The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic has renewed discussions and debates on the efficiency of UV light as a sanitizer and killer of bacteria.
Ultraviolet, or UV, light is a type of electromagnetic radiation that emits more energy than visible light but less energy than gamma or X-rays. Solar ultraviolet that comes from sunlight is the most common form of UV light, but artificial sources such as arc welding and tanning beds may also produce this type of electromagnetic radiation. UV radiation from sunlight can be further classified into three categories based on their wavelengths: UV-A, UV-B and UV-C.
Of these three, UV-C has the shortest wavelength and is best known for its germicidal capabilities that enable it to destroy contaminants found on surfaces, in the air or even in liquid. UV-C radiation coming from the sun no longer reaches the Earth’s surface as the ozone layer blocks it. As a result, the only way we can get exposed to UV-C is through artificial sources. This is where UV-C lamps come into play, particularly in killing micropollutants and preventing them from growing back.
Widely used to sanitize and disinfect workspaces and medical facilities, UV-C penetrates the airflow by producing rays that are strong enough to create an inhospitable environment for biological contaminants such as virus, molds and bacteria. The method of disinfecting the air and surfaces through UV lights is called ultraviolet germicidal irrigation systems or UVGI.
UV lamps that are integrated into an HVAC system are just one of the many applications of UV-C. If you often experience asthma attacks and allergies due to your indoor air quality, then it may be worth investing in a nice UV light sanitizer for your HVAC system, which is highly vulnerable to the formation of bacteria, molds and other biological contaminants. Just like when buying a fuel transfer tank, a plasma cutter or an engine-driven welder, you should be well informed before purchasing a UV light for HVAC or furnace systems.
Because UV-C produces the most energy, being directly exposed to it is extremely harmful. It can cause severe skin burns and eye injuries. Studies also show that improper use of UV-C lamps may contribute to skin cancer and cataracts. Nevertheless, UV-C has many applications that can be very beneficial if done properly. In this article, we will give you 10 of the best UV light sanitizer for your HVAC and furnace systems, including their main features, pros, and cons. We will also give tips on choosing the right product for your needs, as well as a pricing benchmark for UV light installation.
10 Best UV Light for HVAC and Furnace Systems
Retailing for less than $100, this Reko Lighting UV air sanitizer needs to be hooked up to a 24-volt transformer. It uses a 14-inch germicidal UV bulb, which requires replacement every six months, depending on usage. You can easily find bulb replacements for this particular brand, leaving you with no hassle of having to scour different online stores to look for a fit light. It is designed to clean coils but can also do a pretty decent job in getting rid of airborne bacteria.
Pros: This product has a magnetic bracket so it can easily be installed without the need for any professional contractor. It is also very affordable.
Cons: You may need to buy a dedicated HVAC transformer to install this unit.
If you are looking for an affordable UV light sanitizer that does its job, then you may consider Bio Shield’s 50-BUVAS-E. Retailing for a little more than $120, this product features a 17-inch UV-C lamp developed by Philips and runs on 25 watts. A 12-inch variant is also available. This is a straightforward product that promises to destroy asthma- and flu-causing contaminants, as well as boost the performance of your HVAC system. It likewise removes biofilms found on AC coils to make them more efficient. It is best for killing molds found on coils but it can also be installed close to the return air duct to help clean the airflow. This unit comes with a two-year warranty.
Pros: This product is easy to install and is energy-efficient. It works best for coil sterilization.
Cons: If you are looking for extra features such as an LED indicator or added sensors, then this product may not be for you.
Another budget friendly product is the Honeywell UV100A1059 UV Surface Treatment System, which promises to destroy 99.9% of molds on HVAC coils as well as airborne bacteria. It is also effective in reducing mildew and getting rid of that unwanted smell coming from your AC. The lamp of this UV light would not work unless the base is properly mounted on the duct — a mechanism that can be considered as one of its built-in safety features. Running on 36 watts, Honeywell UV100A1059 has a light pipe to let you see the lamp operation. It does not emit ozone and instead produces uninterrupted ultraviolet energy. One of the best things about this product is its ease of installation, requiring only two screw holes and a larger hole for the bulb. This product comes with a five-year limited warranty.
