Mold, mildew, fungus, bacteria all have things in common. We welcome none of them in our homes as they produce foul odors and cause health concerns, though each one of them can get inside our HVAC systems, rapidly spreading through the home.
There is a solution, though. Ultra Violet (UV) light, when produced at certain frequencies, can kill mold, mildew, fungi, and bacteria, and inhibit their growth. Today, I will show you the best UV lights for HVAC systems, reviewed, compared, and explained. Everything you need to know is right here. Read on to find out more.
How Does UV Light Kill Mold
Just like the UV rays from the sun can alter our skin, UV light alters mold. The light interacts with the microorganism’s DNA and RNA structures. It prevents the reproduction of the mold or fungi and destroys their cell structure to eventually kill them off completely.
If you think of it as a bad sunburn, you can see how the UV light will attack and kill off these small organisms that thrive in the damp, dark areas of our HVAC systems. The best way to get rid of them is to install a UV light for HVAC systems.
Benefits of Installing UV Lights for HVAC Systems
There are benefits to installing UV lights for your HVAC system. As we have already discussed, the UV light can kill and inhibit microorganism growth. It can also control odors.
Dark and damp areas and the organisms that grow there produce smells. Musty, dusty, wet odors can permeate the air you breathe through the vents. It can also grow and embed in your paint, drywall, and even your clothing. UV light can reduce and eliminate these odors.
The mold and fungus also have known harmful effects to humans. Symptoms can be as mild as a small headache or as severe as rash, respiratory infections, or worse. Having UV light inhibit growth and kill these particles will reduce the effects they can have on your body, breathing, and health.
UV Light Comparison Table
UV Light Buying Guide
There are a lot of things to think about before you buy your first (or next) UV light purchase. Several factors go into finding the perfect setup for your needs. Below is a list of these factors and a brief explanation of what to consider when making your final decision.
UV Light Type
There two basic types of UV sterilization lights for HVAC systems. Later in the article, I will get into the details and differences between the two. For now, you need to know that there are two types of sterilization you can choose from. Coil sterilization will sterilize the coils inside the unit.
Air sterilization, on the other hand, is placed in the return unit to clean the air as it circulates through the system. Both options are effective when installed and used correctly; you need to decide which one is best for your needs.
The UV bulbs used in the sterilization process come in two basic varieties, short stick or long stick. The fluorescent style bulbs are effective at getting UV light in places other light bulb styles can’t reach.
Because the light waves are the primary process behind the DNA and RNA alterations of the bacteria and molds, direct contact is needed. The space and install type will be the most significant determinants of the bulb style you choose. Make sure you have the space for the bulb length requirements of your system.
Most of these systems are relatively energy efficient. The bulbs don’t require as much energy as incandescent bulbs or even fluorescent. For a single AC coil sterilization setup, you can expect a cost of around $100 per year.
This cost will include new bulbs and the initial cost beyond system purchase. If the setup you choose has a higher operational cost, you may want to look at another option.
There are different aspects of the UV light that is used in sterilization. For the most part, you will want to use the UV-C spectrum and a mix of the UV-A and UV-B sides. Various wavelengths have different outcomes, as well. Checking the variable UV wavelength of the bulbs will help you determine which is the best for your setup and system.
You will also want to pay attention to negative ions. Negatively charged ions are the main catalyst that destroy odors and kill the bacteria. The more ions the lights can produce, the better the elimination of mold, mildew, and other contaminants will be.
UV is known to damage the ozone. As such, the use of ozone-free UV light is crucial to maintaining ozone-depletion levels. Maintaining a low carbon footprint is everyone’s responsibility when it comes to protecting the environment. The use of ozone-free bulbs can help reduce these ozone-damaging radiations.
For the most part, the average bulb life is about 9000 hours. This equates to about a year to 15 months of life before they need replacement. Some bulbs will last longer, while others will last a lot longer.
The more intense and higher burning bulbs won’t have as long of a lifespan but will perform slightly better. Balancing cost, lifespan and effectiveness will help you get the most out of your system.
