There are basically two types of bulbs used in tanning beds; high pressure tanning bulbs and conventional low pressure lamps. Some beds may use both type in unison with possibly different combinations of intensity. They can come in a variety of sizes, watts, and other smaller variations from model to model.
High Pressure Bulbs
These bulbs use quartz glass and pressurized argon gas. Because the quartz does not filter out the UVC rays, which are the more harmful UV rays we try to avoid, dichroic filter glass is used with these bulbs and will usually give them a purple hue. This type of bulb is for tanning from above only, so in a lay down tanning bed they would be found on the hood, or perhaps used only as face tanners. These bulbs are more intense and efficient and would be changed after 300-1000 hours of use.
Low Pressure Bulbs
Low pressure lamps are quite similar to the common fluorescent tube lights you see everywhere. The difference between the tubes used for tanning and the ones used for common lighting is the phosphor used in them. The low pressure lamps would be used for tanning from above and below in a tanning bed. They last longer than the high pressure bulbs and would need to be replaced after 300-1600 hours of use.
There are other differences in tanning bulbs than just the pressure type of course. Some bulbs, such as the type often found in stand up beds, would have reflective surfaces created inside to maximize the range of the UV light being emitted. Different wattage levels are also commonly found in different bulbs and may be used for a variety of purposes such as the location of the bulb in the bed or what type of bed it’s being used in.
While tanning bulbs are a fairly low maintenance, the do require occasional cleaning to prevent dust or oils from accumulating on them. Oils from your hands while handling the bulbs can decrease their expected lifespan, while dust on the bulbs can get in the way of the UV rays while you’re tanning.
The bulbs do also need to be changed every so often, but if you’re changing your own bulbs in a home tanning bed, they should last you quite some time depending on your usage. These bulbs are fragile and contain mercury, so if you’re changing your own bulbs handle them with care.