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Vitamin D bulb for use in the home - or perhaps office

Vitamin D from UVB lamps Update Aug 2012

UVB 4 bulb $425 5 minutes

UVB 1 bulb $150 (with shipping) 5 minutes

There are many artificial sources of UVB - priced from $20 to over $2000

UVB is especially useful if you cannot get out in the sun or cannot swallow capsules or absorb vitamin D

Make a vitamin D lamp using a bulb designed for reptiles

There have been many papers indicating that UV is better than just vitamin D - such as:

Evaluation of Vitamin D from Light

Easy and cheap way to get vitamin D all year long = Bulb at home
Costs and minutes vary 3 to 1 due to: skin color, amount of skin exposed, purchase price, bulb life, etc

Sourcecost$/use 7UVA 5UVBTime4Eye protectNotes
Tanning bed - salon$20,000$ 120dark gogglesDrive to the salon - skin can wrinkle if too much UVA
Tanning bed - home$2,000$ gogglesToo big for home? - skin can wrinkle if too much UVA
Vitamin D lamp$430$ gogglesno prescription needed
SAD 6$100$0.050.00nevernone 2No vitamin D
Vitamin D Bulb$50$ 2Can read while getting vitamin D 3
Sun0$ 2Excessive sun can cause skin wrinkles and cancer

1 Law requires reduction of UVB Typically 3% of tanning bed output ==> 12% of sun
2 Full-spectrum light does not need eye protection - the eye avoids and squints in bright light
3 Vitamin D bulb has 1/20 of the UVA per minute of UVB than tanning bed - and very low intensity - so very unlikely to get skin cancer
4 minutes to get 2,000 IU of vitamin D. Tanning beds often have less UVB than the sun
5 UVA tans. Intensity is relative to the sun = 1.0; UVB is needed to produce vitamin D
6 SAD lamps are required by law to have ZERO UV (A or B )
7 Assumes 2000 uses till source needs to be replaced - except salon - where you also must pay for staff - building - etc

The bulbs are very low cost. - and far less expensive/troublesome than going to a tanning salon many times a month
Some places to buy UV bulbs are Amazon   Pet store   and Reptile UV store http://uvguide.co.uk/ and as well as Google Shopping


  • Should have standard full-spectrum light
    • Eyes will squint and will tend to look away from the bright light
    • Not have to protect eyes with UV glasses (actually normal glasses block UV)
  • UVA will provide feedback, by way of a tan, as to how much vitamin D has been generated (no UVB meter required)
    • Should not have more UV per day than will generate a slight pinking of the skin the next day
    • Depending on IU wanted, distance, wattage, reflectors, skin type, and age, the time will vary from 10 minutes to over 200 minutes per day
    • If it 'pinking,' you should probably flip over or flip end to end every other day to not expose the same skin daily
  • A 5,000-hour life bulb used 1/2 hour per day, could last for 10,000 days
  • The easiest-to-use bulb has built-in ballast and a reflector
    • Still need an external reflector to aim the light at the skin
  • Choice of 100 and 160 watts for $35 to $50 on the internet with shipping
  • My design - shine the bulb over my bed
    • Can use it for a while napping - be sure to use a timer to wake yourself up or turn it off so as to not harm the skin
    • Can use it for reading
    • Be sure to protect the bed cover from fading in the UV


CLICK HERE for Google Product Search to find companies that sell this bulb (100 or 160 watts)

The instructions on the bulb (but not on the internet?) say that it must be mounted VERTICALLY to operate properly
Note 1 - It does not appear to work if you have recently moved it. Seems like waiting for 5 minutes works
Note 2 - It also turns itself off when it overheats. Unplug it and wait for perhaps 30 minutes

What to buy: 100 vs. 160-watt considerations

  • A 100-watt bulb is smaller, needs less ventilation,
  • 160-watt bulb puts out 60% more light and appears to cost less to purchase

Lamp mounted over the bed - can read about vitamin D while getting some vitamin D


After ordering the above, I found HomePhototherapy with OK prices

Which uses narrow-band UB lamps - which may not provide any tanning (no UVA?) and would probably require wearing glasses

(regular glasses will probably do since regular glasses do NOT transmit UV)


Be sure to take low-cost cofactors when getting lots of vitamin D from any source.

