Best UV Lights for HVAC Systems

I recently had a friend asking about UV for his HVAC system. I’ve got to say, and it piqued my interest. Even though we aren’t sure that UV kills Coronavirus, it seems like all of us are thinking about the “bad bugs” and what we can do to protect ourselves. 

We’ve known that dust is a bad problem for HVAC systems. Most of us don’t change their air filters as we should. Even if we do, all of the dust, pet dander, and dirt provide an excellent food source for fungi (and, to a lesser extent, bacteria) to grow. 

Adding a UV light to your existing air handler improves the air quality of your home by destroying harmful microorganisms in the air as they flow past the lamp, removing this major allergen source. The main point of these UV bulbs, however, is to kill mold spores before they can build up on your coils or in your drain pan. 

Legionnaire’s disease is an example of how deadly bacteria that grow in an air conditioning system can be. 

Note: Wipe down the UV bulb before sliding it into place to remove any finger oils as they will reduce the life of the bulb. 

What Are the Best UV Lights For HVAC?

There are a lot of options. You can always call your local HVAC company and go with whatever brand they are used to installing.

However, there are several great models that are sold online.

You can pick one up, save some money, and with installing it yourself. Or buy it online and hire someone local to install it.

For more information, including installation instructions and frequently asked questions, scroll down below the buying guide.

Honeywell UV100A1059 UV Lamp For HVAC

Honeywell is one of the most well-known HVAC brands. It is likely that you have already worked with some of their thermostats or other parts before. The brand name is a leader in the air conditioning industry.

So I feel a little better about adding one of their lights to my air conditioner. If you ever go to sell the house, you aren’t going to spook the buyers, thanks to the brand trust of Honeywell.

Most of these units are rated for 6,000 CFM airflow. Most household units only produce about 3000 CFM, so it is more than powerful enough for the UV rays to get good coverage.

When drilling this template, it works best to drill the two smaller holes first, and then you can drill the middle hole for the lights.

The advantage is that this light is 12-inches long, which is shorter than most, and it lets it fit into just about any space.

As with all of these lights, don’t mount it too close to the ac coils or the drain pan. They do produce some heat, and you don’t want it to be so close that it melts any of the inner plastics.

The bulb replacement on this one is easy, thanks to the handy twist-lock knob.

With so many cheap Chinese-made lights on the market, it is nice to see a competitively-priced option from a well-known brand.

Swordfish UV Light

The Swordfish is one of the early movers on the use of germicidal lights for protecting air quality.

Where a lot of systems are designed to simply trap pollutants, Swordfish introduces the purifying power of UV light.

The light doesn’t produce ozone, offering the best way to get clean air.

For the DIY shopper, this comes with just about everything you need. There is a hole saw that lets you easily cut the hole that you need. I do recommend drilling a pilot hole to get a cleaner cut. Considering that you need to purchase

One of the advantages of this model is that it has a light that illuminates when you need to change the light bulb. The easy turn and click removal system makes for exceptionally easy bulb replacement.

This is a 36-watt bulb. That is more than enough to handle most home sizes and can eradicate the most stubborn areas of mold growth.

The nice thing about this model is that you get a ten-year warranty with it. You have to cover the shipping, but they seem quite responsive should you have an issue.

I like how easy it is to install and that you can call and get customer support. The easy light changing feature puts this one over the top and makes me recommend it more than I would think.

OdorStop UV Air Treatment System

The OdorStop is one of the best ones to consider because it is specifically designed to retrofit existing air conditioning systems.

This UV light stands out from the crowd in that it includes four ultraviolet light bulbs. At 36-watts each, this helps ensure that you get complete coverage of your blower chamber. However, it is a little bit overkill for most houses. Unless you are trying to treat 4,000 square feet, you are probably better off and switch it to to the lower 18-watt bulbs.

The other thing that helps this light stand out is the airflow sensor. Unless the air is blowing, the sensor does not turn on. This is critical in that it helps to reduce how long the light needs to burn and lengthens the light of your bulbs.

That said, if you are running your HVAC frequently, the bulbs can need replacement several times a year.

The 6-foot power cord gives you plenty of reach to nearby outlets and with the installation template to make it easy to install in minutes.

