Best UV Lights for HVAC – What to Know During Covid-19

The best UV lights for HVAC systems can help you limit fungi, mold, dust mite and bacteria growth in your system and therefore improve the overall quality of the air in your home.

During the current climate we are living in with Covid-19, it has become increasingly more important to monitor the air quality within your home.

This makes UV light units the ideal partner for those of you suffering from allergies triggered by common allergens, as well as those with rhinitis and asthma. Or simply for anyone who wants to improve the purity of their home air to ensure any and all airborne viruses are taken care of prior to infiltrating your HVAC system. 

The best air purifying systems not only help to limit microbial growth with UV, but they can also assist you in addressing other common issues including bad odors, chemical vapors and deal with other common allergens such as pollen and dust. 

Quick Picks: Best UV Light for HVAC Reviews

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What is a HVAC UV Light?

Ultraviolet (UV) light is essentially electromagnetic radiation capable of killing many common microbes and pathogens (disease causing microbes) and/or allergens including fungi, bacteria and viruses. 

For decades, UV has been put to good use in the form of sterilizing hospitals and even water and today you can even utilize UV lights to sterilize your home HVAC system or keep your AC coils clean and improve your indoor air quality.  

There are a variety of commercial HVAC UV lights available that are relatively easy to install and maintain. However, there are a number of factors to consider before making a decision. 

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With a 4.3 stars on Amazon, this Honeywell UV light is highly regarded by most owners who have installed it into their HVAC system. 

This is a semi-powerfulUV light unit with 36 watts of power, which owners have mentioned is a reason for making this purchase. 

This Honeywell has an indicator light to show when the UV light(s) need to be replaced so it takes the guessing out of the equation for you which is very helpful. 

The unit is ozone-free, although a couple owners have mentioned a lingering smell for a little while after installing, but if this is the case with your the smell should dissipate over time.  

You will want the UV light connected to your return air fiber vent and install is very easy, you just need to make sure you have a 110v outlet nearby.

With an overall 4.5 star rating on Amazon this REKO UV light is a workhorse, especially for the cost. 

If you are purchasing just one of these for your system then you will want to install it on the intake side of the coil (the bottom where the air enters).

If adding multiple lights to your HVAC system then the second one should be in the motor section and a 3rd one would go at the beginning of the supply duct. To maximize the effectiveness, and if you have the money and desire, adding multiple UV lights to your system would be recommended. 

As with all UV lights, plug them in once they are in the unit and not outside. If you want to test the bulbs make sure to plug in very quickly, but do not focus your eyes on the light or you can have seeing issues for a short amount of time. 

This unit is designed to be mounted sideways, but can be rotated to actually be installed in any direction that will fit your HVAC system. This is a highly regarded UV light and should definitely be considered should you be upgrading your HVAC system.

Residing as one of the better, and more expensive, UV light systems on the market this Clean Comfort unit has a ton of features. 

With a small and compact size of 6.5″ x 16.25″ x 6.5″ the Clean Comfort Coil Purifier will sanitize your coil’s surface with its UV light pointing at the evaporator coil and coil pan non-stop. 

The light will work for 9,000 hours (375-days) so replacing the light yearly is highly recommended. This UV light also comes with a 5-year electronics warranty, and a 1-year limited warranty on the lamp.

The LCD screen notifies the homeowner when the UV lamp needs replacing which most UV light units do not supply you with, a very welcomed addition. 

Although this is one of the more expensive UV light systems on the market it is a highly recommended one for your home. The only issue is actually getting your hands on one.

With a 4.3 star rating this REKO Lighting UV light is simple, but gets the job done. It has a 14″ bulb that should be sufficient for most HVAC units.

The power supply is 24 volts, but if you want 120 volts you can purchase an additional one. These bulbs are easy to replace which is a huge plus as well. 

Many owners have commented how easy the unit is to install with the magnet that you can do it on your own without a professional. Some have commented that purchasing the 110 volt plug will make install even easier.  

