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Are UV Lights Worth the Investment for Your HVAC System in 2020?

The world of HVAC is always advancing, making use of new technologies and new approaches to improve the capabilities of the average homeowner’s heating, cooling, and ventilation systems. Along with energy efficiency, one of the biggest categories of breakthroughs has been the emergence of products and technologies to improve overall indoor air quality. Under normal conditions, ventilation systems can contribute pollutants to your living or working space, spreading bacteria, mold, dust, dander, and other particles that can aggravate respiratory conditions or contribute to the spread of illnesses.

UV light attachments, like the RGF REME HVAC HALO 24V Air Purification System Light, attempt to counteract these pollutants. But how exactly do they work, and are they really worth the investment?

An Introduction to UV Lights

UV Lights

Let’s start with a basic introduction to UV lights, including how they’re designed to work, and what they purport to do.

The main purpose of a UV light can be reduced to “improving air quality.” Your HVAC system is responsible for circulating air throughout your home, so it has the potential to introduce or distribute particulate matter that could be detrimental to you and your family, interfering with your comfort or in some cases, your health. Depending on the nature of the pollutant, these particles could have short-term effects, causing people to experience eye irritation, sneezing, or even headaches and fatigue. Long-term effects could include the development of contagious diseases, or the aggravation of asthma or allergies.

Some of the most common particles responsible for these negative health effects include bacteria, viruses, mold, and other types of fungi. These pathogens can negatively interfere with our health if they spread through the air.

UV lights attempt to stop these particles at the source, before they can enter your home's air supply. Positioning UV lights in your systems air conditioner condenser coils or in your core ductwork, the intention is to kill these microorganisms in a clean, efficient way, to purifying the air in your home.

So do UV lights for HVAC systems really do what they’re supposed to?

How UV Lights Kill Bacteria and Mold

It’s clinically proven that UV lights work. UV lights are capable of killing 97 percent of bacteria, even bacteria resistant to antibiotics, and can kill viruses and mold as well. In fact, we’ve known this for a long time; the Nobel Prize in Medicine was given to Niels Ryberg Finsen in 1903, thanks to his work in using UV radiation to cure skin infections. Today, many hospitals, grocery stores, restaurants, and other businesses where hygiene is a concern are using UV-based lights for germicidal purposes.

The UV light sparks a reaction between molecules of thymine, which is one of the structural units that makes up DNA. This damage caused by UV often prevents the cell from carrying out normal cellular processes, stopping it from reproducing and eventually killing it.

It’s not just shown to work in clinical purposes, either; at least one study has shown that UV radiation is effective in reducing the prevalence of airborne fungi when used in air handling units.

Types of UV Lights Available

There are several types of UV lights available for HVAC units, and they go by different names. For example, you might hear them referred to as a purifying, germicidal, sterilizing, or sanitizing, and you might hear them called lights, lamps, or other names. For example, the Lennox UV Filtration Germicidal Lamp uses ultraviolent radiation to kill harmful microorganisms in the air; the term “germicidal” refers to its ability to kill microorganisms, and the term “lamp” refers to the light attachment used to do it. If you’re ever in doubt about the mechanism of a unit you’re considering buying, check the product description for references to ultraviolet or UV radiation.

There are two main types of UV lights, though both can share similar product names according to the nomenclature standards above. They differ in where they’re placed:

  • Air (and ductwork) UV lights.Air UV lights are installed in the ductwork that brings return air to the system. When turned on, they have the capacity to kill microorganisms in the air, sterilizing the air as it’s distributed to the rest of the home. There are many sub-varieties of these types of lamps; for example, you could find a stick-shaped or U-shaped lamp, which both perform the same basic function. Some emit radiation constantly, while others are hardwired into the system so they can coordinate with the blower motor, only turning on when the motor is running.
  • Coil-based UV lights. Other UV lights are designed exclusively for air conditioning indoor coil units. Your air conditioner relies on coils to condense airborne moisture, as a way of dehumidifying the air. This is highly useful, but it’s also a breeding ground for mold and bacteria; over time, dirt, debris, pet dander, and other particles will get stuck to the moist area, making it easy for germs to propagate. Coil UV lights are typically installed directly onto the coils, and are left on continuously, eliminating microorganisms where they’re most likely to develop.

Typical Costs of a UV Light for Your HVAC System

It sounds good to have a unit that sterilizes the air you breathe, but is it really worth the money?