Field Controls Pure UV Light Air Purifier UV-16/120

The Field brand is the company that commercial companies rely on when adding air purification to large commercial buildings.

This 16-inch air purifier might be one of the cheapest purification systems. The compact, 16-inch light bulb means that you can fit it into just about any space.

The other nice feature is that the head on this unit is much smaller. This lets you fit it into tight places with relative ease. And, it only requires drilling a 1-inch hole into the side of the air return, making it easy to install.

Field controls used to make a 24-volt one that was wired into the system. This one uses a standard 120-volt power supply, which makes it more versatile and means that anyone can install it without paying hefty fees to a technician.

The replacement bulbs are very cheap, making this one more affordable over the years of use.

You only need one of these light kits per blower, so most American homes will only need one to treat their entire house.

This isn’t the most expensive one, but it combines the protection you need with the ease of installation.

UV Air Care

What I like about most of the brands on this list is that they are backed by companies that have been around for a little while.

UV Air Care is a smaller company that produces a wide range of air-moving products. They make some of the negative air movement machines for construction sites.

So with this UV lamp, you get an excellent air sterilization system, while still protecting your budget. If you have a kid who is struggling with asthma, and you want to try out the system and see if it works, the UV Air Care is an excellent way to try it out.

The other nice feature is that you only need to drill a 1-inch hole into the side of your air return. Not only does this make it very easy to install, but you can also upgrade to other models (like the Field reviewed above), using the same hole that you created.

The other nice feature is that the lamp is rated for 12,000 hours. This always-on lighting system keeps the mold at bay while going for every 1.3 years between bulb changes. This might be the closest option to the Phillips Bio-Shield, which I have a difficult time finding for sale online.

FAQs

Should I Buy An UV and Ozone Combo?

Ozone is when three oxygen molecules combine. This creates an extremely reactive molecule that is effective when you need to sterilize water or air.

However, it can be very irritating to the lungs. It doesn’t take very much ozone to begin damaging the lungs.

Ozone has its place. When you are trying to restore a rental property that has been smoked in or fix a massive mold problem in a building, it can be good to use an ozone machine to destroy those problems.

However, I’ve been in houses that try to run ozone all the time to improve the air quality, and it definitely made my lungs hurt. So I recommend choosing a UV light system that doesn’t create ozone.

Choosing The Correct Wattage

These come in different wattage. If you buy too large of a bulb, it can create too much heat inside the ductwork. Some homeowners have noted that when the bulb is too larger for their system, that it has a tendency to smell warm. Also, there is limited anecdotal evidence that some brands of bulbs might burn out more quickly if they overheat. 

Combined with the added price that the larger wattage bulbs require, it makes sense to buy the correct bulb for your square footage. 

  • 18 watt – This is a good size for homes up to 1,500 square feet
  • 36 watt – Good for 1,500 square feet up to about 4,000 square feet. 
  • 60 watt – Good for light commercial use.

Beyond that, you can buy arrays of lights that combine more bulbs. Additionally, most American homes over 5,000 square feet will have multiple forced air units. You’ll simply install one germicidal light in each of those units. 

Commercial systems don’t generally come with germicidal lights. Instead, they use either a disposable filter or a reusable electrostatic filter. 

What Is An HVAC UV Light?

Ultraviolet light air purifiers are a lightbulb system that is inserted inside the air stream of your air conditioning system.

UV light is often used in hospitals and foodservice industries. It easily destroys microorganisms by unraveling and damaging their DNA, killing the cells instantly. Since it targets the genetic code of the cell, it can also easily kill most viruses as it destroys their genetic code, making replication difficult.

There has been a lot of research done to support the use of UV light to stop contagious diseases. The magic wavelength of light seems to be 253.70 nm, which occurs when light passes through mercury vapor. This discovery makes germicidal bulbs fairly affordable to create.

There are three types of UV lights, as distinguished by the wavelength of the light and its effect on organisms. UV-A and UV-B are not germicidal, while UV-C light is.

Most of these systems are designed to run continuously, regardless of whether the HVAC system is running. This allows it to thoroughly clean the air handler, and then to also help reduce the viral load of air as it flows past it.