Pros: Installing this product is easy and takes about 10 minutes on average. Lamp replacement can also be done quickly (recommended replacement is once a year).
Cons: It does not have any airflow sensor.
Retailing for under $100, REKO Lighting R2000 Air Purifier produces deadly UV rays to obliterate mildew, fungi and molds, and prevent them from coming back. It suits air systems with a capacity of 1 to 5 tons. It comes with two high-efficiency, UV-C-enabled bulbs that last 9,000 hours each and a 9-foot long power cord. This REKO Purifier has an easy installation process that will take about 15 minutes on average. You only need to drill two tiny holes in the duct, plug it into the wall and you are done. This is recommended if you are looking for a UV light sanitizer for your HVAC system minus the complicated installation requirements.
Pros: This product is energy-saving and is easy to install.
Cons: It does not have any built-in features found on more expensive products.
Like the OS36PRO, the OS14412PRO1 UV Air Purifier from OdorStop has a sensor that activates the unit only when airflow is detected. Make sure to install this UV air purifier where there is sufficient airflow to ensure that the sensor is working. The OS36PRO also has LED indicators for the bulbs and produces energy at the 254nm wavelength. This product comes with a choice of four 12-inch or 16-inch bulbs that run at 36 watts. The 16-inch bulbs fit ducts that are more than 17 inches in depth.
The bulbs can be used all at once or just one at a time, depending on your preference. It can cover up to 20,000 square feet if all four bulbs are operating. You may consider hiring an HVAC contractor to install this product, but if you plan on doing it on your own, you must prepare a drill, metal hole saw, nut driver and a drill bit.
Pros: This unit is flexible when it comes to the bulb’s length. You can use 8-inch bulbs or the 16-inch variants that already come with the unit.
Cons: The operational cost of this product may be relatively higher than its counterparts.
This Pure UV model combines UV light and activated carbon to trap particles, allowing it to effectively clean and purify the airflow. It works well not only in eliminating molds or mildew, but also in getting rid of bad kitchen odors.
This product features a magnetic bracket that allows for a smooth installation, helping you save up on any professional installer fees. The unit itself needs to be installed inside the HVAC system’s air handler, and its wire needs to be plugged into a 110-volt outlet.
Pros: It is easy to install and is affordable.
Cons: It requires a single lamp or bulb that has a relatively short lifespan of six months.
OdorStop OS36PRO has various built-in features to make air purification a little more convenient. One standout is the airflow sensor that turns on the unit only when the HVAC system is running, thus saving on energy consumption. OS36PRO also comes with LED indicators to let you know whether the bulb and other components are working properly. Its 16-inch bulb runs on 36 watts at the 254nm wavelength. The unit is housed in ABS plastic, and comes with a six-foot power cord. It can purify areas spanning up to 5,000 square feet.
One thing to appreciate about this product is its easy installation. It comes with a manual, foam tape, mounting screws and a cut-out template. To install, simply cut out the sheet metal, drill the holes, insert the unit and plug it in. This product has a two-year limited warranty.
Pros: It is energy-efficient and easy to install. The bulb can also be replaced easily without the aid of an HVAC contractor.
Cons: An outlet is required close to where the unit is installed.
Another entry from RGF, this product does a fantastic job of cleaning the airflow within an average-sized house. It needs to be installed below the air handler, preferably with the help of a professional contractor. It is effective in eliminating airborne contaminants, as well as in minimizing bad odor within the household. This product comes with a transformer and a power cord.
Pros: This product both cleans the air and minimizes unwanted odor.
Cons: You need to hire a certified installer if you want the product’s warranty to be valid.
If you have some extra budget, you may want to consider Honeywell’s UV Air Purifier UV2400U500 for your property’s HVAC system. This model adopts the same quality of UV lights used in hospitals and establishments to fight off micropollutants. It boasts of Honeywell’s AirBRIGHT odor absorption technology to get rid of mold spores and maintain the HVAC system’s efficiency. On the average, the model’s bulbs need to be changed once a year, making it a more cost-efficient option than counterparts that require replacement at least every six months. This model can treat the air in areas spanning approximately 2,500 square feet. It is highly recommended if you want to get rid of pathogens that an ordinary air purifier is unable to eliminate.
