Everyone wants to breathe clean air, but the meaning of “clean” differs from person to person. For example, not everyone is sensitive to mold, bacteria, or other indoor allergens. On the other hand, many people are super sensitive to those things.
If that sounds like you, keeping indoor air free from harmful contaminants is a major priority. Inhaling invisible allergens simply isn’t good for your health – or your sanity.
Enter ultraviolet (UV) lights! These little fellas live inside your HVAC system and zap any potentially harmful bacteria into oblivion before it enters your living space. UV lights can also keep your AC’s indoor coil free from fungal growth, which is good since the coil stays wet for several months out of the year.
If you’re considering a UV light for indoor air quality (IAQ), here’s how to proceed.
First things first. Get a media filter when you install UV lights.
Before exploring the nitty gritty of UV lights, we’d like to note that UV lights aren’t your only line of defense against pesky indoor allergens. You’ve got to capture particulate matter, too.
That’s why we recommend installing a media filter in your return ductwork in conjunction with indoor air quality products. A media filter traps tiny particles down to .1 microns in size (or more in the case of some filters). That’s around 700 times as small as human hair, and it includes mold spores.
You won’t only have to rely on UV light to destroy many harmful contaminants. The filter has already captured them.
Now that we’re clear on why you should pair UV lights with a media filter, let’s explore the benefits of UV lights in greater depth. There are two ways they can help you breathe easier: preventing microbial growth on your indoor coil and purifying your indoor air.
UV lights for preventing microbial growth
Your air conditioning system has two coils, one that lives outside and another that lives inside. The indoor coil is located inside your air handler or above your furnace. It’s dark in there – dark and wet. Water condenses on the coil throughout the cooling season, creating a hospitable environment for microbes.
If biological contaminants start growing on the AC coil, the blower fan can blow them into your home. Stopping that process before it starts is a good idea.
The best UV light systems specifically target microbial growth on the AC coil by bathing the coil in UV light at all times.
If you’re keen to minimize (or even eliminate) microbial activity inside your HVAC system, UV lights are a solid preventative measure. They keep that stuff from growing in the first place. And if it’s already there, the UV lights get rid of it.
UV lights for air purification
If anyone in your household has serious allergies or asthma, you don’t just want to keep your coil clean – you want to purify your indoor air. Some UV lighting systems go beyond simple “coil bathing” and use activated carbon cells to remove noxious odors, VOCs, and chemical vapors that may be making you feel sick.
In other words, they don’t just limit microbial growth on the coil. They’re made to eliminate all or most common indoor pollutants from the air you breathe.
In case you’re wondering, we do have a preferred UV light system. The APCO Whole-House Air Purifier (pictured below) kills the microbes on your AC coil and captures VOCs and potentially toxic chemical odors.
Paired with a quality media filter, the APCO is powerful tool for allergy and asthma relief!
So go ahead and spring for that UV light system. Just don’t forget the other ways to improve indoor air quality.
Wait… There are other ways to make the indoor air cleaner. Oh, yeah. There are.
As we just discussed, UV lights can be a great IAQ upgrade in conjunction with a media filter. Other ways to improve air quality include:
- Sealing your ductwork to prevent circulation of attic or crawlspace air
- Performing a whole-home assessment to see if air is entering your home from unwanted areas, like your attic or crawlspace
- Changing or washing your air filters per manufacturer instructions
- Controlling humidity with a whole-house dehumidifier or variable speed HVAC equipment (assuming it’s already time for an equipment upgrade)
Why do these other things? Because things like leaky ducts, high levels of air infiltration, or elevated indoor humidity cause air quality problems independent of whatever is happening on your indoor coil.
To be sure, a UV light and media filter combo can alleviate these problems somewhat by zapping the microbial contaminants that pass through your HVAC system. But it can’t target those other issues at the source.
Around here, we’re huge fans of UV lights.
They’re awesome products, and we’re happy to install them when we feel they can be effective. At the same time, we think it’s important to optimize the surrounding infrastructure and environment in which your UV lights operate.
Our chief concern is helping you optimize indoor air quality. Simple as that. When UV lights can help you, we’ll install them. When there are other strategies to help you breathe easier, we’ll pursue those, too.