UV lamps are expensive. It doesn't matter if they are for drying polish or curing gel, doesn't matter who makes them or where they come from. They are pricey.
It doesn't help matters at all that manufacturers continue to insist that you must invest in their lamp to go with their products, even though their lamp is exactly like half a dozen other lamps from half a dozen other manufacturers.
Like many of us, I have long since thumbed my nose at these manufacturers, insisting I understand the way it works well enough to make the informed decision that I can reasonably get by with only one type of UV light for all the UV-cured products that I use.
I remember when these lamps set me back a couple hundred bucks. And I've always preferred to have two one-hand lamps because I hate working over the top of the lamp.
Back in the day, I had lamps that had two 6-watt bulbs in them. It didn't take long before gel technology advanced to the point that the current 4x9-watt bulb "tunnel" style lamps became the new norm though, and the old lamps went bye-bye. Finally, we started seeing tunnel lamps going for under $100. In fact, if you're a savvy shopper, you can occasionally find them under $50.
This makes it much easier for me to have two of them.
But ... these "cheap" lamps are cheap. I have gone through several lamps, usually buying new ones every year, because the timers on them fizzle out. If I'm lucky, the darn things just stop working. But if I'm unlucky (which I have been known to be) something goes horribly awry in the wiring and the lamp starts smoking — sometimes while a client's hand is in it!
Electrical fires are not part of my service menu, so ... new lamps again. Over and over and over. For the last few years, I've just replaced the lamps rather than bother with new bulbs.
So not too long ago, I invested in NEW new lamps. From a reputable company, same 4x9-watt design, better customer support, (fingers crossed) no fires.
The new lamps just don't work as well. I've had them for about six months now. I've replaced the bulbs in them. I have finally narrowed the problem down to this: They do not have an option to just be "on." I can set them for 90 seconds or 120 seconds, but my only option is to use the timer.
I have come to the conclusion that this is killing the ballasts and possibly not allowing the light to contact my gels for a full two minutes as part of the timer is firing up the bulbs and shutting them off again.
I was once told by a gel expert that the hardest thing we do to our lamps is turning them off and on again, because it wears out the ballasts in the bulbs and it takes fluorescent bulbs awhile to warm up. Ever turned on your office lights on a cold day?
So I am — once again — in the market for new lamps.