Air ConditioningAre UV Air Purifiers Worth It?

The idea of purifying the air continues to be a topical consideration. However, there is a lot of confusion about what that means precisely and how to do it effectively. This confusion leads to many options for achieving that goal and even more discussion about which type is best to use. There are various types of filters, and different air purifiers can be purchased for either a single room or as an added feature in a whole-house HVAC system. One option that has received a lot of attention recently is the ultraviolet air purifier. If you have looked at these devices at all, you know that they are not inexpensive. The obvious questions, of course, are whether they really work and if they are worth the money. Let’s take a closer look.

What Is the Difference Between UV Purifiers and Filters?

The first thing to realize about air filters and purifiers is that one type of device does not take the place of the other. Rather, they work in tandem for best results. A filter does exactly what the name implies. It filters out larger particles in the air. These particles could be dust, dust mites, mold spores, allergens or other substances. What air filters do not handle well are airborne contaminants smaller than the pores of the filter. These small particles may be viruses, bacteria and other microbes. For example, HEPA filters are top of the line, and they are rated to filter 99.7% of particles 0.3 microns and larger. Those of the Coronavirus, however, are approximately 0.125 microns. This is where air purifiers come into the picture. The idea of a purifier is to help render these living particles inert so they do not affect your health or cause other problems like odors. Within the purifier category are ultraviolet, ionic and activated carbon, just to name a few. All of these have been scientifically tested for their ability to purify air, and they have varying degrees of effectiveness. Ultraviolet light is best. It has been used for decades to sterilize things like medical utensils. Now that same technology is being put to use in managing indoor air quality.

How Do UV Air Purifiers Work?

UV radiation has been used for a long time for various sanitation applications. UV refers to ultraviolet light, also known as ultraviolet radiation. This light comes in three wavelengths: A, B and C. The most damaging for human tissue is the shortest form, the UV-C. Fortunately, the earth’s ozone prevents solar UV-C from reaching the surface. This is also the wavelength the best UV air purifiers use. This ultraviolet radiation breaks down the molecular bond in the DNA, rendering biological contaminants like viruses and bacteria inert. This is also what helps to break down odor-causing molecules. Air is either drawn or forced through a tube that contains an ultraviolet light source. When activated, the bulb will either produce a bluish light or no perceivable light at all, depending on the emitter material.

How Effective Are UV Air Purifiers?

Air purifiers work in an almost imperceptible way, so it is natural to question whether one is working. With a filter, you can easily see over time the debris it is collecting from the air passing through. Purifiers, on the other hand, do not pull anything out of the air. Rather, they render living organisms inert. Yes, UV air purifiers do work if they actually emit the ultraviolet radiation they claim to. However, the question truly becomes if they are emitting that type of radiation. Some cheap models have a blue light but do not emit any UV radiation. Even if they do emit UV radiation, the next question is what wavelength they are emitting. The longer UV-A and UV-B wavelengths are not adequate to effectively render a virus inert. Sterilization requires the shorter UV-C wavelength. Unfortunately, there is little way to test this on your own without expensive equipment or possibly causing serious bodily harm. In that case, you are best to review third-party tests to see which models are going to be the most effective.

Does the Equipment Come in Various Sizes?

UV air purifiers are available in both single-room units and those that are installed directly into your heating and cooling system. Your specific needs and situation will determine which is best to achieve the results you desire. Room-size purifiers are going to be much less expensive than their full-house counterparts. These are usually in combination units that also have a HEPA filter. They can accommodate anywhere from 200 to 500 square feet or more, depending on the unit. Larger units are installed into the HVAC system. With these, there are generally two options available. One is installed near the air conditioner’s evaporator coil. This is a prime location for mold and bacteria to develop because of the constant moisture when the AC is running. Other possible locations are in the ductwork or the air handler. In either case, the placement of this type is before the heat exchanger or evaporator coil. On the higher end of these options are units that are hardwired into the system to turn on and off with the circulating fan. This helps reduce operating costs since the lights are not constantly running.

What Are the Risks of UV Purifiers?

It seems as though using light to purify the air should be safe, but there are some side effects that you should be aware of. UV-C has been shown to produce ozone. It breaks apart regular O2 molecules into individual oxygen atoms, and these reform into a three-atom molecule, O3, which is also known as ozone. Ozone negatively impacts the respiratory system. It can cause shortness of breath, chest pain and coughing. It can also exacerbate underlying respiratory conditions like asthma. Unfortunately, ozone detectors are very expensive, leaving you wondering how much may be produced by your UV air purifier. Some purifiers take this into account and apply a coating to help reduce ozone production. Be sure to read all of the details about the unit you are considering, or work with a qualified air quality specialist at MM Comfort Systems.

Is It Worth the Investment?

The question of value for the investment depends on a lot of factors in your unique situation. For most people who do not have underlying health conditions, a purifier may not be warranted. However, if you live in an area prone to viral and microbial contamination or you are susceptible to lung infections, then it could definitely be worth the investment. MM Comfort Systems provides expert guidance for the Greater Seattle area on which UV purifiers will give you the purest air quality with the least risk.

Reliable Air Quality Specialists

The team at MM Comfort Systems has been serving the Greater Seattle area for more than 40 years. We not only provide air quality expertise but also offer heating and cooling installation, repair and maintenance. No matter what you need to make your indoor environment more comfortable, MM Comfort Systems has the knowledge and equipment to make it happen. Give us a call today to schedule your consultation.


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