There are several potential costs you’ll need to keep in mind, and as you can imagine, they vary significantly depending on what type of unit you get and how you plan to install it.

First, you’ll need to think about the cost of the light unit itself. This is going to be the structural core of your UV system, and is designed to last many years. If you’re getting a coil light, you might be able to find a cheap variation for as little as $60. Depending on the materials, the quality of the unit, and other factors, the costs here can run up to $300 or more. If you’re looking at a unit for your ductwork, you’ll pay slightly more, since it does more work. Low-end models in this area are as cheap as $80 and as expensive as $500.

Next, you’ll need to think about installation costs. It’s possible to install one of these units by yourself (which we’ll explain in the next section), but if you pay someone to install the unit for you, you can expect to pay up to a couple hundred dollars for the service. These costs can vary significantly depending on prices in your local area and the nature of your installer, but you can generally expect at least a $100 charge. In some cases, especially if you have a tricky setup or you’re hardwiring the unit into your HVAC system, you could pay up to $300.

Just like light bulbs eventually burn out, the lamp in your unit has a finite lifespan. Eventually, you’re going to need to replace this component to keep it running smoothly. Fortunately, these replacements are relatively cheap, and easy to install yourself. Depending on the unit, coil sanitizing lamps cost between $10 and $60. Air sanitizing units tend to be more expensive, ranging from $15 to $125 for more complex designs. Most lamps will last you somewhere between 9 and 14 months, depending on whether they’re being run continuously or periodically.

There’s also the energy cost of the light to keep in mind. If you’re running a UV light constantly, you’ll be constantly feeding it a stream of electricity, which can modestly increase your electric bill. Fortunately, either unit type will only increase your energy costs by something like $15 to $30 each year.

Overall, even if you pay for a professional, you can probably get a unit for a few hundred dollars. You can keep it running for something like $30 to $60 per year with ongoing energy costs and replacement lamps.

Modes of Installation

Now let’s turn our attention to how you can install a UV light in your HVAC system. The simplest method is, of course, to hire an HVAC professional to do the work for you, but if you have adept-level DIY skills, you could be able to save a couple hundred dollars by doing the work yourself.

Most UV light products come with a set of instructions for how to install the unit on your own. They may be straightforward or complex, depending on the unit and the nature of your HVAC system. For example, some UV lights come with a standard 110V plug, which you can use to easily provide a stream of electricity to the unit. Others must be hardwired into your system, which requires some electrical knowledge and experience; unless you’re very experienced with electrical wiring, it’s best to get a hardwired system installed by a professional.

Some units also come with a magnetic bracket, making it easy to snap the unit into place. Others require the use of sheet metal screws to attach the unit.

Alternative Products

If you’ve been interested in improving your air quality, killing germs, or stopping the propagation of mold, you may have heard of other products designed to kill microorganisms or improve air quality. Some of these are holistic in nature and have limited scientific evidence to substantiate their claims; for example, Himalayan salt lamps have been popularly described as capable of “ionizing the air” and producing more breathable conditions. However, there’s no clear evidence to suggest they make any measurable difference to the environment. By contrast, UV lights are demonstrated to be highly effective in killing most types of microorganisms and keeping the air clear.

There are also products that are intentionally designed to kill microorganisms, and household cleaners like bleach. Some of these are designed to be sprayed in the air to kill germs and freshen the atmosphere; these may be effective, but they only cover a limited area and have temporary effectiveness. They also have the unpleasant side effect of introducing chemicals into your air, reducing the air quality in a different way. By contrast, UV radiation doesn’t introduce any new particles to your air; it runs clean.

These household cleaners can also be used to regularly disinfect the surfaces of your home, such as sinks, countertops, and toilets. Regularly cleaning your home can reduce the chances of bacteria and mold developing in other areas, and is an effective way to control the cleanliness of your home. However, it can’t catch everything, and won’t target the high-growth area of your indoor condenser coils the way a UV light would.

New Products that Super Charge Your Air Filters and Kill Micro Organism  with out UV Lights

You can proactively clean the air and surfaces in your home by adding an In Duct Air Purifier that creates supercharged particles. The iWave uses patented technology, called needle-point bi-polar ionization, to create equal amounts of positive and negative ions.  When these ions are injected into the air stream, they break down passing pollutants and gases into harmless compounds like oxygen, carbon dioxide, nitrogen and water vapor. This is the same compound created by thunderstorms and waterfalls in nature and helps purify the air. Aerosolized ions are effective in reducing bacteria, viruses, odors, and other contaminants that exist in the air you breathe inside your home. This creates charged particles which will attract to other particle in the air for better filtration when using electrostatic filters. Check out the Iwave-R to Learn more about how these air purifiers work to purifier the air and surfaces in your home. 

