As mentioned above, the lamp ventilation fan on my PT-AE3000U started making noise. The noise got worse quickly. At one point the projector shut down...probably the circuit board detected overcurrent on the motor. Or, the fan was turning too slowly to properly ventilate and the high temperature sensor was tripped. In any case, I realized that I had a maintenance chore on my hands.
The first option is to send the projector to Panasonic's approved parts and repair provider for the US, Heartland Services
. Out of warranty, you have to pay shipping and there is a non-refundable inspection fee of USD $135.
I decided that a fan replacement is within the scope of my abilities. Without benefit of a Service Manual (more on that later), I opened the case and removed the fan closest to the lamp, on the left side of the projector looking at it from the front, top side facing up (shelf mount). Adding to my confidence, that was the exact location where I believed the sound was originating.
Getting the fan out is a minor hassle, made easier once you know the trick. The fan is mated directly to a plastic duct that takes the air out the left front side of the projector. At first I tried to remove the duct, to make for better access to the fan behind it. However, the fan and the duct have to be removed more or less together.
Procedure (sorry I was in too much of a hurry to think about pics):
1. Unplug projector and remove Top Cover, Lamp Assembly, and Upper Housing. More info here
2. Remove the two Phillips screws holding down the aluminum fan bracket. Magnetic tip screw driver recommended. If you drop a screw, you're well....you know.
3. Unplug the small white power connector from the PCB. Leave the fan in place for now.
4. Remove the two screws holding the Duct Assembly to the bottom of the Lower Housing. Do not remove the two screws that clamp the Upper and Lower Duct together...it will not help you.
5. Now, carefully and attentively remove the Fan Assembly and the Duct Assembly as one quasi-unit. They are not actually connected but they are fitted together so that one doesn't easily move without the other.
6. Once out of the projector, the Duct Assembly can be set aside. I recommend giving it a good dusting inside and out.
7. There are four screws holding a metal fan shroud/screen in place, which also holds the fan onto the aluminum bracket. Once these are removed the defective fan is finally free.
8. Upon examination, the fan looks a lot like a computer case fan. However, it is not. It has a very specific current draw, RPM range, blade pitch, and special radial slots all around the housing. Do not attempt to put in a close match by the same OEM supplier...you could not only ruin your projector, you could burn down your house and possibly kill someone. This is not a place to cheap out - spend the USD $20 and get the genuine Panasonic part! It's the cheapest fire insurance available.
At this point, I contacted Heartland to purchase a replacement fan. After some back-and-forth, I was informed that there are in fact four separate fans inside this projector! Crazy...you would never know that looking at the open case. The other three fans are really buried.
As best I can tell, there are two separate air pathways. One pathway is for the lamp, and the other pathway is for the electronics. Each pathway has both an intake and an exhaust fan. I presume this is to move sufficient air for cooling both areas, yet do it as quietly as possible.
I realized that the fan I had removed probably failed due to being directly in the path of the hot lamp exhaust. It has the toughest job and just wasn't up to the task over the long haul. Now I understand why consumer projectors aren't supposed to be operated for long stretches of time...well too bad that how I roll!
Cut to the chase, to order a replacement fan Heartland demanded a Panasonic part number and would not talk me through it. I tried to say, "It's the fan that exhausts air from the lamp." "We are not Tech Support!" they stated emphatically.
At one time I had purchased and downloaded the Service Manual from Manualsparadise.com
. Unfortunately, the file was named something like "Panasonic_manual.pdf" and I found that I had accidentally overwritten it with a copy of the Owner's Manual! So, I had to go back to Manualsparadise.com and re-download it for $10. Still $125 and shipping ahead of the inspection fee from Heartland.
Manualsparadise quickly uploaded the manual to their download server and sent me an email with the download link. It was short work to locate the four fans and their part numbers and send an RFQ back to Heartland. See attachments for exploded views of the fans and the part numbers. I have only shown a few sections because I do not want to exceed fair use of the copyright. The Lamp Exhaust fan is shown as Item # 3 with part number L6FAYYYH0070.
The quote from Heartland came back as USD $82 for all four fans, plus USD $35 handling and shipping. Total USD $117. I decided to go ahead and just get all of them, because if replacing the one fan didn't fix the problem I did not want to waste time and another USD $35 on shipping one more part. $117 is cheap enough anyway.
They shipped the parts on a Friday and I had them on the following Monday.
I got right to work replacing the fan. It was not too bad, but again there's a trick.
Once you re-assemble the new fan into the aluminum bracket (paying close attention to airflow direction), you have to hold the fan assembly and the Duct assembly together as you lower both parts into the projector chassis. This is more or less a procedure that resembles a monkey doing something unmentionable to a football.
A key part of the procedure is to slip the bottom tabs of the fan bracket underneath the interfering pieces of metal that go on either side of it. The front of the Duct has to be tucked up against the front of the projector housing and held there. Several times the two pieces will break away from each other and you have to start over.
You have to be careful to nudge and slip the two metal mesh pads on each side of the fan bracket into position. These are there I presume for noise, thermal, EMC, or UV isolation...not sure. In any case, they are there for a reason so be gentle and don't damage them.
Once the fan assembly and the Duct finally drop into place correctly, re-install all four screws, taking care not to mix them up.
Plug the white fan power connector back into the PCB and tuck the wires down into the cavity beside the board.
Lastly, take the time and opportunity to blast the dust out of the LCD panels and filters. Also blast dust out of anywhere else you see it, especially around the lamp compartment.
After the projector had been on a few hours, I heard a low noise coming from the new fan!
However it quickly went away and has not returned. I'm keeping my fingers crossed it was just breaking in a little.
That's about it. Feel free to ask any questions and I'll try to answer.