Is it time to replace the tanning bed bulbs for your tanning bed?

We’ll help you find the perfect bulbs for your specific tanning bed model.

We’ll also teach you everything there is to know about tanning bulbs to help you make your purchase.

Tanning Bed Bulbs versus Tanning Bed Lamps

Before discussing anything further, it’s important to note that the terms “tanning bed bulbs” and “tanning bed lamps” are used interchangeably. Most people refer to them as tanning bed bulbs, but you’ll see a myriad of places on the internet that refer to them as tanning bed lamps, or simply tanning lamps.

Buying Tanning Bed Bulbs

There’s a lot of confusing and contradictory information out there about tanning bed bulbs. With all this confusing information, it’s difficult for many people to find a set of bulbs that they’re confident will work with their tanning bed. If you’re one of these people, you’ll be glad to know that almost all tanning beds are compatible with one of our tanning bed bulb recommendations on this post.

If you’re happy with the tanning bed you currently have and you’re just looking for new bulbs, then you can do that for a fraction of the cost of buying a new bed. Most bulbs begin to lose their optimal levels after approximately 600 to 900 hours of usage, depending on your specific bulbs. It can be difficult to find the best bulbs for your tanning bed, and that’s why we’ve researched and we’re providing you with our top picks.

There are several factors that need to be considered before replacing your tanning bulbs. To make sure the bulb is compatible with your bed, you should consider physical characteristics of the bulbs such as the bulb type (bi-pin versus RDC), the length (F number), and the size (T number).

You should also consider the power (or wattage) of the bulbs. You could think about whether you want a specialty bulb kit with face tanning, leg tanning, dual tone, or side and arm features. Naturally, it’s also important to consider the longevity of the bulbs, cost, how many bulbs you need, and whether or not there’s a warranty on them. If you have darker skin, you might also want to consider getting bronzing bulbs, which contain less UVB rays.

Bi-Pin versus RDC Tanning Bulbs

You should be aware that there are two basic types of tanning bulbs: (1) bi-pin and (2) RDC. The vast majority of beds use bi-pin bulbs nowadays, but some of the older beds use RDC bulbs. We recommend looking at your current bulbs to see which kind of ends they have. Bi-pin bulbs have two pins that stick out of the end, whereas RDC bulbs have a single notch at the end. RDC stands for “Recessed Double Contact”. RDC bulbs are essentially the same as bi-pin, but they have an adapter that covers the two pins.

Bi-Pin Tanning Bulbs: Our Recommendation

If you have a more common tanning bed which requires bi-pin bulbs, then we recommend the Wolff System Wolff Dark Tan II F71 T12 100W Tanning Bed Bulbs (picture below), which fit just about any tanning bed with bi-pin bulbs. They’re strong enough to get a tan really fast, but not so strong that you’ll be at risk for overexposure. The bulbs are 100 watts, which is pretty standard. You’ll have a hard time beating the price of these bulbs considering how long they last, their reliability, and their effectiveness. These are powerful bronzing bulbs, so we recommend starting out with 10 minutes or less and then slowly increasing the time. There are many tanning bulbs that burn rather than tan. These are not like that. As long as you tan in moderation, they give an excellent, dark tan rather than burning the skin. Note that these bulbs come in packs of 16. If you need a different number than 16 or 32 bulbs, then we highly recommend the Wolff Sun Plus F71 Bulbs instead.

These Wolff bronzing bulbs will fit all of the following tanning bed brands (and many more):

Tanning Bed BrandExamples
SunQuestSunQuest Pro 16SE, 16S, 16RS
ESBESB Elite, Avalon, Oasis Tanning Booth
SontegraSontegra SPB 3000X
ProSunProSun Jade 24 / 32
ETS SunVisionETS SunVision Pro 24S / 28LE, SunVision Elite
Virtual SunVirtual Sun Power Bronzer 32, Face Bronzer 24
Solar StormSolar Storm 24S / 32
Alpha SunAlpha Sun 24 / 24B

These are just a few examples of some of the tanning bed brands that fit with these bulbs. There are many more! If you’re not sure if these will fit your tanning bed, then post a comment and ask. I’d be happy to answer your question.

RDC Tanning Bulbs: Our Recommendation

There aren’t as many options if you have an older bed which requires RDC bulbs, but don’t worry, we’ve got you covered! We found that there are still several options, and we’re confident that you’ll find the right ones. After researching several RDC bulb options, we strongly recommend the Brilliance Bronzer F73 HO 100W-120W 5.0% RDC Tanning Lamps for almost any bed. These are premium bulbs, and they are compatible with a wide variety of tanning beds. These bulbs are built to last for a very long time. They are cheaper than most bulbs of the same caliber. These bulbs are higher power than the average tanning bulbs for achieving a faster yet deeper tan. These are the best bulbs for home tanning bed owners or salons if your bed requires F73 RDC bulbs.

These RDC F73 tanning bulbs will fit all of the following tanning bed brands (and many more):

Tanning Bed BrandExamples
SundashSundash 2 Genesis, 26, R32, Wolff System Bellarium S Sundash
SuntanaSuntana Passport
SCA WolffSCA Wolff 416SL, Series 2
GenesisGenesis E Class Sun Series 416 SL
Montego BayMontego Bay Cobra

Tanning Bulb Length, Size, and Watts

The F number (which stands for “fluorescent”) represents the length of a tanning bed bulb or lamp. By far, the most common bulb lengths are F71, F73, and F72 (in that order). The F number approximately corresponds to the length of the bulb in inches. For example, F73 bulbs are about 73 inches long. F71 bulbs are almost always bi-pin, and F73 and F72 bulbs are almost always RDC. If you have F71 bulbs (the most common), then you can buy two inexpensive adapters per bulb to convert them to F73 or F72 RDC bulbs. You typically can’t convert in the other direction. Occasionally, you might also need F59 bulbs if you have facial lamps.

