Tanning Lamp FAQ's
Tanning salons, as well as manufacturers, seem to use a lot of terminology when referring
they are, and it is important for you to understand the terms of tanning so know what you
are paying for the next time you step into a salon.
* HO is a 100 watt bulb.
* HOR is a 100 watt bulb with a built in reflector
* VHO is a 160 watt bulb.
* VHOR / RUVA / VHR® is a 160 watt bulb with a built in reflector.
What a "built in reflector" means is that inside one half of the tanning bulb the surface is
mirrored. This mirrored surface reflects much more of the light toward the tanner.
Number of Bulbs
The number of bulbs in a tanning bed is obviously an important factor in the type of results
you can expect. It goes to reason that the more bulbs you have surrounding you, the more
exposure you will receive in a given amount of time. Typically, you will find salons with 24,
32, 36, 40, and 48 bulb units. However, you can probably find tanning beds with even more
bulbs! There is, though, a point of diminishing returns when it come to tanning bulbs.
There can be a drastic difference in tanning output between a 24 and 48 bulb tanning unit,
but is there really a big difference between using a 48-bulb and a 52-bulb unit? Probably
What you will find is comparison of bulb types in a single tanning unit. For example, a
tanning salon may have a 40-bulb bed that has 20 VHO bulbs in the canopy (top) and 20
HO bulbs in the lounge (bottom.)
High Pressure / Facials
You may have heard about something called "high pressure" tanning. No, this does not
refer to traumatic stresses on the tanner, although the prices of these machines may lead
you to believe that is the case. Rather, it refers to the bulbs. The inside of the little lamps
are at a higher pressure than the atmosphere surrounding them, hence "high pressure."
(Yes, the other more frequent tanning bulbs you find in most tanning beds are low
pressure.) High pressure tanning bulbs emit practically all of their light in the UVA
spectrum, which can have some advantages over typical low-pressure bulbs that generally
emit in both the UVA and UVB spectrum.
High pressure lamps can make up part of the tanning lamp array, such as being used as
facial tanners on tanning bed units, or they can be the only type of bulb used, such as in
high pressure tanning beds.
The maximum length of a bed time is determined by the total amount of exposure,
measured in M.E.D.'s, you receive from a tanning bed. You can receive a maximum of 4
M.E.D.'s in one session. The exact definition of an M.E.D. is rather complicated, and is
beyond the scope of this discussion, but it is the standard unit used to measure exposure.
More and more today salons and bulb manufacturers are advertising "UVB%." UVB, or
ultraviolet B is the wattage a bulb emits in the UVB spectrum as a percentage of the total
output of the bulb. It is a relative measurement gotten by dividing a bulb's total UVB by its
UVA energy, and has little to do with the bulbs total output. Just because a bulb has a high
UVB percentage doesn't necessarily mean it has more tanning wattage than a lower UVB
Actually, this is a pretty important thing to be aware of when getting into a tanning bed.
Generally speaking, bulbs range from about 2.5% UVB up to about 9% UVB, and although
that may not seem like a large variance, it can mean the difference between getting good
tanning results and getting very burned. In my experience, darker tans seem to come from
lowers UVB percentage bulbs, although you may not "feel" like you've gotten any
immediate results from the lamp. Higher UVB bulbs tend to produce more of a "redness."
People with fair skin, or beginning tanners, should stick with low to mid-level bulbs. Higher
percentage bulbs can seriously burn a tanner with fair skin. People with darker
complexions can benefit from higher UVB bulbs and they may help these skin types tan
You may have noticed that some tanning beds have maximum tanning times of 10, 12, 15,
or even 20 minutes. That means you are receiving those 4 M.E.D.'s in that period of time.
Generally beds with fewer bulbs will have tanning times longer than those with many
The most important information when reordering lamps is to make sure that you get the
correct length, end-type, and wattage. Most lamps on the market have identifying
numbers on one end. These numbers generally tell you the brand, the length, the
end-type, and wattage. Some even have special numbers that represent other things
such as lamp color and reflectors.