Ease of Installation & Bulb Replacement
Depending on your HVAC setup, the installation may require a professional. This will be up to you based on your skills, knowledge, and product instructions. If you are uncomfortable with any portion of the process, you shouldn’t hesitate to call in a pro.
The bulb exchanges should be a simple task, though. Once the unit is installed and working, changing the light bulbs is something almost anyone can do. Make sure you have easy access to the bulbs and are familiar with the process outlined in the owner’s manual before you buy.
Some kits and fixtures will offer various features and options. Some of these are merely an excuse to raise their price, and others are worth paying more.
You will find that bulb viewing areas are crucial for coil sanitizing systems so you can tell when the bulbs have burned out. You can also get kits equipped with warning lights, or bulb replacement indicators (lights or alarms). Certain models can even send push-notifications and reminders to your smartphone.
Price & Warranty
Finally, you will want to keep your budget in mind. The overall cost of the lights may not be very high, but if you forget to factor in professional installation or required extras, you may find yourself making cuts in other areas of your budget.
Get the true, total cost of the entire system and installation as well as checking the warranty, if any. Warranties come in different lengths and coverage, and some require registration or other hoops to jump through before you can make a claim. Make sure you understand all the requirements before making a purchase.
7 Best UV Light for HVAC Reviewed
Below I have the 7 best UV lights for HVAC, reviewed and rated for your convenience.
1. Bio Shield Antimicrobial Protection BUVAS-1
Our Top Pick For HVAC Units
|Cord Length||8 ft|
|Wattage/Voltage||25 Watts/120 volts|
|Coverage Area||Medium applications|
The BUVAS-1 from Bio Shield Antimicrobial Protection is the top pick for HVAC Unit UV lighting. The reason is simple. The 25-watt UV-C bulb is easy to install, lasts a full year before requiring replacement, and will effectively eliminate mold, mildew fungi, and bacteria in your HVAC ducts.
This model is designed for air handler cleaning and will sterilize all air that passes through the rays. To install this unit, you will need a 2 7/8 inch hole in the ductwork above the air handler. They include the drill bit for making this hole. You will need to mount the bulb housing with three mounting screws, which they also include these.
Once the hole is drilled, you slide the 17-inch bulb into the hole and screw the mounting in place. After you plug the device in, it starts working. The air is cleaned, and it keeps coils and air handler clean from future build-up.
The claims on the packaging and marketing aren’t exactly accurate. The product shows images of dusty coils and claims to be able to clean them. While this light won’t remove dust, it can help prevent build-up on coils that are already cleaned prior to use.
- Easy to install system includes everything you need.
- Reduces microorganism growth and eliminates what is already there.
- Viewing window to let you know the bulb is active.
- Marketing claims aren’t accurate to abilities.
- Bulb is rated for 12 months, but may only be reliable for 9.
2. D200 TIO2 PCO
Runner Up for HVAC Units
|Cord Length||10 ft|
|Wattage/Voltage||9 Watts (each bulb)/120 Volts|
|Coverage Area||Medium applications|
|Warranty||30-day return, 1-year warranty (except bulbs)|
The D200 TIO2 PCO is an air purifier that uses two bulbs producing 245nm UV-C to eliminate any airborne allergen, including mold and mildew spores, fungi, and bacteria. The air purifier won’t remove anything from the coils as it is installed in the ducting.
When the AC blows the air over the lights, the air is purified and can enter your home through the vents clean. Many customers state that they have reduced their allergies, with some stating they haven’t had any attacks since the installation.
The 10-foot power cord makes it easy to install in a location without worry of close outlets. There isn’t a viewing window, though, so you have to trust that it is on. When plugged in, however, you shouldn’t look at the bulbs. The eye damage can be irreversible.
The bulbs are rated to be effective for 12,000 hours. This is just over 16 months, or shy of a year and a half. The bulbs will most likely not burn out; however, the UV-C effectiveness will have worn off. Replace the bulbs to maintain the cleanliness of the air circulating through the system.
