Air ConditioningAre UV Air Purifiers Worth It?

Purifying your home air is something important to consider. However, there is a lot of confusion about exactly what it means and the best way to do it. This confusion leads to many options for achieving clean air and disagreements about which type is most effective. There are different types of filters and air purifiers that can be purchased for either a single room or as an addition to an HVAC system that’s intended to cover the whole house. Ultraviolet, or UV, air purifiers have received a lot of attention lately. If you’ve looked into these devices, you know they aren’t cheap. But do they really work? Are they worth the money? Let’s dive in and find out!

What Is the Difference Between UV Purifiers and Filters?

It’s important to understand that air filters and purifiers work together for the best results. One does not replace the other. A filter works by filtering out larger particles in the air such as dust, dust mites, mold spores, allergens, or other substances. What air filters don’t handle well are airborne contaminants smaller than the pores of the filter. For example, viruses, bacteria, and other microbes. 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 in. Air purifiers are meant to help render these living particles inactive so they won’t affect your health or cause issues such as odors. There are different types of air purifiers, such as ultraviolet, ionic, and activated carbon. These have all been scientifically tested for their ability to purify air, though some work better than others. Ultraviolet light is the top choice. It has been used for decades to sterilize things like medical utensils. Now that technology is being used to manage indoor air quality.

How Do UV Air Purifiers Work?

UV radiation has been used for a long time for sanitation purposes. UV, or ultraviolet light, comes in three wavelengths: A, B, and C. UV-C is the most damaging for human tissue. Fortunately, the earth’s ozone prevents solar UV-C from reaching the surface. The best air purifiers also use UV-C! This potent UV breaks down the molecular bond in the DNA, which makes biological contaminants like viruses and bacteria inert. It will also break down molecules that cause odor. This works by air being drawn or forced through a tube that contains an ultraviolet light source. When used, the bulb will either produce a bluish light or no light at all, depending on the material.

How Effective Are UV Air Purifiers?

Air purifiers often work in relative silence, which leads one to wonder whether they’re actually working! Filters provide a visual since you’ll easily see all the debris it collects once the filter is dirty. On the other hand, purifiers don’t pull anything out of the air. Instead, they cause living organisms to become inert. UV air purifiers do work if they actually emit ultraviolet radiation they claim to, but the problem is that some of them do not.

Some cheap models have a blue light, but do not emit any UV radiation. And even if the purifier does emit radiation, another question to consider is the wavelength. The longer UV-A and UV-B wavelengths are not sufficient to make a virus inert. To achieve sterilization, UV-C is required. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to test this on your own without expensive equipment or possible bodily injury. Your best bet is to look at third-party tests to determine which models are the most effective.

Does the Equipment Come in Various Sizes?

UV air purifiers can be installed directly into your heating and cooling system, and they are also available in single room units. Your home and needs will dictate which is best for you. Single room units are of course cheaper than units meant to cover your whole house. Smaller units can cover between 200 to 500 square feet, while larger units are installed into the HVAC system.

There are usually two installation options for these. One is installed near the air conditioner’s evaporator coil. It’s unfortunately easy for mold and bacteria to develop here due to the moisture produced when the AC is running. The other locations are in the ductwork or air handler. Higher end units are hardwired into the system and turn on and off with the fan, which helps lower operating costs since the lights are not always on.

What Are the Risks of UV Purifiers?

Is it safe to purify air this way? There are some side effects you should be aware of. UV-C produces ozone. It breaks apart regular O2 molecules into individual oxygen atoms, which reform into a molecule comprised of three atoms. This is O3, otherwise known as ozone. Ozone can have a negative impact on the respiratory system, especially to those with asthma. It can also cause shortness of breath, chest pain, and coughing.

There are ozone detectors, but they are very expensive, so it’s tough to tell how much ozone your UV air purifier is producing. Some purifiers account for this and apply a costing to help reduce ozone production. Make sure to read all the details for the unit you are considering, or work with a qualified air quality specialist at Home Comfort Alliance.

Is It Worth the Investment?

There are a lot of factors in your individual situation that will help determine whether this would be a valuable investment. For most people without underlying health conditions, a purifier may not be needed. But if you live in an area prone to viral and microbial contamination or you are susceptible to lung infections, it could be well worth the investment. And thankfully Home Comfort Alliance 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 Home Comfort Alliance has been serving the Greater Seattle area for more than 40 years. In addition to air quality expertise, we offer heating and cooling installation, repair and maintenance. No matter what you need to make your indoor environment more comfortable, Home Comfort Alliance has the knowledge and equipment to make it happen. Give us a call today to schedule your consultation.


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