* For example, take a lamp that has this stamped on it: F71-T12-100W/BL/BP.
* F71 represents the length of the lamp in inches. However, if you measure the lamp, it
will not come out to exactly 71 inches. The number is a lighting standard used worldwide,
and it generally represents the length of the lamp including the lampholder. For
reordering purposes in the tanning industry, though, it means length in inches. The most
common lengths used in the tanning industry are F59, F60, F71, F72, F73, and F74.
* T12 represents the diameter of the lamp. This number is usually not used when
determining which replacement lamp to order.
* 100W signifies the wattage of the lamp. The most common wattages used today are
80W, 100W, 120W, 140W, 160W, 180W, and 200W. If you do not see a number
followed by a "W" on your lamp, don't worry. Some lamp manufacturers use letters to
represent their wattage.
* BL refers to the color. In this case, black light, or ultraviolet light.
* BP means Bi-Pin. That is the type of end this lamp has. There are two different types
of end types used in tanning equipment: Bi-Pin and Recessed Double Contact, or RDC.
See the picture below:
* If your lamp does not designate on the label whether it has a Bi-Pin or an RDC, you
can look at your actual lamp for that information. As a rule of thumb, F59 and F71 lamps
will have Bi-Pin ends. F60, F72, F73, and F74 will have RDC ends.
Some lamp manufacturers use different types of numbers or letters to designate the
length and wattage of their lamps.
* For example: FR71-T12-HO.-FR.
* The R refers to a reflector lamp. A lamp that has an "R" or "RUVA" in stamp have a
special reflective coating inside the lamp.
* HO means high output, for 100 watt lamps. You may also see VHO, which means very
high output, for 140 watt and 160 watt lamps.
There are lamp manufacturers that do not use the above system for identifying their
lamps. Those manufacturers have come up with their own systems for marking their
lamps. Most lamp distributors have a cross-reference for identifying these lamps, so
please give them all of the information off of your existing lamp.
2. What is UVB? What does "5.0" and "6.5" mean?
There are two different types of ultraviolet light involved in the tanning process: UVA and
UVB (280-320nm) is what starts the tanning process. It is what causes the "reddening"
effect, or erythema. UVB causes melanin to form beneath the surface of the skin.
UVA (320-400nm) oxidizes the melanin and turns your skin brown.
Generally, the more UVB in a lamp, the faster results you will see. Usually, they will
shorten the session length.
Many lamp manufacturers designate the percentage of UVB in their lamps by a number:
2.6, 4.2, 5.0, 6.5, 6.9, 7.5, 7.9, 8.5, 8.9 and so on.
A lamp that is listed as a 5.0 for example, might have a label that looks similar to this:
F73-T12/BL/HO/50, where the 50 represents 5% UVB.
Many salon owners today judge a lamp by the UVB ratio. That can be a very big mistake:
* The UVB ratio can not be used to compare between brands. For example, a 5.0 from
Manufacturer A is not the same as a 5.0 from Manufacturer B because this number is a
* To put it in its simplest terms, see the picture below:
* You can see that even though both Lamp A and Lamp B have 5% UVB, Lamp B has a
higher overall UV output. Therefore, the amount of UVB, not the percentage, in Lamp B
is higher than that in Lamp A.
When choosing replacement lamps of either the same UVB ratio or higher than your
existing lamp, be sure to factor in the following:
Performance Longevity Results Cost Effectiveness Compatibility Quality
3. What is compatibility?
Most states are required by either their state regulatory office or by the FDA to use
either the original lamp that came in the tanning unit, or a compatible replacement.
Compatibility is set by the FDA guideline that states the following:
* The replacement lamp's output must be within +/- 10% of the OEM (original) lamp.
* The replacement lamp cannot alter the exposure time of the equipment.