- Long bulb life of 12,000 hours
- Template for installation is easy to follow
- Suitable for systems 2 ton or less
- No viewing port to ensure the bulb is on.
- Doesn’t get to coils or drip tray.
3. OdorStop UV Air Treatment System OS144PRO
Best For Eliminating Odors
|Cord Length||6 ft|
|Wattage/Voltage||36 Watts x 4 bulbs/120 Volts|
|Coverage Area||Large area cleansing|
|Warranty||2-year limited warranty|
OdorStop’s UV air treatment system is one of the best on the market for eliminating odors in your HVAC system. While there are several kits to choose from, the 4-bulb kit comes with an air purifier and 144 total watts of UV-C cleansing power.
The installation is easy to do for the DIYer as long as you have the required tools to complete the job (drill bit, drivers, etc.) Once installed and plugged in, the system runs continuously. Four LED lights show the bulbs are on and working. You can view the LEDs without having to expose yourself to the UV rays.
You will need to find a good location for the mount. The entire unit occupies over 8 inches of space and shouldn’t be located near vents or other areas where the bulbs can be viewed. It should also be mounted into the metal ducting system and not into cloth, fiber, or foam.
The 2-year warranty covers the system and the mount but does not include the bulbs. Replacement of the bulbs can get expensive, but each will be effective for up to 13,000 hours. When powered and installed correctly, it will eliminate and inhibit the growth of algae, mold, mildew, fungus, and bacteria. It will also eliminate foul odors in the system caused by these allergens.
- 4-bulb kit designed for large area coverage (more than 20,000 square feet)
- Bulb indication LEDs
- Step-by-step installation guide and YouTube video for proper DIY installation.
- Kill odors as well as bacteria
- Tools for mounting and installing are not included.
- Bulb replacements can be expensive
4. D200 Air Purifier Whole House UV Light
Best UV Light System For Whole House AC
|Cord Length||9 ft|
|Wattage/Voltage||9 Watts (each bulb)/120 Volts|
|Coverage Area||Small to medium area coverage|
|Warranty||30-day return, 1-year warranty|
The D200 air purifier is designed for a whole-house UV light and is the best system for homes in the 900 to 1,400 square foot range. The unit comes with two 9-watt bulbs to produce enough sanitizing power to cleanse the air in your home’s ducts.
The 9-foot power cord is long enough to reach most outlets without the need for an extension cord. The 30-day return policy and 1-year warranty should help you rest at ease, just as much as the purified air you are breathing after install.
While not specifically marketed for the odor reduction, when the mold and mildew growth are eliminated, the odors will go with it. The bulbs do not produce ozone, either, so you won’t have that weird, sweet scent when the bulbs are on.
Each bulb is rated for 9,000 hours of sanitizing operation, and the box includes two extra bulbs. With your purchase, you won’t have to worry about purchasing bulbs for at least two years. Installation is simple; the template included will guide you to where to cut and mount the device. Everything should be installed and working in less than 15 minutes.
- Effective for most residential homes
- Extra bulbs included with purchase
- Eliminate up to 97% of all HVAC growths and bacteria
- Only 18 total watts won’t work in larger homes or homes with too many vents.
Best AC UV Light For Reducing Germs
|Cord Length||9 ft|
|Wattage/Voltage||9 Watts/24 Volts|
|Coverage Area||Small area coverage|
|Warranty||1-year limited warranty|
If you are looking for a coil sanitizer that is simple to use and effective, the PUREUV is the model you are after. The install doesn’t need an outlet as it is wired directly into your HVAC 24-volt power supply. If you are unsure or unwilling to do this, I advise professional installation.
The power should be connected to the dedicated transformer, so the bulb is on all the time. If you connect to the 24-volt fan power supply, the bulb won’t be as effective, and the 9,000-hour rating will drop by up to 50%.
Once installed, you can see if the bulb is working by using the sight glass. There is a small cutout in the mounting frame that you can drill out to see the bulb. Just look for the light; don’t stare directly at the bulb, though!