The size of the bulb is the T number. T numbers are represented as the number of eighths of an inch. For example, T5 would be five eighths of an inch, and T12 would be twelve eighths of an inch (i.e. an inch and a half). T12 is by far the most common size.

The bulbs will always specify their power in watts. Almost all tanning bulbs are 100 watts. Generally, the higher the wattage, the less exposure time you need to get tan. For F71 bulbs, 100w (watts) is considered high output, whereas 140w or 200w is considered very high output.

Bulbs that are Less Common

While the vast majority of bulbs are F71 bi-pin or F73 RDC, you will occasionally find tanning beds with other types. F72 RDC bulbs are the next most common. These are usually used in older beds, and they are becoming less common as time goes by. Due to this, it’s often more difficult to find these bulbs. When you do find them, they are often more expensive due to their rarity. You might consider buying F71 bi-pin bulbs like the ones we mention above and buy a set of inexpensive converters to go from F71 to F72. If you happen to need an extremely rare bulb size (such as F74, F75, or F79), we recommend calling the manufacturer of your bed to ask them how to buy the correct replacement bulbs.

Specialty Bulb Kits

Although we recommend standard tanning bulbs for most people (especially beginners), it’s worth noting that there are several specialty kits available. Face tanning kits emit more UVB rays in the facial area. This can be effective especially for men when they find it difficult to keep their face tan due to shaving. It can also be effective for anyone who wants to focus efforts on their face rather than their entire body. Leg tanning kits increase UVB rays in the leg area. This option is especially popular among women who find it difficult to tan their legs due to frequent shaving. Who doesn’t love short shorts with flawless tan legs, right?

There are several variants of bulb kits that specialize in the arms and sides, but these are less common. Our recommendation is to choose a standard tanning bed bulb kits unless you have a very specific reason to do otherwise.

How Many to Buy?

After you’ve picked out the right bulbs, you’ll need to know how many you’ll need. Don’t accidentally click the button to buy these bulbs until you’ve checked on this detail. Most tanning beds use 16 or 24 bulbs. However, it’s not uncommon to see tanning beds with 32 bulbs. Many times, you have the option of buying different counts somewhere between 8 and 32 bulbs. If you have an unusual number for your bed, then you might have to buy a few extra. This isn’t such a bad thing, because it’s always nice to have a few spare bulbs. Occasionally, some die out quicker than others, and you don’t want to buy a whole new set just to replace one or two bulbs.

Practical Factors to Consider

Before purchasing your bulbs, you’ll naturally want to consider their cost and longevity. You can also consider whether there’s a warranty or money back guarantee within a certain time frame. Most bulbs are rated to last about 1000 hours. However, bulbs with higher power tend to last longer because you don’t need to use them as much. For example, if you tan for twenty minutes every day, then it will take about 7 years before you need to buy new bulbs. However, if you buy more expensive bulbs where you only need to tan fifteen minutes every day, then it will take about 10 years before you need to purchase more. The biggest cost indicator tends to be the power of the bulbs.

Tanning Lamps Power Versus Longevity Tanning Lamps Power Versus Cost

Some people will try to buy used bulbs to save some money. We highly recommend against doing this. You will have no idea how long the bulbs will last, and you could easily get ripped off. Always buy your tanning bulbs new. Since most factors tend to even out in this way, we believe it’s prudent to choose a higher quality bulb if you can afford it. At the very least, it will save you from having to go through the purchasing cycle more often.

How Tanning Bulbs Work

Tanning bed bulbs emit UVA and UVB rays. The bulbs contain elements and gasses that emit these rays when you run electricity through them. Some bulbs also contain reflectors which intensify the UV rays. Most emit around 95% UVA rays and 5% UVB rays. Occasionally, you’ll find some bronzing bulbs which only emit around 3% UVB rays, but those are for advanced tanners. Your skin produces melanin when it’s exposed to these UV rays. Melanin is a dark pigment that makes your skin tan.

After You Buy

Your tanning bed will last much longer and give you the best tan if you take proper care of it. After you buy your bulbs, you’ll want to consider cleaning the acrylics on your tanning bed and replacing the starters if your bed requires them. Additionally, you should make sure to clean your tanning bed after each use. You should only use cleaning materials that are specifically designed for tanning beds. This will help you avoid damaging the acrylics.

You should also consider the proper way to tan with your new bulbs. You should know that most bulbs give off the maximum amount of UV rays when they’re brand new. This means that you should reduce the amount of time you spend tanning to avoid getting burned. Pay close attention to the recommended time to spend with your new tanning bulbs. You’ll risk over exposure if you go any longer.

Consider Buying a New Tanning Bed

While it can be economical to buy tanning bed bulbs rather than buying an entirely new tanning bed, there will come a time when your base equipment needs an upgrade. If you think it’s time to upgrade, then we recommend looking at the Solar Wave 16 Lamp Home Tanning Bed (see our tanning bed review). It’s an amazing bed that delivers fast results. It gives an incredibly even tan, which is hard to find in beds at this price range. It’s perfect for your home, because it works with regular outlets. Best of all, it’s affordable.

What Next?

After you order your bulbs, make sure to take a look at our indoor tanning lotion review to help you get a high quality lotion to use in your tanning bed. Feel free to leave us any comments or questions as well.

We’re confident that you’ll find the right bulbs for you, and we know you’ll be beach-ready after just a few tanning sessions.