* The replacement lamp must have the same melanogenic and erythemic effect as the
There may be dozens of lamps that you can technically use in your equipment. In other
words, they will fit, they will light, and they will tan. But that doesn't make them
compatible. In order for them to be compatible, they have to meet the above
requirements. Your inspector will need proof that they do. This can be found on
Compatibility sheets must list your original lamp as being compatible with the
replacement that you have chosen. Either the manufacturer or lamp distributor can
provide you with the compatibility sheets if one did not come with your lamps.
On the sheet, the numbers and letters on your original lamp must be identical to the
numbers and letters listed for your original lamp on the sheet. The same is true for the
numbers and letters for the replacement lamp.
Not every manufacturer publishes compatibility sheets.
Some companies only publish compatibility sheets that list other lamps that they make
as compatible replacements.
If you are unsure about whether or not a lamp is compatible, you can do the following:
* Contact your bed manufacturer for info on the original lamp in your unit.
* Contact the company that you purchased the replacement lamps from. Request
compatibility sheets that they have on your lamps.
* Contact your state or FDA inspector if you have any doubts.
4. Can I turn my 30 minute unit into a 20 minute unit (or my 20 minute unit into a 10
minute unit) bed by going with a higher UVB percentage?
A bed was designed to operate with a particular type of lamp (or a compatible
replacement) to achieve the session length it is labeled with. The following factors of bed
design play a part in the session length:
Ballasts Reflectors Acrylics Voltage Distance between lamp and the tanner
For example, if you purchase a tanning unit with a 20 minute session length, the lamp
that it came with was designed to tan up to a 20 minute session length in that unit. If you
install lamps with a higher UVB ratio, it may reduce the exposure time significantly.
Some state and FDA regulations may allow you to re-certify your tanning units for use
with a higher UVB-rated lamp. You will have to change the exposure schedule
accordingly. Please contact your inspector for more information concerning
5. How long should my lamps last?
Most manufacturers will have a rated life time for lamp they make. This information
should be given to you at the time you purchase your lamps. Most lamp distributors
have that information readily available. If not, ask them to contact the lamp manufacturer
for you. Or, you can call them yourself.
The rated lifetime figure is based on laboratory tests. It is a number that is arrived at
through testing under the most ideal of conditions. In salon settings, there are variables
such as voltage, room temperature, proper bed maintenance, etc., that will affect the
actual useful hours on a tanning lamp.
Do not rely on the manufacturer's rated lifetime to know when to change your lamps. We
recommend that you change your lamp at approximately 80% of whatever the
manufacturer tells you. For example, Brand X is rated by the manufacturer to last 1000
hours. Change them around 800 hours.
Please keep in mind that factors such as inappropriate room temperature, too much or
too little voltage, and improper bed maintenance will affect how long your lamps will last.
In conjunction with the lamp hours, use a UV meter to determine when to change your
6. What can I do to prolong the life of my lamps?
Clean your acrylics thoroughly and periodically. Change them when necessary, not just
when they are broken.
Replace all fans as soon as possible after they fail. Keep all dust and debris cleaned
away from them. This will help maintain adequate air ventilation in your tanning unit.
Clean all reflectors behind the lamps when you change the lamps.
Make sure your incoming voltage meets the manufacturer's specifications. If your
voltage is too high, it can raise the operating temperature of your unit and therefore
shorten the lamp life. If your voltage is too low, the maximum potential tanning results will
not be reached. Install a buck booster if necessary or required.
Replace starters (if your unit uses them) at least every other time you re-lamp.
Make sure you have enough A/C and/or adequate ventilation for your tanning units.
Contact the manufacturer of the tanning unit to get exact specifications on how many
tons of A/C each unit requires.
7. I just bought new lamps, and one (or more) will not come on. What's wrong?
During shipping, it is possible that a lamp was damaged. Sometimes, the cracks may be
so tiny that you cannot see them, but they allow the gases to escape. The lamp will not
light. Contact the company you purchased the lamp from for their policy on freight
A certain percentage of lamps (from any manufacturer) will not light. This failure is not
common, approximately less that 5%. Contact your lamp distributor for information on
Make sure that the lamp ends are properly installed in the lamp-holder. They may be
loose and not making proper connection.