You get a 1-year warranty, which does not cover the bulb. Replacements can be found easily on Amazon, though, and are less expensive than a lot of other models. Make sure you replace them on the recommended schedule for optimal sterilization.
- High-intensity 9 watt bulb for maximum effect
- Magnetic bracket helps with mounting and install
- Kills germs, bacteria and mold growth in the coils
- More difficult to install because of direct wiring.
- Has a smaller footprint of coverage area
6. Honeywell RUVLAMP1/C UV Air Treatment System
Easy Bulb Replacement
|Cord Length||6 ft|
|Wattage/Voltage||18 Watts/120 Volts|
|Coverage Area||Small coverage area|
The Honeywell air treatment system offers the easiest bulb replacement option available. Once the mount is secure, you need only to grab the bulb handle and twist. When you pull the bulb out, it slides out of the handle with ease (allow 10 minutes to cool), and the new one slides in place. Insert back into the mount and twist to lock.
The downside is that the bulbs aren’t as strong as some others, and Honeywell only promises a 70% reduction in air contaminates. That 70 percent, though, is more than enough to notice a reduction in allergens in the home, and it is simple to install.
The good news is that this system purifies the air in the ducts, so you don’t need to mount near the air handler. This means you can install more than one unit to increase the effectiveness, or to ensure it purifies individual rooms.
There is an indicator on the housing to let you know the bulb is working, and you never have to guess if it is on. Make sure you adhere to the recommended replacement schedule, though (12 months), to maintain effectiveness.
- Install above or below coils for maximum effectiveness.
- Twist-lock bulb replacement is quick and simple.
- Installation in less than 15 minutes.
- Not as effective as others on this list
- May not remove all bacteria types.
7. Pure UV Light Air Purifier
Value For The Money
|Cord Length||9 ft|
|Wattage/Voltage||9 Watts/120 Volts|
|Coverage Area||Small coverage area|
The Pure UV light is like the #5 pick. It uses the same bulbs and installs in the same manner. The difference here is that the power adapter uses 120-volt standard outlets instead of having to be hard-wired to the unit.
If you don’t want to hire a professional for installation, this is the model for you. It has the highest value for the money when all aspects are considered. The 9-watt bulb doesn’t produce ozone and is effective up to 97% at killing and inhibiting mold, mildew, and bacteria.
There are a few known issues with the magnetic mounting, especially slipping when the unit kicks on or off. You may find that the bulb is sitting on the coils or on the ground (depending on mounting location) if your unit shakes excessively.
Bulb replacements are easily purchased through Amazon and won’t break the bank to do so. Each bulb is rated for 9,000 hours before scheduled replacement. It is recommended, though, that you get two of these units and mount them on either side of your coils.
A single light will only affect a small area, and having one on each side of your coils will significantly increase the total coverage area.
- Simple installation
- Magnetic mount can be used above or below coils
- High-intensity bulb is effective up to 97%
- Mount can slide if attached to ducting walls
- Doesn’t cover a lot of area.
Why HVAC Systems Develop Mold
Mold is prone to grow in areas that are dark, damp, and rarely accessed. Humidity in the air is enough to spur the growth of mold spores, and they can latch to almost any surface. Depending on the type of surface, how uninterrupted the area is, and the level of moisture, mold colonies can grow rapidly.
HVAC systems are ideal places for mold and mildew because they meet all of these requirements. One of the primary purposes of an air conditioner is to remove the humidity from the air in your home. That humidity has to travel through the system to be expelled. This makes your ducts, evaporator, and the surrounding areas prime real estate for mold growth.
Types of UV Lights for HVAC Systems
When choosing your system and setup, you will need to ask yourself one crucial question. Do you want to sanitize the air in your home or the coil in your system? The setups and requirements are different for each type of sanitizing option. As I promised earlier, here is a more in-depth look at the two methods.
