We know lamps are a confusing subject and we want to help!

Submit your lamp questions or concerns and the industry’s foremost sunlamp expert, Leif Vasstrom, will answer. You can remain anonymous or include your name.

Each month, one submitter will win a $150 gift certificate toward their next lamp purchase from Supra Technologies!

See below for previously asked questions and answers from Leif



So Many Questions!

I received a submission from Kimberly Ammons, owner of Toast Yur Bunz in Decatur, TX and she asked some great questions!


Q: What’s the simplest way to explain to a tanner how a sunlamp works?

A: This is a loaded question, since there really is no one answer. There are many different lamp types that are designed for many different tanning systems.


Here is the simplest explanation: Fluorescent lamps employed in a tanning system emulate the sun’s UV light spectrum in a controlled spectral irradiance in order to prevent overexposure; high-pressure lamps with filter glasses do the same.


Q: Is there such a thing as a “bronzing lamp”? If so, what exactly is it and how does it differ from other sunlamps found in a tanning system?

A: This term was coined by salon operators who like to state that one lamp type makes you “browner” than others do, but it really has no relevance.


Q: Do certain brands of lamps emit different types of UV rays?

A: A fluorescent sunlamp’s spectral irradiance consists of UVA, UVB and infrared. The lamp’s phosphor content and the type of glass used to make it determine the UV output. With regard to high-pressure lamp products, the filter glasses determine the mix of UVA and UVB.


Q: How often should lamps be removed from a tanning unit, wiped down and re-installed?

A: There is no specific time frame for this matter; in order to maximize performance, tanning units and lamps should be kept clean and free of internal dust build-up at all times.


Q: Is it pointless to install new lamps in a bed with old acrylic shields?

A: Acrylics do deteriorate over time, more quickly with heavy use. In order to allow the lamps to perform properly, the shields should, of course, be changed as needed.


Q: Should lamps be moved from a sunbed canopy to the bench at half-life and new lamps installed in the canopy? Or, should all lamps be removed and replaced at the same time after recommended usage hours have been exceeded?

A: You should change all lamps in the tanning system after a certain number of hours. I recommend that you measure lamp output with a UVA/UVB meter after the first 50 hours of use and make notations of the output readings. Do the reading again at 500 hours to see how much (what percentage) the output has dropped. Generally speaking, different lamps in different tanning units have a useful life of anywhere from 500-750 hours, but should be changed for tanning performance purposes when output has dropped 20% or so.


Q: Do the lamps determine what “level” a bed is?

A:  The term “level” is simply marketing that salon operators have used in order to differentiate between the various bed/stand-up models they offer. Typically, salons refer to a starter/low-end tanning system as “Level 1” and then assign a higher number to more powerful beds with a higher cost per session. A bed’s “level” has nothing to do with the lamps installed in it.


Q: Does a customer need a good base tan before high-pressure lamps will make a difference?

A: No. The UV spectrum of a high-pressure lamp affects the skin in a different way than low-pressure lamps.


Q: Why do high-pressure bulbs differ so much in size and shape?

A: High-pressure lamps are designed for different applications based on the reflectors, wattage and even the cooling system of the bed. The important thing is to have the right lamp for a specific tanning unit.

Quartz Lamp Performance: A Synopsis                               

There are several causes of low output from quartz lamps.

Let’s start with the most important one: the center position and length of the arc are the key to the UV output on the tanner’s body. This is equally important in units that utilize both the newer parabolic reflectors (for single-contact lamps) and the classic, square aluminum reflectors. As many of you know, I have always stated that not all lamps are manufactured, designed and made equally. Quartz lamps have always been an enigma to most people, even tanning equipment manufacturers. For example, we have nine different 800-1,000-watt lamps in our product line, in order to meet the unique needs of various tanning systems. Not every 800W lamp will work equally well in every system – that is a fact.

What is important for any quartz lamp is the position of the center of the arc when the lamp is plugged in, as well as the length of the arc based on a specific reflector, be it a parabolic or classic. Even a 1/4″ off makes a big difference!

If you measure (and I have talked with a lot of you about this) and find the highest UV reading made close to the filter glass (where the tanner’s body is not), you may get a very high reading and then, with the wrong lamp/reflector combination, you may have a spectacular output drop-off by the time you measure the output where the body would be.

On the other hand, if the combination is right (and by the way, with some tanning systems, the original combination of reflectors and recommended lamp product may not be the best), you may find that the output is high on the “hot spot” close to the filters – that is a given – then a bit further away it drops quite a bit, and then where a tanner’s body would typically be positioned, the output climbs back up. Why? Because the right reflector and lamp combination seeks to perfectly overlap, to compensate for a normal drop – from, say 2-3” to 12-18”. Is this an easy engineering feat? No. But understanding lamps, the design and the uniqueness of the equipment model makes for a perfect balance.