Pros: This model is very efficient not only in cleaning the air but also in eliminating unwanted smell, thanks to its odor absorption technology. This product is a recommended buy for this reason alone.
Cons: You may need an electrician or an HVAC contractor to install this UV light air sanitizer.
RGF Reme Halo boasts the next-generation indoor air quality technology and produces higher ionized hydroperoxide output. This allows the product to eliminate chemical odors and the build-up of virus, mold and bacteria. It also has new zinc ions that are said to effectively destroy viruses found on surfaces. It also adopts two quick-release features that allows the user to replace the cell or lights without any tools. Unlike other air purifiers, Reme Halo performs its tasks whether or not the blower motor is running, allowing you to save up on energy consumption. It can be used virtually anywhere that uses a ducted HVAC system including hospitals, nursing homes, residential areas and office buildings. This product has a five-year warranty for the system and two years for the bulb. But note that it must be installed by a professional technician for you to be able to use the warranty.
Pros: It works with or without the blower motor running. Its light bulbs are easily replaceable.
Cons: You may need to hire a professional technician to install this product, which in turn may jack up the cost.
Do HVAC UV light purifiers really work?
There are tons of research and studies that prove the efficacy of UV light as a disinfectant. In fact, UV light is widely used for medical and household sanitation to destroy bacteria and fungi that are exposed to light with short wavelengths. Given the vulnerability of an HVAC system to the build-up of bacteria and other biological pollutants, it is highly recommended to use UV light purifiers to get rid of these contaminants. To guarantee efficacy, a UV light purifier for your HVAC system must be installed properly and using the correct UV band. The best wavelength spectrum to achieve germicidal efficiency is UV-C, a type of UV light that runs on the C bandwidth. The efficacy of your UV light purifier will also depend on the type of its application and installation. There are two types of UV light installation for your HVAC system: air sterilization and coil sterilization.
Air sterilization uses UV-C light to treat the airflow as it moves around the return ducts. This method is recommended if you want to maximize the use of UV-C light and allow it to cover all directions. Air-sterilizing UV light requires more energy and therefore uses bulbs with higher wattage. On the other hand, coil sterilization targets hard-to-reach but stationary areas and sensitive components. This method prevents microbial growth on coils, filters, condensation pans and other surfaces that are vulnerable to the build-up of pollutants.
Does UV light kill mold?
Molds are a common household problem that should be taken seriously especially if many of your appliances or parts of your home are vulnerable to moisture. While molds help to decompose dead plants, they can be harmful once their spores enter the air and are inhaled by someone. Thankfully, this can now be remedied through tools that use UV light.
If designed properly and under the right conditions, these tools that use UV light can kill bacteria, fungus, molds and other biological pollutants found on moist surfaces. With shorter wavelengths than visible light, UV light produces electromagnetic radiation that enters through microorganisms and kills them. Once ultraviolet rays penetrate mold cells, they attack the nucleic acids, target their DNA and inactivate them so that they will no longer be able to reproduce. UV light that runs on the C bandwidth is best known for its ability to disinfect water, air and other nonporous surfaces. Hence, if you see an air purifier or a sanitation tool that is based on UV-C, then this is the type that is most effective when getting rid of molds.
What do UV lights do in HVAC?
UV light targets contaminants such as airborne microbes, bacteria, molds and viruses within the HVAC system. It produces UV rays similar to the ones that cause sunburn but at a more concentrated rate. UV light primarily kills bacteria and oxidizes the air for a fresher and cleaner circulation. To facilitate this, UV light zaps all harmful contaminants that pass through the air ducts while the AC is running. Aside from cleaning the air, UV light also helps lengthen the lifespan of an HVAC system. Buying UV lights for your HVAC system is a great investment regardless if you have a health condition that makes you sensitive to air contaminants. It
Air purifier versus UV light
For a beginner, the difference between a UV sanitizer and an air purifier might be blurred. Some people might even think that a UV sanitizer is just another marketing ploy aimed at milking money from unknowing germaphobes. But a quick research will make you realize why one product is better than the other. In this section, we will discuss the main features of each product, how they differ from each other, their advantages and disadvantages, and which is the most beneficial.