  • Some cofactors just build strong bones
  • Some cofactors are needed to balance the body when vitamin D is increased.
  • Some cofactors appear to help with the utilization of the vitamin D

Some of the files attached to this page

UVB has about 20% of the germ-killing power of UVC - so that is a second use of the bulb


Sunmaster spectrum - had not investigated.


A very large chart about reptiles and UV is attached at the bottom of this page = Reptile - big chart.

Takes too long to download as a thumbnail

Note: Full Spectrum lights are virtually always Full VISIBLE Spectrum Lights

  • Full Spectrum bulbs rarely have any UV (non-visible) and thus provide NO VITAMIN D

   example: fullsepectrumsolutions emphasize that their lights contain NO UV

  • SAD bulbs are not legally even able to produce any UV
  • You can get a tan with a bulb that has virtually no UVB

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Update 1 year later (Nov 2011)

Amazon has many UV bulbs to choose from.
I wanted a light that had visible as well as UVB wavelengths so that my eyes would squint and I would not look into the light much.
This type of bulb was also much lower cost than the UV-only bulbs.
  I am considering a UV-only bulb for a phase II design, but have not figured out where to put it in our RV
  I wanted to get more UV per minute just so I could spend less time in bed.
  I will probably stick to existing design which is much very close to true sunshine.
I selected a brand popular with owners of pet reptiles = documented as actually found to contain UV, have a long life, etc.
I then selected the maximum wattage which they made = 160 watts to reduce the amount of time needed to get my vitamin D.
Note: There are many ways to increase the amount of vitamin D you can get from the bulb.
I purchased a Flucker - which currently has poor reviews on Amazon. The Zoo Med product has better reviews but is more expensive.
The bulb purchased has worked well. Have tended to use it about 30 minutes a day at noon during the winter.
Found that using it late at night kept me awake too long.
I estimate that with a homemade reflector, the bulb to concentrate the light onto my skin gives about 1/10 of the UVB that I would get from the summer sun at noon in Seattle.
This estimation is based on calculation, the perceived heat, a small UV detection card that I purchased, and a very slight tan after about 10 sessions.
The reflector (not shown in the photo) also reduces bothering my wife as well as possible bleaching out of the cloth and woodwork.
The mercury vapor inside of the bulb is totally enclosed, just as mercury vapors are inside of standard or compact fluorescent bi; bs
  There is no health danger from any of those bulbs unless they break, and even then, it is very minor: see WikiPedia.

Update March 2012

In the 17 months since the page was initially posted:

  • 4000 people have looked at it
  • 300 have downloaded some of the attached files.
  • 7 people have contacted me for more information.

I have found it is not cost-effective
I estimate that I get less than 500 IU per hour from the use of the lamp.
(This was when I was using the 160-watt lamp, having the lamp closer than shown in the photo, and using a deflector to concentrate the light onto my skin)
Since a 5,000 IU capsule of vitamin D costs just 3 cents, the value of my time under the sunlamp is about 1/3 of one cent per hour.
So, I no longer use it.
I am considering an alternate design - a low-power UVB LED that would shine on my face and arms while using a computer.
Found a 1 watt UVB LED - but very new on the market - costs about $500!!

Update Aug 2012

Vitamin D from UVB lamps

UVB 4 bulb $425 5 minutes
UVB 1 bulb $150 (with shipping) 5 minutes

Update Dec 2013

Exo Terra Repti-Glo 10.0 Compact Fluorescent Desert Terrarium Lamp
Amazon $17 26 watts, 10% of output in UVB
Measured UVB light with Vitamin D meter
With good reflector, young skin, and if able to illuminate 10% of the body area, it should produce per minute: 15 IU at 5 inches per and 50 IU at 2.5"
Since it is difficult to imagine illuminating 10% of body area at 2.5", I will assume about 30 IU per minute when the lamp is near, or about 2,000 IU per hour.
    Since 2,000 IU vitamin D supplement costs about 2 cents, you have to ask yourself, "Is my time worth 2 cents per hour".

Thoughts for use in the living room/office

It could be mounted in a ceiling fixture with several other bare bulbs: Example 1. Example 2
The fixture must have no glass between the bulb and your skin - Glass absorbs ALL UVB
The other bulbs would provide visible light.
You would probably need to wear glasses to keep the UVB from damaging your eyes.