Other Changes to Improve Your Air Quality

If you’re reading about UV lights, your primary goal is probably improving the quality of your indoor air. While UV lights can be effective to these ends, there are also several steps you can take, some of which are less expensive and more important, to improve the quality of your air:

  • Clean and/or replace your filters regularly.Your first line of defense against airborne microorganisms is your HVAC filter, which is designed to trap particles before they enter your HAVC unit (and before the air is redistributed throughout the home). This is useful not just for keeping your air cleaner, but also ensuring no particles accumulate in your furnace or air conditioner, lengthening their lifespan. Over time, your filter will accumulate more particles, making it less efficient. It’s recommended that average homeowners change their air filters at least every 90 days, or more often if they own pets or produce more particles than average. It’s easy and cheap to do this, so there’s no good reason to avoid it.
  • Consider high-MERV filters.Filters are rated on a MERV scale, which stands for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value. The higher the MERV rating, the smaller the particles the filter can capture. Lower MERV ratings can still capture a great deal of typical airborne particles, and are often recommended to homeowners, since they permit higher airflow to the HVAC system than their higher MERV-rated counterparts. However, if you seem to have trouble with your indoor air quality, or if you’re interested in preserving the best possible breathing conditions, a high-MERV filter (17 to 20) may be better.
  • Seal your ductwork. If you’re trying to improve your air quality, make sure you inspect your ductwork. Over time, ductwork can become cracked or loose, resulting in leaks; this can also happen if your ductwork wasn’t installed properly to begin with. If this is the case, the air from your HVAC system could easily leak out, resulting in lower efficiency from your system. In addition, particles from the surrounding area could work their way in. For both efficiency and air quality, it’s in your best interest to re-seal these leaky areas, using tape or mastic.
  • Clean your ductwork regularly. Even if your ductwork is near-perfectly sealed, it’s a good idea to have your ductwork cleaned regularly. A good filter and a UV light are a great tag-team to eliminate the majority of airborne particles and microorganisms from the air, but over time, you’re still going to accumulate matter in your ducts. Accordingly, the air from your system is going to redistribute those particles throughout your home if you don’t keep them clean. It’s a good idea to undergo a cleaning at least once a year.
  • Keep your house clean. Your filters and UV lights will be doing a lot of heavy lifting, but don’t make them work harder than they have to. It’s important to take the preventative measure of keeping your house clean, thereby reducing the number of particles and microorganisms that make their way into your HAVC system in the first place. Make sure you wipe down all surfaces throughout your home on a regular basis to eliminate germs and dust. If you own pets, vacuuming and sweeping are especially important to reduce fur and dander from making their way into the air.

The Bottom Line: Are HVAC UV Lights Worth It?

Are UV lights for your HVAC system worth the money?

That depends on several factors. For starters, let’s make it clear that UV lights work the way they’re described to work; they’re capable of killing airborne microorganisms like mold, bacteria, viruses, and fungi. They’ll run continuously and cleanly, giving them a key advantage over household cleaners and holistic products that claim to have similar air-purifying effects.

The costs are also reasonable. Even considering professional installation, you can get a new unit running for less than $1,000 in many cases, and keep it running for just a few dollars a month.

UV Lights Collections

Fresh-Aire UV Light

Lennox UV Lights and Bulbs

RGF UV Lights and Air Purifiers

Ultravation UV Lights and Air Purifiers

Toptech Airknight UV Lights and Air Purifiers

In areas particularly susceptible to mold and bacteria growth, such as high-humidity areas, UV light units are a no-brainer for your HVAC system. In drier areas, basic precautions may be enough to keep your indoor air quality high. In either case, in addition to installing a UV light, you’ll want to change your air filter regularly, inspect and clean your ductwork, and make other positive changes to improve your air quality.

UV bulb for air purification REME HALO

Recent Reviews on the REME HALO (REME-H)

 Richard B Raborn MD
Addition to New HVAC

Buy The REME HALO Today

If you’re interested in seeing how a UV air purifier could improve the quality of your homes air, make sure to use the RGF REME HVAC HALO 24V Air Purification System Light. It’s highly cost-efficient, and suitable for just about any HVAC system. Contact us for pricing. Contractors only.


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