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How UV Light Air Purifiers Work

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W hile your first thought when you hear about air purifiers is HEPA filtration, the truth is that there are multiple technologies the systems can use in their operation, and one of the options that is sought-after for its air sanitization properties is UV light technology. Since its inception, UV light has been used for the disinfection of water, air, and surfaces.

Its role in an air filtration system is to safely kill mold, mildew, germs, bacteria, and microorganisms it generally encounters, leaving behind safe air for you to breathe. Continue to read and learn more about UV light systems and how they work so that you can decide whether it is suited for your air pollution reduction needs or not.

Introduction

They use short-wave UV light, which is known as UV-C light, to destroy the DNA composition of microorganisms encountered in the air that is passed through the system, inactivating them so that they won’t pose a threat to your health. Made to reduce indoor air pollution as all air purification systems, what sets them apart is the superior germicidal property that makes them different and more effective than systems that contain UV technology but don’t use it to its fullest for air pollutant elimination.

Note: UV air filtering systems are rarely standalone as they are not as efficient at trapping airborne particles as they would be in combination with a HEPA filtration system. This is why you are most likely to find systems that feature both filtering technologies and why it is recommended to opt for a system of the sort if you seek to fully rid the air of allergens and microorganisms polluting it.

The ABC’s of UV

A part of the light spectrum that we can feel but cannot see, only when the sun blisters does it makes its presence felt. It is comprised of three distinct subdivisions, each with their own properties and characteristics:

  • UV-A: 315 to 400 nm wavelength, vibrating at a very slow pace. It covers approximately 95% of the sun’s radiation and is used in tanning booths and disinfection tools.
  • UV-B: 280 to 315 nm wavelength, vibrating at a slightly faster pace than the previous category. About 95% of it is absorbed by the Earth’s atmosphere and it is commonly used in plant growth, altering plant hormones.
  • UV-C: 100 to 280 nm wavelength, vibrating at the fastest pace. It is completely absorbed by the ozone layer. It is commonly used in air purification systems as it flaunts the highest efficiency when it comes to killing microorganisms. Plug-in air purifiers generally rely on UV light in their operation as well, their efficiency toward cleaning air in a smaller-size space being amped by the presence of UV technology which tackles microorganisms.

Air Pollution Reduction Performance

Microorganism Removal

It is the most effective process for deactivating microorganisms. Indeed, high levels of UV radiation are requisite to alter the DNA of certain mold and bacteria spores, but it’s not difficult to encounter a system that provides the needed performance prowess and exposure time to solve air quality and sanitize the air as needed for your well-being.

Allergen Removal

While effective up to a point, UV purification is not fully reliable when it comes to the removal of smoke, mold, pet dander, and chemical fumes from the air, common allergy and asthma attack triggering particles. Moreover, there are particles that are actually invulnerable to UV radiation, a system that solely relies on this technology proving worthless in their reduction.

Even in a deactivated state, mold spores can still trigger allergy symptoms. Thus, optimal performance is only provided by a combination of UV and HEPA purification.

VOC Removal

UV light is completely inefficient against volatile organic compounds, so if you tested the air for VOC levels and found that pollution levels are high, better go for a HEPA air purifying system that doesn’t use UV technology or provides you the option to turn the UV function on/off as you see fit. There is the risk to alter VOCs because of UV radiation exposure, which will lead to their transformation into more hazardous compounds, so beware that air quality testing should be performed beforehand to not make a bad situation worse.

Safety Considerations

Repercussions of UV light overexposure:

  • Overexposure to UV-A: Rapid aging of the skin and appearance of wrinkles.
  • Overexposure to UV-B: Increased chances of developing skin cancer and alters DNA structures.
  • Overexposure to UV-C: Skin cancer, eye damage, permanent DNA structure altering.

Although UV technology has already been proven to be safe, there are reports that suggest dangers if the UV lamp is not coated, more precisely UV-C radiation can be transferred out through oxygen in the air. Afterward, through the process of photolysis, ozone is created, which in high amounts poses a danger to your health, the combination of decomposed oxygen molecules and unaffected ones leading to this development.

As aforementioned, when present in small amounts, ozone does not pose a threat for human health, so beware that ozone generators are actually safe for use toward air purification as the systems are designed to produce low levels and not interfere with your well-being.

The exposure of the lamp leads to damage in the eyes and sunburn as well, so avoid looking straight at it and sitting around it in case the protective cover is not on. But these aren’t issues to worry your mind with as the UV lamp is always behind a closed cover in air filtration systems. Just make sure that the cover sits tightly in its place, and you won’t ever suffer repercussions.

Final Words

The advancements presented by UV technology in the domain of air purification systems are undeniable, presenting what is for sure the most efficient manner to obliterate microorganisms from the air we breathe to create a safer habitat indoors. Typically safe as their construction is thought up so that the production of ozone won’t be an issue, the systems are the preferred choice of many customers in rooms where sanitized air is imperious, like the nursery, child’s room, or bedroom.

Now that you know that UV air purification systems are safe and have gained the needed insight regarding how they work, draw a comparison to other technologies used in air filter systems like HEPA filtration and activated carbon filtration, and make an informed choice regarding the product that best suits your needs.

Tobey Hunter
Tobey Hunter
Tobey is the editor-in-chief at Optima Institute, his prior experience as a niche product reviewer in air quality improvement systems helping shape his path to conduct thorough research toward selecting and analyzing products so that customers are satisfied with the provided recommendations. During his carrier, Tobey also gathered technical input that makes him well versed in understanding advancements in modern systems, helping readers in turn to better understand how modern devices help improve life quality.