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Texas School District Moves to LampFree® Projectors

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Texas School District Moves to LampFree® Projectors
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Texas School District Moves to LampFree® Projectors
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Birdville ISD expects to save 50% of its projector costs , improve image quality and reliability by switching to Casio

What’s the most expensive single component of your school’s classroom technology program?

The computer? The projector? The sound system? No.

It’s the projection lamp.

“We’re paying almost $200 every time we need to replace a bulb in one of our projectors,” says Dave Lambson, Director of Technology Services for the Birdville Independent School District near Fort Worth, Texas. “That doesn’t sound like much, but multiply that by four bulb changes during the life of the projector, and now it’s $800. But you also have to add in the cost of labor to change those lamps and the cost of downtime, as well as maintenance costs.”

The bottom line is that the price of a low-cost multimedia projector nearly triples over its lifetime, given the cost of projection lamps, the maintenance and service related to the lamps, and the cost of electricity required to power the lamps. In a large school district like Birdville, with a projector in nearly every one of its roughly 2,000 classrooms and conference rooms, lamps and lamp-related costs become an enormous financial burden.

Today the district is in the process of replacing its projectors with new LampFree units from Casio, completely eliminating these extra costs. “Casio includes a five-year warranty on the light source, and we expect our new projectors to last at least five years,” Lambson adds. There’s no required maintenance, and so the price the district pays should be the total price. Even though the Casio units are somewhat more expensive than a comparable lamp-based unit, their total lifetime cost to Birdville will be less than half.

More than a numbers game

The numbers don’t tell the whole story.

Birdville Independent School District is a combined unit district that covers several towns in the northeastern Fort Worth area. It has 21 elementary schools, seven middle schools, three high schools, a career and technology center and an alternative high school serving about 24,000 students.

According to Lambson, staff and students at the district take a great deal of pride in their schools, particularly in their fine arts and athletics programs. The quality of the classroom equipment is important to the district, although budget is a major concern as well.

“A few years ago the district took on an initiative to put a projector in every classroom, and that was done,” Lambson explains. Still, the technology staff was concerned that, over time, the image quality of the low-cost projectors they were purchasing would deteriorate, as lamp-based units normally do. As the lamps aged, the projectors lost brightness, diminishing to about half their original lumen output by the time they reached their rated life. Color decay could be a problem too, with a shift toward yellow as the projectors aged.

An even bigger problem was that these lamp-based projectors would take 3-5 minutes to warm up, so most teachers would turn them on first thing in the morning, then leave them on all day, even during times when the classrooms were empty. “That took a lot of power and significantly decreased the lamp and projector life, especially if the teacher forgot to turn it off at night,” Lambson explains.

Downtime was a problem. Matt McMahan, Director of Educational Sales at Allen, TX-based dealer Kynetic Technology, Inc., adds that, “Some of the projectors the district was buying had a filter to maintain. If it got clogged, the projector would simply not turn on in the morning. In other cases a lamp would fail or simply grow too dim to use.”

“Technology,” Lambson adds, “is no longer a luxury in the classroom. It has become an integral part of instruction and our teachers depend on it to work. Projectors are used on a daily basis and lately, many of our teachers would wonder, ‘will my projector work today?’ IF it didn’t, the staff would have to scramble to bring in a replacement, and in the meantime, instruction would slow down or come to a standstill.”

Last fall, Lambson and his staff began looking at lamp-free LED and LED/laser hybrid projectors. “We narrowed our search very quickly, because other lampless projectors were not as bright as the Casio, or they were a lot more expensive,” Lambson says.

According to McMahan, the district is buying three different Casio models. They’re using the XJ-A140 in use in most classrooms. It follows Casio’s SLIM form factor and provides XGA resolution and 2,500 ANSI lumens brightness. They’re using the XJ-M255 in the district’s conference rooms. It uses the larger Signature form factor and offers WXGA resolution and 3,000 lumens brightness. They have also purchased a few XJ-ST155 short throw projectors for use in auditoriums and other spaces where it’s difficult to hang a standard projector. It offers XGA resolution and 3,000 lumens.

All of these projectors are brighter and of higher resolution than the 800 x 600, 2,000-lumen projectors the district purchased originally. The color gamut is wider as well, and McMahan says the color quality is significantly better than the lamp-based units, especially over the long term.

A major benefit is each Casio projector’s ability to move to standby mode once the connected computer starts to hibernate. If a teacher leaves the projector on all day, or even all day and all night, it burns less than one watt of electricity per hour with the light source switching off automatically. The LampFree projector turns on in less than eight seconds and, if used in a portable setup, turns off instantly, with no need to wait for the projector to cool down before it can be moved.

“Another feature we love,” Lambson adds, “is Casio’s auto keystone/auto focus setup. If we bring a Casio SLIM projector into a classroom or conference room, it sets itself up, faster and more accurately than you can do it by eye. It has also saved us a lot of time when we are mounting them on ceilings. We have been able to mount 40 projectors in one day with just two people working – that would never happened with the old projectors...I was so impressed when I saw that demonstrated, I was almost sold just on that one feature alone.”

So far, the Birdville Independent School District has purchased about 500 Casio LampFree projectors, with plans to eventually replace all 2,000 projectors in use in its schools.

“Our teachers are thrilled with the new projectors,” Lambson says. “They just blow everybody away with their brightness and clarity.

“A quality classroom projector was once viewed as a luxury but now it’s a necessity,” he adds. “Without it, I don’t know how instruction could take place.”