Home and business owners alike are looking for ways to secure their health and that of their loved ones and patrons against the risks posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
For decades, UV lights have been a reliable method for improving indoor air quality in homes and places of business due to their ease of use and affordability.
With a proven track record of zapping airborne pathogens, many are wondering how effective these devices are against the novel coronavirus.
We’ve put together this guide to clear up any confusion and explain what’s currently known about the effectiveness of UV light in combatting the spread of COVID-19.
What Is UV Light and How Is It Used in HVAC Systems?
In HVAC systems, there are two primary locations for UV lights. And each serves a different function.
Coil Cleaning Lights
These lights are placed near indoor coils in HVAC systems in order to prevent the growth of mold and harmful bacteria. Since this coil becomes moist over time, dust, dirt, and pet dander tend to stick to it.
Coil UV lights sit near the coil and shine directly onto it to prevent the buildup of these undesirable particles. This helps keep your air from being infested with nasty pollutants or allergens.
Air Purifying Lights
These HVAC UV lights are placed within the ductwork to eliminate some airborne contaminants.
While all types work to improve indoor air quality, these UV lights are more focused on purifying the air itself instead of a component of your HVAC system.
If UV light ends up proving effective against COVID-19, this would most likely be the preferred location due to the focus on air quality.
Is UV Light Effective Against COVID-19?
UV light might have the ability to protect against severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the strain of coronavirus responsible for COVID-19. It’s a possibility that’s being explored with excitement, anticipation, and urgency. Here’s what we know so far:
In general, UV light can harm the genetic material in a variety of pathogens to reduce or eliminate their chance of reproduction, essentially rendering them useless. In fungus and bacteria, this damage occurs in the DNA, while the RNA is impacted in viruses. 
In one promising study, far-UVC light, a powerful form of UV light, has already demonstrated an ability to “destroy the outer protein coating of the SARS-Coronavirus”—a different, yet related virus to SARS-CoV-2. 
This destruction effectively results in the virus’ inactivation. And due to the similarities between all human coronaviruses, it’s thought that far-UVC light would prove to have a similar inactivation effect against other related coronaviruses, including the one behind COVID-19. 
To make these findings even more exciting, the far-UVC studied is less harmful to the human skin than some other forms of UV lighting considered, such as germicidal ultraviolet light. 
This reality makes this form of UV light more suitable for use in a household or business setting.
More Proof Needed… But Promising
While there is no decisive answer yet, there are some promising studies underway.
What’s currently understood about UV light and its ability to combat a number of airborne contaminants and pollutants—including viruses in the coronavirus family—leads many in the HVAC community to eagerly anticipate the results of these studies.
However, more data needs to be published about the duration, strength, and wavelength needed to inactivate SARS-CoV-2 before this question can be answered with any degree of certainty. 
What Can Make My UV Lights More Effective?
There are many adjustable factors that can determine the effectiveness of your HVAC system’s UV lighting.
While you should always consult a professional, optimizing any one of these factors can help increase your system’s ability to fight against airborne pollutants and improve your indoor air quality overall.
1. Quality Service
Not all UV lights are made the same.
That’s why it’s important to work with a reputable HVAC service provider with extensive experience choosing the right models and installing them correctly.
It’s a small price to pay for a better fighting chance against viruses and other airborne pollutants.
2. Direct Exposure
The trick with using UV lights is getting the air close enough in order for these powerful devices to do their job.
To accomplish this, HVAC professionals can increase the airflow of your system to make sure the air comes into contact with the UV lights more frequently.
Increasing the number of UV lights within an HVAC system is another way to increase direct exposure.
Different UV lights offer varying levels of intensity. The more powerful the model, the more effective it is at combatting airborne pollutants.
Given the health risks of overexposure to UV light, it’s always ideal to work with a professional who understands how these HVAC system components work and impact health.
Final Thoughts on UV Lights in HVAC Systems
It’s been well-established that UV lights are effective at killing a wide variety of microorganisms, including some viruses within the coronavirus family.
While we’re still awaiting conclusive evidence regarding how this relates to SARS-CoV-2, there are many promising studies currently underway.
But you don’t have to wait to take action.
There’s already a wealth of proven health benefits that come with this technology.
If you want to install UV lights in your HVAC system or replace outdated models, feel free to contact us to make an appointment. The Boston Standard team has decades of combined experience working with these effective tools and can answer any questions you may have.
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