Does Ultraviolet Light Kill Mold?

Mold in the AC unit is a major concern. If you are fighting a mold problem, the first three areas to check are:

1. Is the Air conditioner draining well? A clogged drain pan will cause massive mold problems. Mold can build up on the AC coils as well.

2. Does the ductwork have massive mold growth from an earlier clogged drain pan problem? 

3. Is there mold elsewhere in the house that is being sucked into the air system. 

Ultraviolet light is highly effective at killing mold. However, it can’t keep up if there is an aggressive mold growth problem already present in the duct system. In that scenario, the source has to be taken care of first. 

Air conditioning systems creates a dark, humid atmosphere that is perfect for mold growth. HVAC UV Light has been measured to have a germicidal effect inside of the air duct, reducing the amount of growth and microorganisms being blown out into the living space. 

Right now, disinfectant robots are being used in hospitals. These little machines are basically UV-C lights on wheels that deploy into a room. In 10-15 minutes, they can destroy 99.99 percent of germs in a room. 

These robots demonstrate the effectiveness of UV-C lights on mold, mildew, fungus, and any other organism that contains DNA or RNA. 

The UV light shines on the coil to prevent mold growth. 

Are Ultraviolet Light Bulbs Hot?

This is one of the drawbacks to be aware of. Ultraviolet bulbs get about as hot as a florescent bulb will get. However, towards the end of their life, when some of the internal gas has escaped, they can run a little warmer. The main thing to keep in mind is that you don’t want to mount the light right up against another internal component of the air conditioner. Ideally, try to keep it at least 3-inches away from internal components. Some lights may have more specific instructions.

Do you need an HVAC UV Light?

While every house would benefit from frequent filter changes, regular ductwork cleaning, and a UV light, there are some health symptoms that can indicate poor indoor air quality

  • Allergic Rhinitis
  • Repeated Pneumonia
  • Coughing and Sneezing
  • Asthma
  • Cancer-related to Mycotoxins
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue 
  • Nausea

As you can tell, these symptoms are wide-ranging and non-specific. Additionally, they may affect each member of the household in a different way. However, we are constantly learning that the quality of the air we breathe has a massive impact on our health. There have even been links made between air pollution and irritable bowel syndrome

Do you have Mold In Your HVAC System?

You can often tell that there is mold growth by the dark growth inside your HVAC system. Long before you start poking around inside your HVAC, it is likely that you will be alerted to the problem by the smell of the old, musty, mildew smell emanating from your vents every time you turn the air conditioning on.

You might notice that your health is worse when you are at home and gets better when you go to work. This can be a sign that there is an air quality problem at your house.

If you are going to look inside your vents, make sure to wear a mask to keep dust and potential mold out of your lungs. If you find something that you think is mold, hire a professional come to remove it and clean your air ducts to keep the mold from getting spread throughout your house.

Installing a UV lamp system can keep you from making repeated calls for air conditioning repair.

Is it Difficult to Install A UV Light on Your Duct?

It is surprisingly simple to install one. You can always buy it cheaply online, and then hire a local HVAC tech to do the installation.

Generally, you will get a paper template with the light. Apply it to the return air duct where your furnace is located. You can then use it to make the marks where the pilot holes will go.

Generally, you need a hole saw to drill a hole for the pilot light to go. And then, you will secure it in place using included screws that go into the sheet metal.

The UV light will generally have a power cord that is 6 to 8 feet long. It will just plug into a nearby outlet. If you don’t have an outlet near your HVAC furnace, or if you want it to be wired in with your HVAC’s electrical system, you will want to hire an electrician.

The advantage of wiring it into your HVAC system is that it is only on when the system is on. This can do a lot to help extend the life of the lightbulb.

UV Light Sanitizers Vs. Air Purifiers?

All furnaces have at least a basic filter. Some people also invest in thicker, stronger filter systems. These thicker filters allow you to enjoy different layers of filtration to keep pollen, dust, VOC’s and other invisible particulates out of the air. By combing more layers, the filter removes more allergens.

However, even with good filters, the air conditioning coil and drip pan can grow mold.