As mentioned in the previous sections, UV sanitizer uses ultraviolet light to destroy contaminants in the air and on the surface. It also targets those contaminants to prevent their growth. On the other hand, an air purifier adopts a series of ions or filters to get rid of microorganisms.
A UV air sanitizer is recommended for use in humid environments for killing molds. It emits almost zero ozone and can easily be attached to an existing HVAC system. An air purifier, meanwhile, works best in removing dust and pollen. It can also be added to an existing HVAC system like UV light sanitizer. However, an air purifier is not effective in getting rid of all biological pollutants, particularly mildew and molds. It also needs a fan that constantly runs within the HVAC system for it to work.
Some people have a misconception over the use of UV air sanitizers, fearing that being exposed to ultraviolet would pose a great danger. But do not let these misinformation prevent you from considering a UV light for your HVAC system. While this technology uses rays that are strong enough to destroy biological pollutants, the level of radiation in the HVAC system is unlikely to cause any health concerns to humans. Additionally, you would not even be exposed to the UV lights as they are already installed inside the HVAC system.
While an air purifier and a UV light sanitizer are both beneficial, the latter is more effective if your home gets humid during the summer. A UV light is also more energy-efficient than an air purifier since it does not require the HVAC fan to be constantly running. Some advanced UV light sanitizers even have a sensor that turns on the bulb or lamp only when the HVAC system is operating. Lastly, a UV light is what you need if you want to eliminate mold or mildew. Now, that you have an idea about the main differences between a UV light sanitizer and an air purifier, you may want to read our article on waste oil heaters, which are also great household investment.
How much does it cost to install UV light in your HVAC?
Installing UV light in your HVAC system may not be as easy as flushing a radiator or setting up your Thermo King alarm codes. You may even consider getting the help of a professional to help you install UV light in your HVAC instead of performing it DIY-style. On the average, the cost of installation starts at $100 and can go as high as $3,000. There are several factors that affect the price of installation such as the output of the UV light, the specific purpose of installing it and the features of the overall UV light system.
UV-C light that produces energy at the 253.7nm wavelength, which is the ideal range for a germicidal light to work effectively, is more expensive than systems that emit energy below the said threshold. However, it is not recommended to buy a system that produces low amounts of the recommended 253.7nm wavelength because there is a chance that the product will be ineffective in killing pollutants and preventing their regrowth.
Another factor that affects the price is the purpose of your UV light and what they clean inside the HVAC system. Air-sterilizing UV light is more expensive than its on-coil counterpart because it requires bulbs with higher wattage. Since it cleans pollutants found in the airstream, air-sterilizing UV light needs to be powerful enough to kill those contaminants within the split second that they go through the UV-C. While the two require different levels of wattage, they have the same operational costs.
The features of the UV light product may also influence the overall cost. Some of the features that may jack up the price include an LED status display, an automatic sensor for troubleshooting and an odor oxidizer. Lastly, the cost of your installation will depend on whether you choose to hire a professional or do it yourself. On the average, having a professional installer may add $100 to $300 to your overall cost. But while it may be tempting to do it DIY style, keep in mind the risks when doing so. Some manufacturers may also void the product’s warrant if the installation is not done by a professional technician.
Where do you put UV light in HVAC?
While a UV light does not take as much space as a wide belt sander or a portable sawmill, deciding on the best place to mount it is very important. The air handler is the most recommended place to install UV light within the HVAC system since this is where the air will pass through. However, you may also consider the return air duct or other strategic locations within the ductwork. When deciding on when to install the UV light, keep in mind that the product works best around reflective areas and in connection with high-efficiency filtration systems. You should also always consult the manufacturer’s manual to achieve the product’s best performance as well as to reduce health hazards.