As bulbs can be a bit tricky at times you want to make sure not to touch with your fingers because oils may limit the longevity of the bulb. It may be wise to purchase an additional bulb or two when making the unit purchase so you don’t need to think about it for a couple years. 

This unit is all-and-all loved by its owners and should definitely be on your list as an option for purchase. 

How Do HVAC UV Lights Work?

The best UV lights for HVAC systems are the ones that are able to effectively kill living opportunistic pathogens such as fungi, bacteria and viruses which are suspended in the air and potentially spread throughout your home via your air conditioning system.

However, it’s worth noting that UV lights alone will not deal with other common causes of respiratory irritation and allergies, such as dust, dander and other non-living allergens. 

The reason UV lights have this effect on microorganisms is all to do with its wavelength. In the specific range of 260-270nm the light interrupts and breaks down their DNA. This completely destroys their ability to replicate and perform vital cellular functions. 

Historically UV lights were known to have these properties and it was Niels Finsen back in 1903 who used UV as an effective treatment for Lupus Vulgaris and Tuberculosis of the skin earning himself a Nobel Prize in Medicine.

Since then, the application of the best UV light for HVAC in various industries for has exploded. The method has also found use in hospitals, water purification, food production and many other industries, including air purification.

UV Light in HVAC Effectiveness

The effectiveness of UV in killing pathogens such as bacteria, fungi and viruses has been well studied in a range of different environments. For obvious reasons, the majority of these studies have been carried out in clinical settings such as hospitals. 

In the context of HVAC, one notable study in particular found that fungal levels within an office space were significantly lower than control environments following 4 months of UV operation. 

With the world attempting to understand and navigate the current Covid-19 climate, this study’s results are promising to know that with the addition of a mask to the equation, an office setting may be somewhat controllable if the additional precautions are taken to ensure everyones safety. 

Types of UV Lights

There are new HVAC UV lights released all the time, however, there remains two major types of UV lighting that operate slightly differently. It’s useful to be aware of these differences as the one that’s right for you and your home will greatly depend on your main area of concern. 

  • Coil Purification – The interior of your HVAC system is typically cold and damp, making the air handler coil a prime location for mold growth. This mold can then very easily be circulated back into your home via the blower and as it makes its way through the air vents can spread spores throughout your living space.

    Coil UV lights are bulb style systems that are relatively inexpensive and a great solution for those wanting to reduce mold in their homes by sterilizing internal AC coils. 

  • Air Purification UV Lights – These are the larger scale UV lights that are fitted into the return air duct and operate in synchronicity with the air handler blower.

    They are intended to improve the overall air quality of your home and unlike light coil sterilizers don’t just reduce mold growth on your coils. Many can also help to improve odor and reduce chemicals in the air too.  

Why is Mold & Fungi Growth an Issue?

Molds can congregate within the air handler in your AC system and along with the conditioned air be distributed throughout the household.

This is a particular problem for those who live in humid climates where moisture in the air will encourage microbial growth.

Not only is the distribution of these fungal spores an issue in that in that it can increase the risk of respiratory infections but it’s also an irritant for pre-existing allergies such as hay fever (allergic rhinitis) too.

As a result it can be really difficult for sufferers of these common conditions to stay within the premises without getting agitated and uncomfortable.

HVAC UV Light Benefits

Reducing the number of potential harmful pathogens that inhabit the air ways of your home have many rewarding benefits and so despite the drawbacks which can be nullified, the rewards are worth it:

  • Help to Reduce Illness

With many bacteria and viruses being exterminated by the UV rays, it is less likely that you come in contact with pathogens in the house. Even if someone who is ill comes into the household, the spread of the diseases through coughs and sneezes is likely to be reduced.

  • Help to manage allergies 

Fungi spores and other allergens associated with pathogens will be greatly reduced as a result of their numbers decreasing. This is a huge benefit and makes the products well worth the asking price, particularly for those who suffer from allergies, asthma and rhinitis. 

