How to Change Tanning Bed Bulbs

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For those of us who love that, golden tan year-round, there’s nothing that’s quite as convenient as having your very own tanning bed.  

Those bright blue bulbs shine and shine for a while. But after some time, they need to be replaced.

Now, depending on where you got your tanning bed from, it may come with a service that includes free bulb replacement. If that’s you, then congratulations- you can stop reading now. 

However, the chances are that if you’re reading this article right now, it’s because you don’t have somebody coming to change your bulbs for free. Instead of paying a “professional” to change your bulbs, we’re going to show you how to change tanning bed bulbs by yourself. 

In today’s guide, we’ll explain when to change the bulbs, what type of bulbs to use. We’ll also go over some important information on energy requirements, and finally, we’ll give you the step-by-step instructions to change your own tanning bed lamps.

Although it may look a bit complicated at first, we assure you- it’s a lot easier than it looks! Let’s take a look! 


Know When To Change Tanning Bed Bulbs

If you want your tanning bed to keep doing its job and giving you an even full-body tan, then it’s essential to stay on top of your UV tanning bulbs and know when to change them. 

Here’s an important note to remember- tanning bed bulbs can go bad before they go out. 

Tanning bulbs aren’t like regular fluorescent tube lights that flicker and go out. Their effectiveness relies entirely on their ability to produce UVA and UVB rays that mimic the sun’s radiation. There are benefits to this UV exposure, but there are also well-known cancer risks as well. Be safe!

Your bulb could still be shining but may only produce a fraction of what its expected UV light output should be. 

Generally speaking, tanning bed bulbs should last around 1,000 hours. However, by the time they reach 1,000 hours, the bulbs will be operating at a considerably lower potency. 

For this reason, you should try to replace your bulbs after 500 hours of use.

Considering that the average tanning session only lasts somewhere around 10 minutes, most home users will only have to replace the bulbs a couple of times over the tanning bed’s lifetime. 

But if you have a tanning salon, or there are multiple people in the household who use the tanning bed, there’s a good chance you’ll need to change those bulbs.

If you’re unsure whether your tanning bed bulbs are still good, see our article on how to test tanning bed bulbs. It’s a good idea to keep track of how much time you’ve used your tanning bed bulbs!

Replace ALL Bulbs At The Same Time

Another essential factor to consider is that you should replace all of your tanning bed bulbs simultaneously. The quickest way to get an uneven tan is to change out bulbs one at a time. This will result in some bulbs producing high levels of UV light, with others producing half that amount. Some areas of your body will burn, while others barely change at all. 

Another reason to change all of your bulbs at the same time is for convenience’s sake. Removing the protective acrylic barrier is somewhat of a process, so you may as well just do the work once and get it all over with. 

How To Identify The Type Of Bulbs On Your Tanning Bed

Now that you know a little bit more about your tanning bed bulbs’ longevity and power let’s take a few minutes to discuss the different tanning bed bulb types you may encounter.

There are a number of different considerations when looking at bulbs, and they certainly aren’t a “one size fits all” type of thing. The last thing you want to do is insert the wrong type of bulbs and mess up your tan or worse- burn the heck out of yourself.

 Bi-Pin vs RDC Bulbs

There are two main types of tanning bed bulb connections. These connections are Bi-Pin and RDC. Be sure to get the correct bulb for your bed, as you can’t easily convert Bi-Pin to RDC.

Here is what a Bi-Pin connection looks like:

Bi-Pin Bulb

Here is what an RDC looks connection like:

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Bulb Sizes

Bulbs are measured in F and T sizes, as well as wattage. When you get replacement bulbs, be sure to match the same wattage, F size, and T size as your existing bulbs. This will ensure compatibility with your tanning bed.

Different Bulbs For Different Body Parts

Depending on what type of tanning bed you have, it may have different variations of UV light bulbs designed to target different parts of the body. For instance, the bulbs beaming down on your lower half to be a bit stronger than the ones positioned where your face is or the sides of your arms are. This is known as a “dual-zone setup.” 

This is because some areas of your body tan quicker or slower than others. You usually don’t want the same amount of UV light required to tan your legs being beamed on your face where the skin is more sensitive and more likely to burn. 