Other Factors to Consider:


Voltage: Quartz lamps are happiest with about 240v. This also creates the best range of UVB output, which we all know is essential to our overall cause in public relations. With higher voltage, UVB increases exponentially more than UVA.


Wattage: Wattage increases both UVB and UVA somewhat equally. This is true (as with voltage) whether it is the classic Uvisol glass, MUG or the newer coated-filter glasses.


Capacitance: The right capacitance is very important with quartz lamps, and also, that this is distributed properly for all lamps. Bad capacitors are not good for the quartz lamps and older machines should be checked for that.


Heat & Cooling: We make a few specific lamps for beds that are either under-cooled or over-cooled. This is also an issue, not from a performance standpoint, but for lamp life.


Igniter & Capacitance: If you have older systems with old igniters, you may consider changing them, especially if they are still using the old OSRAM 16 starters. Bad capacitors are also an issue; both may cause lamps to blow up, or die prematurely. Capacitance meters are available – discuss this with your service person, or with us.


  1. Some lamps have a higher rate of difference in output from lamp to lamp in the same production run.
  2. A lamp production run can also vary from one to the other, and that (in addition to point 1) can produce different results.
  3. Your line voltage may change for various reasons during the day and time of year, depending upon electrical needs in your building/complex, for reasons such as A/C, if you have dry cleaner/laundry/convenience store, etc. type of equipment operating in the same building. 
  4. If your salon is running on the edge as far as available amperage, you could also (if you run other machines at the same time) run up the amps, which will cause heat and in turn, decrease the voltage.
  5. In the case of point 4, you may also have a problem if you have inadequate wiring, such as aluminum wire instead of copper wire, or if either are too small as far as wire gauge is concerned.
  6. High-pressure lamps can easily vary by 20-25% if the line voltage drops 15-20 volts. 


Let’s face it: the numbers can be manipulated in a variety of ways; it is the tan, however the consumer’s end results, that never lies. Instant results and gratification for your salon guest is the key to longevity and success for your business!


The Buzz About Hybrids

Q: I’d like to know more details on the UV/Red Light/Blue light Combo lamps I am seeing around. How well do they perform for the UV crowd and how much % of UV does the lamp offer if sharing space with other light wave spectrums? Will the RL or BL give enough results that customers actually see or feel them? What are the benefits I can truthfully tell customers they can expect? Would this be considered a UV Customer upgrade or the same? That’s a lot of questions I know but I need to understand better. Thanks – LjM”

A: There is a buzz right now regarding UVA/Red or Blue hybrid lamps in the market.

The UV lamps with blue I’ve heard some whispers about but haven’t actually seen a UV/Blue lamp or tanning device in the market. As for the UV/Red lamps, or hybrid lamps as many call them, those are out in the market and seem to be growing in popularity. I know JK and KBL have units now that utilize UV/red lamps. As a result many customers have asked about the availability of these lamps to put into existing equipment in their customer’s salons. At the moment some have manufactured a couple versions of UV/Red lamps as private labels brands for customers.
The lamps are considered tanning lamps with extra red phosphor added. All of these lamps carry the necessary compatibilities for the OEM lamps they are replacing. These are only manufactured as low pressure lamps, no high pressure lamps have been researched or produced.
When you adjust a phosphor to produce more energy in a certain area of the spectrum, in this case red, you do tend to loose energy in others. So with these lamps there is some loss in the UVB and or UVA of the lamps. Depending on the amount of red phosphor is added, the lamp could lose up to 45% of the UVB/UVA. There is give and take depending on how much of the red phosphor is added.
Red light lamps have been in the market for a long time now, such as in the Beauty Angel and of course many salon owners are re-lamping older tanning beds with re light lamps. Customers’ opinions have varied and it is no different with the hybrid lamps. The salons we have tested with have the same wide ranging feedback as red light units, some customers love the lamps and feel they have a “fresher” tanning experience and others just want the UVB and aren’t into the hybrid style lamps. Customers can expect a different tanning experience with hybrids because they are a different lamp that do not pack the punch a standard UV lamp does, so mixed opinions are common.
The benefits are tough to explain because the FDA does not allow us to make any claims regarding red light and that includes hybrid lamps. Simply tell customers that they are tanning lamps with extra red in them. What you tell customers is up to you, but do not provide any opinions regarding the benefits of red light. Some salons will use these in a unit and consider it an upgrade but others will offer the unit as a supplemental unit much in the way they do with traditional red light units. I hope this answers your questions and let me know if you need any further clarification.

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