UV Air Purifiers: Do They Work and Are They Worth It?

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Written By Jamila W.

Clean air is no longer a default, but a luxury. Luckily, air purification is here to help us identify the harmful particles in our surroundings and warn us when air quality deteriorates and begins to threaten our health.

UV air purifiers are currently very popular on the market. Their effectiveness is reflected in the fact that they eliminate airborne pathogens in a large percentage and provide us with cleaner air.

This is definitely a serious investment, and so, the question remains:

Do UV air purifiers work?

The short answer to this question is YES – this UV light technology has proven to be successful in helping us fight air pollutants and enhance the quality of our environment.

Are they worth it?

Definitely. If health and improved air quality is your goal, you should definitely consider incorporating these devices in your home. However, you should be aware that they are not omnipotent either, despite their many advantages.

To find out how UV light air purifiers work, and whether they are worth every penny, read on

How Does a UV Air Purifier Work?

uv purifier switch

Let’s get right to the point: the essence of UV air purifiers.

UV C light, which is germicidal, represents a crucial factor in air purification technology.

Simply put, this light is responsible for attacking the bacteria’s DNA that threatens our health and successfully destroys it. It’s important to highlight that this is a non-chemical disinfection approach.

This was just scraping the surface, though. To fully understand the way UV light technology within air purification devices work, you need to familiarize yourself with the following three factors:

1. UV C Light Exposure Time

This is the time duration during which a microorganism is exposed to the ultraviolet light that’s emitted by the device. It depends on targeted microorganisms, the intensity of the light, and their susceptibility to it.

It’s common for different airborne pathogens to have different levels of resistance to this light, requiring longer exposure in order to achieve the desired results. For example, reflective surfaces that can enhance the effectiveness of this UV disinfection play a major role.

Most UV air purification device manufacturers provide users with guidelines and recommendations for time exposure. Therefore, it’s crucial to follow these guidelines in order to achieve 100% effectiveness.

2. UV C Intensity and Wavelength

These two factors are crucial when it comes to safety and effectiveness.

Firstly, it’s important to note that UV C light has a wavelength between 100 and 280 nm. This range destroys the DNA of bacteria and other airborne viruses by making them unable to reproduce.

Higher intensity levels of ultraviolet light are more efficient when it comes to disinfection because they provide greater energy.

Bonus tip:

Although your goal is to purify the air in your environment, it’s important to strike a balance between the intensity of the UV-C light and your safety. Always make sure to follow the guidelines that have already been tested and ensure safe levels of UV C lights.

3. Air Changes per Hour (ACH)

The last metric that’s vital to the functioning of air purifiers is ACH – air changes per hour. This measurement is used to calculate the rate at which the indoor air is replaced with fresh air. Simply speaking, this is the number of times the total value of air is completely exchanged within one hour.

ACH helps you determine how quickly pollutants can be removed from the indoor environment.

The Cost of UV Air Purifiers (Installation and Maintenance)

white room

Before heading down to the store and ending up surprised by the price tag on your desired UV air purifier, you should bear in mind the four factors that determine its price. They include:

  • Installation costs
  • UV light replacement
  • Maintenance
  • Energy consumption

Installation Costs

Upfront costs of installing a UV air purifier can range from a few hundred dollars to a thousand dollars.

For a whole-house air purifier system, here is the average installation cost per filter type:

  • Flat filter: $10 – $70
  • Electronic filter: $500 – $2,000
  • Extended media filter: $400 – $800
  • HEPA filtration system: $1,000 – $4,000
  • UV light filter: $400 – $800
  • UV light hybrid system: $1,200 – $3,000
  • Portable home air purifier: $500 – $1,800

UV Light Replacement Costs

UV air purifiers rely on UV lamps that emit germicidal UV C light. They’re not infinite, and eventually, you will have to replace them with new ones. Regarding the replacement frequency, this depends on the UV lamp manufacturer and specifications.

Most commonly, your lamps should be changed once a year.

As for the cost of replacing your UV lamp, you will have to set aside anywhere from 10 to 75 dollars.

Maintenance Costs

Lastly, we’re down to the maintenance cost. The cleaning frequency depends on the manufacturer’s specifications, as well as the specific model of the UV light air purifier. For instance, you can tend to:

  • UV lamp cleaning:
  • Filter maintenance
  • Internal component cleaning

Important note:

Indoor air quality depends on the frequency of cleaning.

How Effective Are UV Air Purifiers?

white building, air conditioner

The effectiveness of UV air purifiers is shown by their ability to remove 99.9% of particles in your environment.

Reduction of Bacteria, Mold Spores, and Airborne Viruses

The most important advantage of incorporating UV air purifiers in your environment is that they can help you get rid of bacteria, mold spores, and reduce airborne contaminants.