Replace starter (if your unit uses them).
Check your lamp holder to see if any are black, melted, or have a loose wire. Replace if
needed. See our Lamp holder FAQ for more information.
If you have followed all instructions above, you probably have a failed ballast. Replace
the ballast. See our Ballast FAQ section for more information.
8. I installed my new lamps, but one (or more) is glowing on the ends (or "flickering",
"swirling", etc.). What do I do?
Lamp ends glowing: replace starters.
Flickering: usually caused by failed starters; replace.
Swirling: caused by impurities in the lamps. Run the unit through 2 or 3 sessions and
they should disappear.
Orange or other colored "streaks": caused by air leaks through cracks which sometimes
occur during shipping. Replace the lamp.
Dark ends: check your lamp holders. A certain amount of darkening will occur with any
lamp. Normal darkening occurs within approximately an inch on the end of each lamp.
This is completely normal; there is no effect on either the performance of the lamp or the
Holes in phosphor (coating): cosmetic defects that have no effect on the tanning ability
of a lamp.
9. I've had my new lamps in for a few days, and I just don't feel like I'm getting any
results. What's wrong?
When is the last time you replaced your acrylics? You may want to take readings with a
UV meter, one with the acrylic on, another with the acrylic off. If there is a difference of
20% or more, replace your acrylic.
Have an electrician check your actual incoming voltage. It may be too low and therefore
minimizing your lamp's potential.
Make sure that your tanning unit is properly cooled. If your unit is running too hot, that
can reduce the lamp's output down to only 70% of what it should be delivering. Check
your fans, clean your unit thoroughly, and change any filters.
Your old lamps may have been a lot "hotter". Often, customers mistake "heat" for "tan".
Have your customers follow the recommended exposure schedule. Have them use a
body sticker so they can accurately see the results they get after several sessions.
If you have done all of these things, and are still getting repeated complaints from
several customers, get your invoice number, the batch code off of the lamp, and contact
the company that you purchased the lamp from. Or, contact the lamp manufacturer.
They will probably want to see a sample of the batch you have for testing.
11. My salesperson said that these lamps should last for over 800 hours (or 500 or
1000 or etc.). I've only got 250 hours on my lamps, and three have burnt out already.
Make sure that you have checked the starters, lampholders, ballasts, and voltage as
Contact the company you purchased the lamps from to make sure that you have the
correct replacement lamp.
For example: If your tanning unit is a 160W or VHO unit, and you are running 100W or
HO lamps in your unit, the 160 watt ballast is what is causing the premature failure of the
100 watt lamps. The ballast is too powerful, and for whatever reason, whether it be
miscommunication between you and the salesperson, not enough information supplied
at the time the order was placed, or a mistake during the packing process, you have the
wrong lamp for your unit. Consult your lamp distributor and let them know as soon as
A certain percentage of lamps will not last as long as they are rated for. Again,
remember that if a company says "1000 hours", you should expect approximately 800
hours of useful tanning life. Even at that, a certain percentage may fail prematurely.
Contact the company that you purchased the lamp from to see what their lamp warranty
will cover. Be prepared to purchase replacement lamps.
12. Do lamps "go bad" in storage?
No. Lamps can be stored indefinitely. If you receive lamps with a relatively "old" date
code, there is no need to worry. The gases, phosphors, and other components used to
manufacture lamps do not expire or deteriorate. The only way a lamp "goes bad" is by
Lamps that have been stored in either too hot or too cold of an environment may be
difficult to light at first. Allow them to reach room temperature before they are used.
If stored lamps are dusty, clean them before installation with alcohol or common
house-hold glass cleaner.
13. The last time I ordered lamps, they were pink. This time, they are blue. What is the
Different lamp manufacturers choose different colored phosphors to use in their lamps.