The following is a wild guess at the output, with lots of assumptions

It appears that ReptileUV Zoo (below) has 1919 microwatts/cm2 @ 12" and 147 microwatts per cm2 @48" = 65 IU/minute
Since this bulb has about 1/5 the output of ReptileUV Zoo (400 instead of 2000 microwatts) - assuming the same 12."
Then this bulb will have about 65/5 = 13 IU/minute - we assume this is per cm2
Assuming you have 100 cm2 of skin exposed (in an office/home setting, wearing lots of clothes), you will get 1300 IU per minute.
This seems far too large - one or more of the assumptions must be in error
The following is a fuzzy spectrum from a PDF on their website


See on the web

See also VitaminDWiki


from Minutes in the Sun for 1000 IU Skin percentages: Face 3.5%, neck 2%, trunk 26%, hands 6%, arms 14%, legs 14%, thighs 18%.
Have added reflectors to increase the light getting to the skin
The average distance from the bulb to body = 30"
You can decrease by about 40% the amount of 'bulb time" needed by using suntan oil

Notes on the use of UV bulbs in the office

  • Could augment or replace the standard lighting
  • Somewhat more costly to install and use than conventional lighting
  • Since there is so little UV and it is a natural spectrum, it appears that there is no concern about causing damage to the eyes
  • Bulb will probably add heating - perhaps do not use it in the summer.
  • Might start using UV bulbs for employees with dark skins
  • Might start using it for people who get little sunlight, such as those:

Discarded the idea of using an 18" UV tube

  • It does not have enough intensity for 5 minutes of use, but apparently, it is enough for reptiles who can bathe in it for hours a day.
    • Many studies have shown that humans require a minimum intensity of UV to generate any vitamin D in the skin.
    • This has been referred to as the 'vitamin D winter.'
  • Would require glasses

Based on my fear/ignorance, I have decided not to use that low-intensity light source.
Also, the 18' tubes would have required a much much longer time to get the same amount of vitamin D, assuming that it produced enough to generate any.

  • 10X longer due to lower intensity and another 5X longer due to less skin illuminated
  • 30 minutes x 150 = 4500 minutes = 187 hours

Update Dec 2011

There have been several questions about the smaller, lower-cost tubes
Checked the Zilla bulb (PDF at the bottom of page) as an example,
It has just 50 microwatts/square cm at 12", which is less UVB than the bulbs have at 48"

Some graphs from UV UK Guide to Reptile lighting

Note how quickly the light intensity changes with distance
Decreasing the distance by 2X, from 40" to 20", increases the intensity by 3.6X
Note: Light sources lacking reflectors would have had increased 4X (R squared)

Image Image Image

Vivariam lighting has the following graph of UV transmission


Plants get the most energy from blue and red light - not much in between

from my hydroponic gardening

Short url = http://tinyurl.com/vitaminduv

Attached files

ID Name Comment Uploaded Size Downloads
1652 Repti-glo.jpg admin 16 Oct, 2012 18.69 Kb 145850
963 myhdroponicgardening.png admin 25 Dec, 2011 92.10 Kb 132587
936 Zilla UV bulb.pdf admin 15 Dec, 2011 231.51 Kb 2712
886 UV transmission.png admin 17 Nov, 2011 18.25 Kb 149626
448 UVUK4.gif Editor 09 Feb, 2011 68.40 Kb 135181
447 UVUK3.gif Editor 09 Feb, 2011 28.81 Kb 151712
446 UVUK2.gif Editor 09 Feb, 2011 29.18 Kb 138289
291 Sun-lamp.jpg admin 10 Nov, 2010 23.38 Kb 148264
265 UVB Narrowband spectrum.gif admin 26 Oct, 2010 17.75 Kb 149048
263 sunmaster tanning spectrum.png admin 25 Oct, 2010 181.29 Kb 147517
262 Germ effectiveness and medium pressure lamp.png admin 25 Oct, 2010 39.32 Kb 139011
259 reptile lighting is a process not a bulb.jpg admin 25 Oct, 2010 1.66 Mb 7505
258 UV_Irradiation_Dosage.pdf admin 25 Oct, 2010 32.05 Kb 2974
257 iguanas-and-artificial-ultraviolet-light.pdf admin 25 Oct, 2010 34.51 Kb 3297
254 UV bulb flukers.gif admin 24 Oct, 2010 28.84 Kb 159560