UV C light helps neutralize bacteria that are present in the air’s atmosphere. The purifier attacks their DNA and RNA, making them unable to reproduce. However, it’s important to mention that the effectiveness depends on the type of bacteria and airflow rate.

Additionally, UV C light significantly reduces mold spores, which are responsible for triggering allergies and enhancing respiratory issues when inhaled. As with bacteria, the UV air purifier attacks their DNA, preventing further growth and expansion of these harmful particles.

Lastly, UV air purifiers are successful in fighting against airborne viruses. Their aim is to damage the genetic material of these specific materials, preventing further reproduction.

Improved Air Quality

Investing in UV C air purifiers contributes to improving indoor air quality and helps maintain overall cleaner air.

Many UV air purifiers that are installed near cols disinfect the surrounding air and contribute to reducing microbial buildup. This automatically helps maintain optimal performance and efficiency.

Odor and VOC Reduction

UV air filtration systems can significantly reduce unpleasant indoor odors. They do so by targeting the causing molecules, breaking down the volatile organic compounds (VOC), and altering their chemical structure.

This is especially effective with unpleasant smells caused by smoke, cooking, pets, and so on.

UV light purifiers have been shown to be more effective in reducing volatile organic compounds that are susceptible to UV radiation. Certain compounds may require additional technology, such as activated carbon filters.

The Limitations of UV Air Purifiers

man outside his apartment

Although UV HVAC systems are successful at purifying the air and eliminating air pollutants, these purifiers have some limitations as well. They include:

  • 100% elimination of allergies and health issues
  • UV light exposure
  • Limited coverage area

100% Elimination of Allergies and Health Issues Not Guaranteed

It is not uncommon for most people to start with the idea that UV air purifiers will remove 100% of allergy symptoms and cure their health issues. Unfortunately, this is not true.

Although UV air purifiers have proven to be very important for cleaning and improving indoor air quality, they are not responsible for treating diseases and completely eliminating allergy symptoms.

Their purpose is to minimize them as much as possible.

The Danger of UV Light Exposure

Prolonged exposure to UV light without taking precautionary measures can be dangerous.

For instance, UV B and UV C rays can cause skin damage. They can contribute to premature aging, sunburns, and even the risk of skin cancer.

These UV light rays are also harmful to your vision. Unprotected handling of UV lights can cause various eye conditions, such as cataracts, damage to the retina, and so on.

Before they’re put into the market, UV C lamps must meet specific standards. Regardless of the UV light your air filters use, you should always adhere to wearing protective gear: glasses and gloves.

Limited Coverage Area (Depending On the Model)

The last note-worthy limitation is the limited coverage area. Generally speaking, the effectiveness of electromagnetic radiation to purify the air depends on the distance of the UV lamps. For example, UV C lamps have a relatively short range, making them most effective within a few feet.

In order to effectively purify large spaces, you might need multiple UV purifiers. That’s why, before buying an air purifier, you should inquire about the coverage area. Although multiple purifiers might contribute to larger coverage, this will add to installation and maintenance costs.

Determine Your Personal Needs

girl staring at a window

Before you make your decision final, it’s important to take personal needs and concerns into account. You need to think about your specific indoor and air conditioning concerns, as well as the allergies and health issues you’re dealing with.

Focus on Specific Indoor Air Concerns

Regarding indoor air quality, air concerns include the following:

  • Humidity and mold
  • Particulate matter
  • Unpleasant odors
  • Bacteria and viruses

Reflect on Your Allergies and Health Issues

Closely related to the previous point, UV air purifiers are certainly a significant step in minimizing unwanted allergy symptoms and reducing the chances of getting sick throughout the year.

UV C radiation can specifically help you with dealing with the following health issues:

  • Asthma
  • Allergy symptoms
  • Mold and fungi infections
  • Odor control

The Final Say: Do UV Air Purifiers Work?

We have successfully put the spotlight on the question, do UV air purifiers work and are they worth the hype?

The short answer would be yes – UV air purifiers are significantly advanced in technology that helps in improving indoor air quality and minimizing the unwanted effects of allergies and other health issues.

The essence of their mechanism is reflected in ultraviolet germicidal irradiation that attacks bacteria and viruses and reduces unpleasant odors. Most of these purifiers, in combination with HEPA filters, significantly improve air quality.

UV air purifiers come with a number of significant advantages: they trap particles, kill harmful bacteria, and improve overall indoor and outdoor air quality. However, before you decide on your UV air purifier, you should take into account the coverage area and UV light exposure.

Last but not least, if you’re contemplating buying a UV air purifier, bear in mind that these devices do not guarantee the elimination of your health issues. Instead, their purpose is to make life much easier and provide you with cleaner and healthier air.