How To Improve Air Quality

Germicidal ultraviolet C devices (UVC) devices installed in HVAC (Heating, ventilating and air conditioning) systems provide an innovative and effective tool for helping to improve air quality.   Here are five things you should know about UVC:

1. How does UVC work?

The C wavelength is the most germicidal in the UV spectrum.  It targets the DNA of microorganisms, destroying cells or making replication impossible.  Directed at a cooling coil or drain pan in an HVAC system, UVC energy destroys surface biofilm, a gluey matrix of microorganisms (bacteria, fungi, debris, etc.) that grows in the presence of moisture.  Biofilm is widely prevalent in HVAC systems and leads to a host of indoor air quality and operational problems that are sometimes mistakenly attributed soley to mold.  UVC also destroys airborne viruses and bacterial that circulate through the system.

2.  How will UVC help my building?

IAQ control:  UVC improves air quality by preventing the spread of infectious diseases as well as reducing the allergy and asthma symptoms commonly triggered by biofilm/mold.  UVC creates safer, more comfortable indoor environments and has been linked to improved productivity in office building, reduced absenteeism in schools, and reduced likelihood of occupant complaints or litigation.

Energy savings:  Studies show that even a thin (0.024-inch [0.61]) layer of biofilm buildup on a coil increases energy consumption by 21.5 percent.  By cleaning coils continuously, UVC eliminates biofilm much more effectively than conventional cleaning methods–saving energy by maintaining equipment at factory design efficiency.

Maintenance savings:  Manual coil cleaning is a major HVAC maintenance expense and can be very difficult to perform on small, tough-to-access packaged systems. 

Equipment service life:  The surface cleaning effect of UVC helps restore even older HVAC systems to efficient operation, making it possible to prolong the life of aging air handlers.

LEED contribution:  UVC may contribute to earning LEED points in one or more areas.

3.  How much will it save?

UVC offers rapid return on investment, though the time frame will vary.  After the initial payback, your clients’ yearly cost savings can be substantial, far outweighing the modest cost of annual UVC lamp replacement.

4.  How do I find the right type of device for the application?

UVC devices come in sizes and configurations to fit different HVAC systems.  Large commercial air handlers are usually outfitted with internally mounted UVC devices that are installed end to end.  Air handlers with more limited space and/or access, including rooftop units, may use a device that utilizes an external power supply with single or multiple lamps inserted into the system though a small hole drilled in the equipment wall.

5.  How do I know if the device will deliver the required performance?

UVC devices for HVAC systems are not yet governed by an official standard.  Until such a standard is published, the best independent information to consult is a series of test report commissioned by the Environmental Protection Agency in conjunction with the National Homeland Security Research Center through its Technology Testing and evaluation Program.

When researching UVC, look for a reputable HVAC service contractor who has experience with new-generation high-output lamps and understand the issues involved in proper lamp placement, output and changeout schedules.

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