Coil sanitizers use a stick bulb or reflector assembly (parabolic reflectors), to concentrate the UV focus on the coil itself. These systems are generally set to “always on,” and as time goes by, it eliminates the number of living microbes while it inhibits new growth.
Air sanitizing falls into two sub-categories. The first, obvious type is the moving air through the ducts that eventually makes it into the rooms of your house.
These systems almost always need professional installation, since the size of the system is relevant to the square footage of the treated area, installation location, amount of air moved per minute and other factors most homeowners don’t know.
Besides in-duct sanitizing, you can also have air handler sanitizing. This is a treatment method for the air handler and the moving parts inside your system. Instead of sanitizing the evaporator or the air being pushed through, it sanitizes the moving parts that accumulate the moisture. This also includes the drip tray where standing water is prevalent, drain pan, and drain lines.
How to Install UV Light in HVAC System
For the most part, UV light systems aren’t difficult to install. If you are unsure of the process, don’t want to worry about circuit breakers, or cutting into your existing surfaces, you can hire a professional.
The professional cost for installation can fall between $300 and $1200 depending on your location, the UV lighting you install, and the labor cost from the contractor. You will get a warranty on the labor going through a professional, which can help offset the cost.
If you want to do the installation yourself, you can. The following video shows you how to install a basic air handler UV system.
If you want to install the in-duct air sanitizer, this video will show you that process.
Tips on Keeping HVAC Systems & Ducts Clean
The best offense is a good defense. If you will sanitize your HVAC system, you should start with a clean one. Having a professional HVAC cleaning can cost you a few hundred dollars, but it is worth it.
If your system is over five years old, there will be dust, dirt, and airborne debris stuck in the vents, ducts, and coils. Once the system is clean, you can install your UV lights to minimize the microorganism growth.
From there, regular mainenance of the vent covers, changing filters regularly, and on time, as well as keeping the system in proper working order, will go a long way to making sure everything stays how you expect it.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are there drawbacks to having UV lights installed on HVAC systems?
There are a few concerns when installing a UV light into your HVAC system. First, the install needs to be solid. Any air allowed to get in through the mounting will bypass the filter. Dust and debris can then coat the bulbs making them less effective. Second, UV lights can damage paper filters, so you might require a more expensive, stronger filter for your system. Finally, because you are dealing with UV light, there are health concerns for the eyes and skin.
Are HVAC UV lights safe? What are the risks of direct contact with UV lights?
Overall, UV lights are safe. However, care must still be taken. You should never look at a UV light when it is on. The UV-C rays can permanently damage your retinas in a matter of seconds. Also, skin exposure can lead to rashes and possibly melanoma. Similar to exposure to sunlight, the UV rays can cause skin cancer.
Can it purify the air even if the air conditioner is off?
When the system is off, most of the UV light kits will also be off. For the always-on systems, they will purify the surfaces the light reaches, but not the stagnant air in the ducts.
How often do I have to replace UV lights? Where can I buy replacements?
Most UV lights will need replacement every year. Even though the light still shines blue, the effectiveness of the UV-C will be gone. This replacement schedule is only for bulbs rated at 1000 hours. Check the bulbs and your system for recommended replacement intervals and stick with those times. You can purchase new bulbs from Amazon, which will offer you the best selection, OEM replacement bulbs, and the best prices.
Does the light need to be turned on 24 hours a day?
Most systems will be always-on. However, it isn’t required. A lot of the high-end systems or newer models are wired into the thermostat or air handler and will only turn on when the system is on. If the bulbs are going to be on constantly, it won’t hurt or hinder the sanitizing abilities.
Installing UV sanitizing lights in your HVAC system can prevent and eliminate mold, mildew, and fungus from growing. Purifying the air and the components of your HVAC system will help you breathe better when the system is on.
There are plenty of choices with types of UV lighting, mounting styles, and sanitizing methods. If you are in doubt, I recommend you start with the Bio Shield Antimicrobial Protection BUVAS-1. It is the top pick on this list and is simple to install. If you want to upgrade later, the possibility is there, unlike other systems that require more patching or ductwork to replace.
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