have to order a new projector bulb, that matches your projector.

Or, you can purchase one at places like Best Buy, Office Depot, Office Max, etc. Standard projector lamps generally last between 1,000 and 5,000 hours, depending on brand and type.

LED Projector lamps last a lot longer. At the very least, an LED lamp will give you 6 times the longevity of a standard bulb (also known as ARC or metal halide).

Depending on how much you use your projector, an LED can last for decades. Of course, keeping them clean and maintained will last every bit of those 30,000 hours.

Final Thoughts

Those are seven of the most common issues that cause screen flickering on a projector. Fortunately, most of them are very easy to fix. Outside of your projector simply reaching the end of its typical lifecycle, these fixes will keep you going.

Preventative maintenance goes a long way with these projectors. They get hot and the power demand is high. If you don’t keep the projector clean and dust free, that heat can turn in on itself and become a serious problem.