UV Lights: One Method to Improve Your Building’s Indoor Air Quality
Reducing the levels of solid particles in the air we breathe is a vital part of maintaining adequate indoor air quality. Air filters and cleaning systems are effective at removing the dust, pollen, mold, fibers and other microscopic fragments that can trigger or worsen respiratory conditions and make us uncomfortable. When it comes to the microorganisms in our air that can spread disease, filtration systems are less reliable at removing tiny living creatures such as germs, viruses and bacteria. Ultraviolet (UV) light is an extremely effective add-on to an existing filtration system. UV lights are highly efficient at killing disease-causing microorganisms before they have the chance to spread throughout your living environment or in your body.
What is UV light?
UV light is a type of light with a frequency that is just below the visible spectrum. It cannot be seen by human eyes, yet it is a very powerful disinfectant. UV light is used in settings where indoor air quality is critical and where the chance of infection, the spread of disease or contamination by microorganisms must be kept at a minimum. Hospitals use UV lights to sterilize surgical instruments, operating rooms and patients’ rooms. Food production plants use UV light to ensure sanitary conditions in food preparation, handling and packing areas. Manufacturing facilities use UV light to keep production environments clean and sterile.
How UV lights work
When UV light shines on microorganisms such as germs, viruses, fungi and bacteria, the light causes irreversible damage to the creatures’ DNA, the genetic material needed for reproduction. UV light breaks down the molecular bonds in the DNA, making it useless. Without DNA, the microorganisms cannot reproduce and cannot invade and spread within your body to cause disease and discomfort. In many cases, the UV treatment kills the organisms outright.
In an HVAC context, UV lights are most often installed in or near your building’s forced-air heating or cooling system. As heated and cooled air moves through the HVAC system, it is routed into the UV unit. Inside the UV unit, the light shines on microorganisms in the airflow, killing the creatures or rendering them unable to reproduce. Once treated and sanitized, the air flows out of the UV unit and continues on its way through the HVAC system ductwork to points throughout your home.
Another way that UV lights are used in HVAC systems is by being placed where they can provide direct surface disinfection in areas that are likely to harbor or produce microorganisms. These surfaces include the HVAC unit’s coil, drain pans and air handler. If harmful microorganisms are destroyed before they can reach the air handler, it is much less likely that they will be dislodged and carried along on conditioned air to your home and its occupants.
To be effective, microorganisms must be directly exposed to the UV light. Partial or limited exposure will not result in effective disinfection. A few seconds of exposure is usually all it takes for UV lights to be effective, however.
Other benefits of UV lights
- UV lights can remove many types of disease-causing microorganisms before they have a chance to affect you. Some types of spores and bacteria are more resistant to UV light, but on the whole, UV disinfection and sterilization systems will dramatically improve your indoor air quality.
- In combination with a high-efficiency filtration system, UV lights can remove the majority of the microorganisms that make your indoor air irritating and unhealthful.
Our goal is to help educate our customers about Plumbing, HVACR, Fire Protection and Alarm Systems in Mechanical, Commercial and Residential settings. For more information about the importance of UV lights in maintaining indoor air quality and to view projects we’ve worked on, visit our website!
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