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Three Things To Look For In A Tanning Bed Bulb

Updated on May 6, 2010

If you're a tanning salon owner, you know just how important choosing the right tanning bed bulb is.  These are, after all, the essence of your bed.  Without them, your precious sunbeds are nothing more than life size oyster shells!  A lot of owners don't put enough thought into what kind of bulb they select.  In this article, we'll look at a few different factors that you should consider the next time your bed's lamps are ready to be replaced.

This article isn't just for salon owners, though.  More and more folks are opting for various home tanning solutions.  Whether you use a tanning bed, a tanning booth or a tanning canopy, finding an appropriate light bulb is crucial.

Tanning Bed Bulbs
Tanning Bed Bulbs

Let's get a bit of technical nonsense out of the way first.  This article is all about tanning bulbs for low pressure tanning beds.  These are the most common types of beds on the market.  Most men and women in the know are familiar with the Wolff tanning beds...  These are low pressure beds.  High pressure bulbs are a different animal all together and are generally only found in really high end salons.

Choosing The Right Tanning Bed Bulbs

The light bulbs used in low pressure tanning beds aren't really that different from standard florescent bulbs.  They come with ballasts that work to limit the amount of electricity flowing into the lamp.  When selecting a lamp for your sunbed, look to get a ballast that has the same wattage as the lamp you're using.  A 100w bulb with a 100w ballast is a lot more efficient than a mix 100w bulb with 120w ballast.  Why is efficiency important?  Well, the more efficient your setup is, the longer your lamps will last.

This means savings and a more profitable business for you...

The length of the tube is also important.  Common sizes include 71", 72", 73" and 74".  All of these are prefaced with an F when listed for sale (ie. F71).  There are also F59 and F60 bulbs.  As you'd expect, these units are 59" and 60" respectively.  Generally speaking, bulbs of this length are used for face tanning and have about 80 watts of power.

In order to make sure you get the right length, check the owner's manual that came with your tanning bed.

Life Span Of The Bulb

Choosing the right bulb is about more than just length though.  When purchasing tanning bed bulbs, make sure you look into the life span.  This is typically measured in hours.  Depending on the type of tanning bulb that you buy, the life span can range from 300 hours to 1600 hours.  Please keep in mind that this is the manufacturer's spec and most lamps actually last for about 5000 hours.  This can vary though.  Over time, your lamps will lose power.  You'll notice that the tan it offers isn't as strong or doesn't last as long as it once did.  Once you get to this point, it's definitely time to replace.

A good tanning salon owner will track the number of hours that a bulb has been used.  He or she will also talk to the customers who use the equipment and get a bit of feedback.  Your regular customers will appreciate your honesty when it comes to the age of your tanning bed bulbs.

UV Output Rating - Kind Of Useless But Look Into It Anyway

The final thing you may want to check out before selecting a bulb for your sunbed is the UV output rating.  This number represents the percentage of UVB rays that a lamp produces.  The UVB rays are responsible for darkening of the skin so this number is fairly important.  If you see a UV output rating of 5%, for example, it means that the bulb produces 5% UVB rays and 95% UVA rays.

I say this is kind of useless because so many factors affect the the strength of a tanning bed.  A bed with reflectors and a 5% UV rating lamp could be stronger than a bed without reflectors sporting a 6.5% UV rating lamp.

Hope this helps.  Let me know what you think!

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    • profile image

      racheal 

      6 years ago

      hi ive not long bought a 100 watt sunbed and honstly cant tell the difference will i ever have i been ripped off???

    • profile image

      Maria Cole 

      8 years ago

      This is a very informative hub. Getting a quality tanning bed and bulbs is very important. It is always important to let your tanning customers know when you have recently replaced the tanning bed bulbs because they will be stronger and the time in the tanning bed may need to be adjusted. Great Hub!

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