This is a tech support horror story for the ages.

I bought an InFocus SP5000 HD projector off of woot.com for a decent price. I’m quite happy with it, though I found out after purchase that the bulbs have a 1000 hour lifetime and cost $400 to replace. Ouch. I should have bought a LED projector. Oh well. It’s still really nice and goes well with my surround sound DIY speaker stands.

So the projector has two timers, one for the bulb life (which disables the projector after 1000 hours, but you can reset it, so it doesn’t make any sense to me), and one to remind you to clean the dust filter to extend the life of the projector. The dust filter timer goes off every 150 hours or so. After mine went off for the first time, I read the manual (downloaded off the net, since the refurb didn’t come with one) and it said to “clean the dust filter with a light vacuum.”

What the heck is a light vacuum? I don’t know, but I tried my roomba first but it didn’t work; I didn’t want the roomba to run over and eat the dust filter, but holding the little buddy in my hands and trying to run it didn’t work either, because the roomba’s too smart to run when it’s not on the ground.

So, I tried using the hose from my typical household vacuum. I turned on the vacuum, held the hose about 4 inches away, and *THUNK*, a chunk of foam ripped away from the filter and got sucked into the vacuum. Crap! I didn’t want to run my projector without a filter because I’d quickly damage the $400 bulb, and possibly the other components.

My projector was still under warranty, so I called up InFocus. After being on hold for quite a while, I finally reached an offshore tech support person and explained my situation. I looked online and didn’t see the dust filter part, so could they ship me a new one? I’d pay for the part I said.

Well, the tech support lady checked and said that that wasn’t a part that they sold to consumers. Since I had admitted user error, my warranty wasn’t eligible for service. I would have to pay $50 shipping plus a $120 service fee for them just to look at it and replace the part. Yes, that’s $170 FOR A PIECE OF FOAM AND PLASTIC. I was pretty disgusted. I told the story to my friend Bob and he asked, “woah, is it MAGIC foam?”

Well, the fix was simple enough. My great friend Katrina Nordine let me rip apart an old pair of headphones of hers and salvage the foam filter from them. Being a craft and sewing expert, it took her all of 2 minutes to sew the foam on and patch my filter for me.

projector dust filter fixed 2

projector dust filter fixed 1

The projector’s worked great ever since. Thanks Katrina! Screw you, InFocus!