As we mentioned, though, this feature may or may not be included in your particular tanning bed. It’s more commonly seen in modern, more high-tech beds. If you have an older tanning bed, there will typically be less variation in the bulbs’ strength. These are known as “high-intensity beds.” 

Regular Tanning Bulbs Vs. “Bronzing” Tanning Bulbs

Most tanning beds use standard tanning bulbs. These bulbs produce 95% UVA light and 5% UVB light. By far, these are the most common and are designed to help you build a quick, solid tan.

They primarily target the upper levels of your skin and give you quicker results. That being said, your tan won’t last quite as long. 

On the other hand, bronzing bulbs output 98% UVA light and just 2% UVB light. Although the difference may seem subtle, it’s significant.

The resulting light penetrates deeper into your skin, giving you a deep bronze skin tone that lasts longer than just using standard tanning bulbs. Bronzing lights aren’t as powerful and usually require longer sessions. 

Depending on what you’re looking for, you may want to choose bronzing bulbs, and you may want regular.

The point being, before you order your replacement bulbs, double-check and see which type they are. 

Can I Replace Standard Bulbs With Bronzing Bulbs? 

Most of the time, these two bulb types are interchangeable! Both standard and bronzing bulbs pull similar amounts of power and share a similar energy output.

Just be sure they have the same pin configuration, as we mentioned above. 

How Much Energy Does A Tanning Bed Use?

Larger tanning beds using a 24-bulb system typically run on 220-Volt power, which is stronger than your standard wall outlets. Smaller tanning beds using a 16-bulb setup are more commonly found in home tanning beds and use a 110-Volt power supply, which is the same as a standard wall outlet. 

Tanning bed bulbs are typically 100-Watt bulbs, so the difference is between a 1,600-Watt system (110V) and a 2,400-Watt system (220V). That being said, however, the bulbs for both setups are the same, so the type of bed you have shouldn’t be important. 

How To Change Tanning Bed Bulbs: Step-By-Step

Now that you know pretty much everything there is to know about the bulbs, it’s time to give you all the steps you need to know how to change tanning bed bulbs! 

Be sure to follow your tanning bed’s manual, but this breakdown gives you the basics common to virtually all tanning beds.

Step 1: Unplug Your Tanning Bed

Safety first! Before messing around with your bulbs, always unplug the tanning bed and ensure that there’s no power running to it. This is particularly true of 220v beds!

Step 2: Mark Down All Important Information

The text on the bulbs should be facing up so you can see all of the necessary information such as wattage, bulb type, etc. Make sure to mark it all down before you go order some random bulbs that don’t fit. 

Step 3: Remove The Plastic Acrylic Shielding

Don’t try to “muscle” the plastic shielding out of the bed. There should be a protective clamp that holds the acrylic in. Locate the clamp, loosen it, and the piece of shielding should slide right out without any effort.

If you’re having trouble finding the clamp’s location, consult your owner’s manual or call the manufacturer. 

Step 4: Remove Your Bulbs

Using two hands, grip the bulb and give it a quarter-turn to loosen the prongs from the socket. You should be able to lift the bulb straight out. Remember, these bulbs are very fragile. Be gentle with all of your movements, or else you’ll have a huge mess to clean up. 

If you have a dual-zone bed set up, lay the bulbs out on the floor in the same pattern that you took them out. This will allow you to keep track of where you need to insert the new bulbs. 

Step 5: Insert The New Bulb

Ensure that you put everything in the right place and insert the new bulbs the same way you removed the last bulbs, sliding the prongs into the socket and giving it a quarter-turn to secure the bulb.

The text on the bulb should be facing upwards towards the acrylic. 

Step 6: Re-insert Acrylic Shielding 

Slide the two sheets of acrylic shielding back into the slots (the same way that you took them out) and close the secure clamp over them to hold them in place. 

Step 7: Plug-in And Test Your Tanning Bed

The final step is to plug your tanning bed back into its power supply, turn it on, and ensure that all of the lights are bright and working as they should be.

After that, you should be good to go for another 500 hours! 

Written by Kayla Young

Kayla is the founder of LuxeLuminous. She has worked professionally in the tanning industry for years. She has been interested in esthetics since childhood, and has tried every hair, skin, and makeup product ever produced (more or less).