You may have heard that UV (ultraviolet) lights can kill germs and improve air quality, but do you know how it works? Violet light has the shortest wavelength of all light visible to the human eye, and ultraviolet light’s wavelength is even shorter.
UV lights have such a high frequency that they damage organic matter. In humans and larger organisms, this shows up as sunburn and other skin problems. Fortunately, our bodies are usually able to recover from the damage. But small microorganisms aren’t so lucky. UV light penetrates the cell membrane and nucleus, then disrupts the molecular bonds that hold the DNA together. The damage is so extensive that the organisms aren’t able to repair themselves, regenerator or reproduce.
This is one of nature’s primary tools for preventing the spread of disease. UV lights in sunshine are constantly sterilizing the environment. Without this defense, illness and infection would likely be a much bigger global issue than they are. High intensity UV is used to sterilize air in public spaces and medical settings, like airports, water treatment facilities and hospitals.
When a UV light purification system is installed in your HVAC equipment, it doesn’t actually remove germs and microorganisms. Instead, it renders them harmless. UV units are typically installed in ductwork, or in a more central location, such as at the air conditioning coil. As indoor air passes through the unit, it is sterilized. The disinfected air is then circulated throughout your home. The light is contained, and doesn’t reach people, animals or plants in the living space.
Since UV lights don’t actually remove pollutants, homeowners usually combine them with high-efficiency filters. The UV lights take care of destroying viruses, bacteria, mold spores, dust mite larvae, yeast cells and other germs. The filter takes care of removing dust (latching onto dust is a primary way microorganisms get around), pollen, pet dander and other contaminants like chemical fumes.
If you have questions about using UV light to improve your indoor air quality, call Smoky Mountain Heating & Air.
Our goal is to help educate our customers about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). For more information about UV lights and other HVAC topics, download our free Home Comfort Resource guide.
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