Phosphors are the specially blended coating inside lamps that allow through UV light.
The color itself has little to no effect on the type of tan that it gives. Whether a company
chooses pink, blue, white, or any other color is purely cosmetic.
14. I've seen lamps advertised that are two different colors. What is the difference
between those lamps and ordinary lamps?
Some manufacturers make lamps that have two different colored phosphors inside the
same lamp. You may have seen advertisements of lamps that are 1/3 pink and 2/3 blue.
These lamps are usually designed for salon owners that have tanning equipment that
did not originally come with a factory installed facial tanner. These lamps give you the
option of satisfying those customers who have a more difficult time tanning their face
and upper body.
The upper portion of the lamp has a specially blended phosphor that allows through a
stronger UVB percentage. The lower portion has a phosphor that allows through a lower
UVB percentage. The color itself has virtually no effect on the tan.
Ideally, this lamp should give you an evenly balanced tan from head to toe.
Please consult the lamp manufacturer or supplier for compatibility before considering
this option. See above for more info on compatibility.
15. I've heard a lot lately about "bronzing" lamps, or "browning" lamps. What are they?
In the past, there has been a trend in the tanning industry for higher UVB percentage
lamps. They usually give more immediate results, shorter session times, and a faster
Many salon owners and tanners do not want the reddening effect. They prefer more of a
"bronzing" or "browning" effect.
If you are interested in something of this type, consult with your lamp salesperson. They
will explore the options they have available and probably suggest a lamp with a lower
16. What does "RUVA" mean? What is a reflector lamp? Why would I need a reflector
RUVA is a lamp that has a special reflective coating inside the lamp. They generally
have a lower UVB percentage, such as 2.6.
Other lamp manufacturers designate that their lamps have built-in reflectors by using
the letter "R". If it just has an R, that usually means that the lamp is a reflector lamp with
a higher UVB percentage.
Lamps with reflective coatings direct most of the UV rays directly onto the tanner. They
intensify the tanning session.
The most obvious cases in which a salon owner would require a reflector lamp is when
the equipment's original lamp was a reflector. In this scenario, the tanning unit was
designed for use with reflector lamps. Replacing them with a non-reflector lamp will alter
the type of tan, the performance of the unit, and the length of the session time.
Some salon owners choose to replace their original non-reflector lamps with a reflector
lamp in order to provide a more intense tanning session for their customers. This may
alter the original session length, so many states cannot use reflector lamps.
If you are in a regulated state, always be sure that the reflector lamp is compatible with
the original lamp in the unit.
17. More helpful tips on lamps:
Replace all of your lamps at once. This will help prevent "striping", different colored
lamps in the same unit, and more uniform performance.
There are some cases where a tanning unit will take 2 or more different types of lamps.
In that case, you may have two different replacement schedules to follow. For example,
a unit that uses 160W lamps on top and 100W lamps on bottom. You will have to
change the top lamps twice as often as the ones on bottom.
Always order your lamps in even cases if you can. This helps minimize freight damage. It
also gives you spare lamps in the event of no lights, breakage, or premature failure.
If you do not order in full cases, order several spares for each type of lamp that you are
ordering. This minimizes any down time you will encounter from having to take your
acrylic out twice.
Replace your starters at least every other time you re-lamp. Keep a box on hand at all
Get as much information as you can about the lamp you are ordering. If there is any
literature, ask that the company either mail, fax, or email you a copy. Make sure that
they include any compatibility sheets if you need them.
Keep your compatibility sheets in a safe place for your inspector's approval.
Keep a record for each tanning unit. It should include the make, model, serial number,
year, lamp type(s), lamp replacement schedule(s), etc. This will make the reordering
process go smoothly, both for your and your salesperson. It eliminates confusion.
Also have a place to enter UV meter readings.
Please use Order Form to order lamps, or call
us at 800-881-2427 to place order by phone.
"I LIVE in my tan!"
A1 Tanning Supply.com
A1 Tanning Supply