If you've looked around the website, you've probably noticed that the "estimated lamp life" is usually given as a range instead of a flat number. I want to explain why, and what you can do to increase the lamp life. First, understand that our numbers are conservative, many of you will get more hours than we state here, some will get twice the life, while others may get slightly less. It depends on a number of factors. Here are some things that affect lamp life in general.Ballast
The type of ballast you use will absolutely affect lamp life in a dramatic way. The ballasts we sell are ultra-high frequency electronic ballasts, which are shown to increase the lamp life because they are less stressful on the cathode/anode of the lamp. Other types of ballasts (particularly the old magnetic) are much more stressful and cause the phosphors to break down faster.
The more any fluorescent lamp is cycled, the shorter the life will be. If the light is going to be OFF for just a few minutes, it is better to simply leave it on.Temperature
The hotter the running temperature, the shorter the lamp life. Of course, the hotter the temperature, the higher the UV output, to a point. (see How temperature affects UV output
for more info). Running them below freezing isn't good for life either, although that isn't nearly as tested so I can't give you a metric for it. Keeping the air around the lamps themselves at 100°F/38°;C or lower allows you get most of the power of the lamp while protecting the life. Of course, they heat up as they are used, and this is complicated by the fact that they don't perform well if they are too cool, so you have to find a way to dial them into the right temperature for your application.Cycling
The worst thing you can do to any fluorescent lamp is start it. Just like a car engine, most of the wear and tear happens in the start cycle. If you need the lights to be on 5 minutes, off 5 minutes, then on again....just leave them on. If you are cycling less than 20 minutes off, I would just leave them on, they will actually last longer. You many have noticed this in your own life, that the fluorescent lamps at the office that are on 24 hours a day seem to last longer than the lamps that get turned on and off each day. This is just a universal truth about fluorescent technology, and not particular to Solacure products in general. In fact, our lamps don't use standard glass or cathodes/anodes, they use custom made parts designed for heavy abuse, including fast cycling, but the phosphors still break down with heavy switching and it reduces the UV output more quickly.
UV lamps get weaker over time, but the decline accelerates as it ages.What to expect as your lamps age
While we are on the topic, you need to understand that UV output is not linear. The lamps will not put out the same amount of UV when they are 100 hours old, or 400 hours old. All fluorescent lamps get weaker over time. When we rate a lamp at 1000 hours, this doesn't mean it will burn out, it means the UV output will be less than 70% of the original output and should be replaced. It might continue to burn for 2000 or 3000 hours, but it will be useless for creating UV. Typically, the UVB phosphors break down faster than the UVA phosphors, which is why UVB/UVA lamps have a shorter life than pure UVA lamps. You can compensate for this using longer exposure times as the lamp ages, but at their rated life, the output is going to start dropping off dramatically, such that it doesn't make economic sense to continue using them. This is true of all UV bulbs, not just Solacure: it is a matter of physics. Of course, they will continue to create visible light for hundreds (or sometimes thousands) of hours past their rated life, but it isn't usable light that you can turn into work. At that point, you just need to recycle them as you would any fluorescent and grab a fresh set of Solacure lamps.Give a hoot....Recycle
While we are on the topic, please recycle your UV curing lamps. Don't just throw them in the dumpster. We use a special process that only requires about half the mercury of old style bulbs, but it still doesn't need to be in the landfill or environment. Actually, ALL fluorescent lamps, including the twist in CFL bulbs, should be taken down to your city's or county's Hazardous Waste Disposal place. The same place you would take old paint or medications. This way the lamp can be recycled, the environment is cleaner, and you will know that you did the right thing.
Back to Support