An HVAC unit can regulate temperatures to enhance comfort in your home. However, your heating and cooling system cannot effectively eliminate microbial organisms from the interior. With the rising concerns about indoor pollution, manufacturers have been working on technologies to destroy microbes. In this article, we look at how IAQ products use ultraviolet rays to keep your home safe.
Why Use Ultra-Violet Light?
The term ultraviolet implies that the light is above the violet color wavelength. UV radiation from the sun rays is visible to the human eye. But many of its rays are beyond the perception of humans. Even though the light waves are generally harmless, the atmosphere blocks the harmful rays of UV radiation.
The Ultraviolet light that is beyond human perception is usually between 100 and 400 nm (nanometers). Under that spectrum, UV radiation can be in three categories: UV-A, UV-B, UV-C.
UV-A light has a longer wavelength than UV-B and UV-C and is less effective at killing microbes than the two. Even though UV-B is more effective than UV-A, it is more harmful and not as powerful as UV-C.
UV-C light has the shortest wavelength, meaning it produces the most energy in the shortest time. As such, UV-C has many applications across industries where eliminating microbes is essential. It has applications in water treatment plants and commercial disinfection.
UV-Lamps for Indoor Air Quality
UV lamps in IAQ appliances use the more energetic UV-C radiation to get rid of microbes in your home. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, indoor pollution can be three to five times higher than the atmosphere outside. UV lamps are an uncomplicated and cost-effective way to get rid of contaminants and allergens.
How does ultraviolet light kill microbes? Since UV-C light has a lot of energy, it can destroy the DNA of microorganisms. Viruses and bacteria have a single cell that heavily relies on its DNA to survive. By zapping the DNA with radiation, you effectively kill the microbes.
A similar process takes place when you have a sunburn. The intense radiation annihilates the DNA of the cells on the surface of your skin. The swelling and wounds are from the cells the UV rays destroy, causing inflammation.
Installation of Germicidal UV Lamp
You can install a germicidal UV light in your HVAC system to enhance its function against microbes. The application of ultraviolet radiation varies across industries. But for homes, the lamp uses a UV-C wavelength of 250nm. When air from the outdoors passes through the light, it destroys the cellular structure of incoming microorganisms.
Placement of the UV lamp is crucial, and it is usually on the coils or inside your ductwork. If the rays do not shine directly over the microorganism, they may not sufficiently destroy microbes. Otherwise, a professional installation will be effective against mold spores, fungi, bacteria, and other allergens in your home.
Safety and Precautions for UV Light Products
UV-C light is invisible to the human eye, yet it can be harmful if there’s exposure to parts of your body. It can cause serious eye injuries and can burn your skin. It is advisable to avoid ever looking directly at the lamp.
Even a brief exposure to the light can cause severe eye injuries. That’s why it is critical to consult a certified indoor air quality technician to troubleshoot your HVAC unit. Rite Way Heating, Cooling & Plumbing can respond promptly whenever your system has technical issues in Tucson.
Depending on environmental variables, UV light can become less effective. For example, humidity and temperature may force the system to work at its optimal level of performance. Additionally, your IAQ lamp will need an annual replacement based on the model of the appliance.
As such, the installation must be done by a professional indoor air quality expert. They have the experience to evaluate the variable in your home to ensure the system is efficient. You can consult Rite Way Heating, Cooling & Plumbing for quality IAQ services in Tucson.
Factors that affect UV-C lamps anti-microbial properties:
- The intensity of the radiation from the lamp
- The temperature of the lamp when air is passing over it
- The duration of light exposure
- Whether microorganisms are exposed to the light
Another issue with using UV light is the generation of ozone. It is important to note that UV-C rays at about 250 nm do not generate the toxic gas. But a shorter wavelength may react with oxygen to produce unstable 03 atoms.
According to the American Lung Association, Ozone can lead to severe respiratory complications. Even below the current levels, the ozone molecules can get into the lungs and react chemically with the cells. For that reason, you ought to acquire an appliance that uses standard UV-C lamps and not the shorter wavelengths.
UV-C lights can also cause certain materials such as plastic and dyed textile to degenerate. The lamp usually contains mercury which can be toxic if the glass breaks. You should, therefore, apply caution when cleaning your equipment. The task should preferably be handled by a certified indoor air quality specialist.
The Limitations of Ultraviolet Light Disinfection
Like many systems, ultraviolet light disinfection has its limitation when it comes to inactivating microorganisms and contaminants. For example, mold spores need intense light over an extended duration to be effective. Most residential systems have a low-intensity lamp, which cannot be reliable in getting rid of microbes.
Additionally, you cannot eliminate some pollutants like VOCs using light systems only. VOCs are amongst the most prevalent indoor air pollutants found in the home. Your IAQ specialist may recommend using the UV lamp with an appropriate filter to remove all the allergens in your home.
It is also worth noting that there are other types of lamps with varying levels of germicidal properties. Other than mercury lamps, some systems may use LED lights which consumes less power and is more cost-effective to install. However, they produce low-intensity illumination with a limited capacity to inactivate microbes.
Another type of lamp is the Xenon pulsed light. It produces pulses of light, and it is more effective than LEDs. One of the shortcomings of xenon lights is that they require specialized installation to work with your existing system. The installation costs can be prohibitive for many homeowners.
Benefits of UV Germicidal Lamps
Despite their limitations, UV light is one of the safest and cost-effective ways to eliminate indoor allergens. Research on the use of UV-C to kill microbes began more than a decade ago. Studies confirm that it can kill bacteria, viruses, and fungi.
Even though it not the most effective against mold spores, it can inhibit their growth in your ductwork. Your ductwork can be a host for microorganisms like fungi and mold. UV-C light is an effective method of getting rid of pollutants without using chemical agents or sophisticated equipment.
If you’re looking for an effective indoor air quality solution in Tucson, you can depend on Rite Way Heating, Cooling & Plumbing. Our mission is to “Help Our Customers Live More Comfortably in Their Homes.” We also offer duct cleaning, repair, and mini-split systems. Our BBB A+ rated team can perform an energy audit to ensure your home is energy efficient. Talk to our acclaimed indoor air quality team for exceptional solutions in Tucson.