Everyone is concerned about indoor air quality these days (and those who aren’t, should be). It’s been proven both in research and real-world experience that ultraviolet light can have a real impact on indoor air quality. UV light for HVAC systems requires some up-front investment, either as a retrofit or in a new system installation. To convince your customers to make the initial investment, it’s important to advise on how HVAC UV light installation has a definite payoff by making a home or commercial building more efficient and most importantly, a more healthy place to be.
How does UV lighting work in HVAC systems?
There’s more than one variation of UV light; the different types of UV are classified by their wavelengths into UVA, UVB and UVC. Without getting too deep into the science of it, UVA is what you see when you use a black light, UVB is the solar radiation that causes sunburns and skin cancer, and UVC (with its shorter wavelength) is what’s used to kill microorganisms.
The problem with UVC is that, while it’s naturally generated by the sun, it’s trapped by the ozone layer before it can reach the earth’s surface. The photons of UVC radiation are energetic enough to damage the RNA of viruses, bacteria and spores, but being able to take advantage of HVAC UV light benefits is a bit more complicated.
UV lights for HVAC function like a fluorescent lamp, except that rather than producing light in the visible spectrum, their output is in the UVC bandwidth.
We’ve already touched on the health benefits of incorporating germicidal UV light for HVAC (and will expand on that a bit), but here are the benefits from adding UV lights for HVAC:
- Enhanced energy efficiency
- Cost-effective investment
- Improved airflow
- Improved air quality
Enhanced energy efficiency
A residential or commercial HVAC system is responsible for a large portion of every energy bill. Spread out over the entire service life of the system, HVAC UV light installation can contribute as much as a 35 percent savings in energy use. One of the reasons any HVAC system’s performance starts to degrade is contamination that accumulates around the coils, the ducts and other parts of the system. Introducing UV light will help keep the system clean and running efficiently through its life cycle.
With an eye toward the long game, a UV installation will pay for itself in energy savings. It’s important to note, though, that not all HVAC systems are good candidates for UV light. A number of factors have an impact such as reflectivity of surfaces, the number and intensity of UV lamps, their placement and several other factors all figure into a retrofit of UV lighting, and should only be evaluated by a professional technician. Of course, a home that has UV light for HVAC built into the system can also be a lot more attractive to a potential buyer when it’s sale time (especially in an overheated real estate market).
The flipside of that reduced buildup of biofilm, mold and other contaminants on drain pans, air filters, coils and ducts is a nice boost in the volume of air that can make its way through, in both heating and cooling modes. That’s all part of the package of increased energy efficiency and lower maintenance that goes along with UV light for an HVAC system.
HVAC systems are something your customers tend to take for granted. They greatly improve comfort in any home or commercial building, but they also are notorious for recirculating spores, viruses and bacteria in the air. Regular filtration systems can go a long way toward trapping or eliminating these contaminants, but a properly installed UV germicidal lighting setup can scramble the DNA of those pathogens and effectively kill them off.
Like we mentioned above, not every HVAC system can be refitted with UV lights. For the ones that can (or for new installations), here are a couple of options:
- Coil UV lights: HVAC techs know that the condensation on indoor coils is an invitation for dust, fuzz and mold growth. A UV light installation that’s directed right at the coils can be enough to disrupt and prevent mold from forming and accumulating.
- Ductwork lights: Ducts are another place where mold and dust can start to thrive and send allergens through the whole house. Ductwork UV lights can be installed directly into the system and are wired to turn on or off along with the blower motor, although these systems are a bit pricier.
Here are some estimates to advise on the component and installation costs for HVAC UV lights:
- Coil UV lights: $60-285
- Installation: $110-250
- Lamp cost: $10-60
- Energy cost: $15-30
- Air sanitizing lights: $80-400
- Installation cost: $150-300
And of course, UV lighting setups shouldn’t take the place of normal HVAC maintenance like regular filter changes, keeping the air handler and coils clean, cleaning vents and registers and being mindful of leaks.
The one big downside of HVAC UV lighting systems
One thing that has to be mentioned in any discussion of UV systems for HVAC: ozone.
The shorter wavelength/higher energy radiation of UVC can break oxygen molecules up and form ozone, which is an indoor air pollutant that can cause throat irritation, shortness of breath, chest pains and can aggravate asthma and respiratory diseases. The good news is that ozone doesn’t have to be a problem; the type of glass used in the lamp is a crucial factor.
A UV lamp that is regular quartz glass or “soft glass” will allow all of the ozone-forming frequencies of UVC to pass through. Quartz glass that has been doped with titanium, though, will absorb that harmful UVC and head off the problem. It’s important to be specific about the type of light that’s to be used, and UL has a standard for testing and labeling the type of lamps you’ll want to incorporate in an HVAC system.
If you have any questions or would like to consult with our team, we’re here for you. We strive to go above and beyond to service our customers. We dedicate ourselves to fostering close, ongoing relationships in order to help customers grow their business. While offering only the highest-quality HVAC equipment and parts, we can provide you with the advice and expertise you need. Contact Us!
NuComfort LLC is a wholesale distributor of both commercial and residential HVAC systems. We also stock a full line of accessories and replacement parts. We have a long history of satisfied customers, and are ready to serve you from our three Chicagoland locations in Glendale Heights, Chicago and Crestwood.