How the Use of UV Lights Tackles Indoor Air Contaminants and Pollutants

Published on: December 11, 2014
UV Lights | Tackle indoor contaminants and pollutants | AC Southeast®

The typical household’s air is littered with contaminants and micro-organisms that cause harm to health, home and the energy budget. Removing, destroying or neutralizing micro-organisms, such as mold spores and germs, requires an effective and continuous indoor air quality strategy, such as an ultraviolet (UV) light system. Keep reading to learn how UV lights can bring the natural air-cleansing effects of the sun into your HVAC system and home, and revitalize your indoor air quality.

What Are UV Light Systems?

UV light systems mimic the sun’s natural air purification properties. UV light emitted from the sun helps purify outside air, which is partly the reason why even outside city air is cleaner than the air inside the typical home.

UV light systems use a form of shortwave radiation that kills up to 99.9 percent of germs in air, water and food. UV lights are used in water treatment plants, food processing plants, medical facilities, schools and more. UV lights were first used in industry about 100 years ago, but their application for residential use is still relatively new to many homeowners.

How UV Light Systems Work to Your Advantage

The three classifications of indoor airborne contaminants are particulates, chemical vapors/odors and micro-organisms. Without intervention, all of these contaminants have negative and harmful effects on the quality of life and home. Where media and carbon filters target particulates, vapors and odors, UV light systems target airborne micro-organisms as they circulate through the air ducts.

When mold spores, viruses, bacteria and germs come into contact with UV lights inside air ducts, the shortwave radiation penetrates the micro-organism and alters the genetic structure, which effectively destroys it or disrupts its reproductive and growth abilities. There’s no messy residue or air filters to change, and operation is silent yet powerful.

Is Your Indoor Air Quality at Risk?

To fully understand the benefits of using UV lights in your Southeast U.S. home, you need a clear understanding of the harm micro-organisms and germs can cause to health, HVAC efficiency and home.

  • Health and indoor air quality: Indoor air quality has a significant role in the health and comfort of household members. Micro-organisms can exacerbate respiratory ailments, such as asthma, allergies and COPD. Illness and fatigue can disrupt home and work schedules. Tightly-sealed homes are especially susceptible to trapping and harboring micro-organisms and contaminants.
  • HVAC efficiency:Mold, mildew and bacteria aren’t finicky about their habitats. They need moisture, a food source and not too much sunlight. The typical HVAC system supplies all three requirements for harboring and sustaining the growth of micro-organisms on the surfaces of components. Mold and mildew growth on A/C or heat pump components hinders heating and cooling efficiency, which costs you more in energy bills. The growth of micro-organisms on HVAC components leads to foul odors and re-circulation to the living spaces.
  • Home:Airborne viruses and germs settle on the surfaces in the living spaces, including furnishings, kitchenware, bedding, clothing and home structure. Germs are easily agitated and spread from room to room and person to person, such as during cleaning and other activities. Mold and mildew growth can crop up on walls, inside walls, on clothing and any other porous material. Damage created by mold and mildew is a costly expense to remedy.

Best Practices for Installation and Maintenance

UV light systems are most effective for protecting HVAC components when they’re installed inside the return-side air ducts as close as possible to the A/C or heat pump coil. Strategic placement is important to protect the coil from the usual buildup of mold, algae and slime that act as breeding grounds for microbes and bacteria. Even a thin layer of mold and contaminants on the coil substantially reduces airflow contact, which means less efficient heating and cooling and higher energy bills.

Work closely with your HVAC professional to know your options for UV light systems, including irradiation dose, system design and maintenance. Generally speaking, UV lights last 1 to 2 years, though replacement lighting is relatively inexpensive. Replacement should be performed by your HVAC professional during, perhaps, fall or spring preventive maintenance of your A/C, heat pump, furnace, air ducts and/or water heater.

Keep in mind that UV lights aren’t designed to capture particulates like a regular air filter. Match your new UV light system with a nice mid-efficiency filter for best results.

To learn more about the benefits of installing UV lights, please contact us at AirConditioningSouthEast.com to speak with one of our HVAC partners near you.