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Solving Indoor Air Quality Issues With UV Lamps

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The quality of your home's indoor air may not seem like such a big deal, but there's plenty to worry about. Not only can airborne viruses and bacteria trigger colds and other ailments, but mold and mildew growth can also affect your HVAC system's health as well as your own. Installing a UV lamp within your HVAC system can help mitigate these issues.

How UV Lamps Work

When most people hear about ultraviolet (UV) light, their first inclination is to break out the sunscreen. While UV rays can be devastating for your skin, they're also helpful for combating microbial growth. UV light has the special ability to penetrate through the membrane and the nucleus of most microbes. Exposure to UV light's unique wavelength causes the molecular bonds of microbial DNA to shatter, effectively stopping its growth.

UV light isn't just capable of stopping viruses and bacteria in its tracks. It can also prevent mold and mildew growth on HVAC components that constantly operate under high-humidity conditions. For example, if slimy mold takes over your air conditioner's evaporator coil, it can block air flow to the coil and prevent the A/C from cooling as effectively as it should. A surface that's exposed to UV light won't see any mold or mildew growth.

Installing UV Lamps

In most cases, UV lamps are installed within the HVAC unit itself. The most common installation point is above the evaporator coil surface, where mold and mildew commonly take hold. UV lamps can also be installed within the HVAC system return, where airstream disinfection can take place ahead of the HVAC unit and the evaporator coil.

The installation process is relatively simple. UV lamps can be mounted on brackets within the air handler or the return. Some kits even offer strong magnets that attach to the metal walls of the air handler instead. A single UV lamp should be sufficient for reducing mold and other organic airborne contaminants. However, most homeowners install two UV lamps, with each lamp positioned over both sides of the evaporator coil.

How Effective Are UV Lamps?

UV lamps are extraordinarily effective at controlling airborne bacteria and viruses as well as mold and mildew. For example, researchers at Duke University found that their use of UV radiation in hospitals helped reduce the number of drug-resistant bacteria by as much as 97 percent.

However, this effectiveness only lasts for a certain amount of time. Most UV lamps are designed to provide continuous effectiveness for up to 9,500 hours before that effect weakens. This is why it's important to change UV lamp bulbs at least every 9,000 hours or every 12 months.

When servicing or upgrading your HVAC system, make sure to talk to a professional from a company like RA Styron Heating and Air Conditioning about your options for installing a UV system to maintain your indoor air quality.