  • Help to eliminate Odors

Bad smells can be circulated by the AC system in the home and they can be the result of the congregation of microbes. Therefore, the destruction of these microbes can help get rid of the unwanted smells that they are responsible for, leaving your home smelling clean and fresh.

  • Low Maintenance

All of the best UV lighting options for HVAC mentioned in the above reviews have very low annual running costs due to their low usage of electricity. This means you can save a lot more on fuel if you are using something like a propane generator.

The cost of replacement bulbs are also reasonable too. Plus, the sterilization of AC coils can also help you save even more money on maintenance visits from a technician that would otherwise have to clean the algal growths on the coils.

HVAC UV Light Disadvantages

Although using a HVAC UV bulb in your system has a number of benefits, it’s worth noting that there are a few drawbacks too: 

  • AC System Damage 

Some materials used within your AC unit or the ductwork may be UV light sensitive and become damaged over time. In particular any non-UV stabilized plastics can be especially sensitive, this typically includes components like drain pans and flex ducts.

  • Need to Run 24/7

The UV stick bulbs that are fitted into the air handler of your HVAC unit should be on all the time but those that are within the ductwork only really need to be on when the system is running. Yet many models have no option to be turned off.

A skilled electrician or handyman however, may be able to route the wiring so that the UV light comes on only when the fans activate but this is something to be discussed with a skilled professional and it will also add to the cost of installation.

  • UV Light Placement

Exactly where you would place the UV light will depend on your set up, but if the lights are not placed so that the air blows through the light that they are emitting, they will not effectively destroy all of the microbes.

This is not too much of a problem but for optimal performance, the right placement is key, which in my experience is far too easy to get wrong. 

Things to Look for in a UV Light for HVAC

By now, you may have a little information overload, so to keep things simple, here is a brief checklist of the key things you should be looking for in a good quality UV light for HVAC systems. 

  • Coil sterilizer vs. air sterilization – Do you simply want to limit microbial growth around your AC coil? Or do you want a complete UV light air purification system that will handle volatile organic compounds, bad odours, pathogens and chemical vapors?
  • UV-C Power Output – Ultraviolet C is a specific wavelength of UV that is safer than other forms , such as UV-a and b. Still you need to check that the lamp is powerful enough to kill mildew, bacteria and fungi.
  • UV Wavelength Specification – Ideally, you want a lamp that produces UV in the 254 nM range. This is the optimum wavelength that will ensure your lamp is producing hydroxyl ions capable of destroying the widest range of allergens.
  • Non-Ozone Producing – Ozone is produced by UV light at 187nm as it is able to break the double covalent bond of (O2) to create (O-), which is very unstable and will bond with the closest (O2) molecule to create ozone (O3).

    This is a bad thing, since ozone creates a malodorous odor that will make your home smell and it is a pollutant capable of degrading your HVAC systems components over time. Besides ozone is not required to destroy microbes and allergens and much of it will be destroyed by the UV light anyway!

  • Lamp Life – You will want to secure a UV lamp able to produce adequate amounts of UV for years to come (at least three years). The best lamps are still able to emit the essential, germicidal UV-c rays  at 85% after year 1 and 60% after year 3. 

The Bottom Line

Using the best UV light for HVAC to purify the air that’s circulated through your home by your HVAC system is affordable, easy and effective; only requiring a small amount of work to be done that will ultimately serve you for years to come. 

You may have some plastic materials within your AC unit or ductwork that can take damage from the UV  and if this is the case it would be best to speak with your HVAC technician and talk about ways of insulating or replacing those components with UV stabilized plastics. 

Ultimately, if you are an allergy sufferer or a resident concerned about the air quality in your home, an HVAC UV light is one of the best steps to take, since the installation and running costs are relatively low and the results are long term and effective. 

About the Author

Dave Miller is a HVAC technician with over 10 years in the industry. Dave created HeatTalk with the ambition for it to become a resource for individuals looking for answers, whether they be a layman, student or a professional.

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