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UV Lights Are Catching On

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March 19, 2000 - UV Lights For Cleaner Air Catching On

Ultraviolet light, the kind of light produced by the sun, is being used in new clean air technology now being marketed on Hilton Head Island. The UV lights are installed in heating and air condition ducts and come in portable units. Some claim the lights help prevent illness and minimize allergies by sterilizing air.

Three local companies are selling the lights: Epperson and Lang's, specializing in heating and air conditioning, and Enhance-It, which sells air and water filters. The UV lights work on the same principle as sunlight, which kills viruses, bacteria, molds and other microbes by breaking down their DNA. The air must make direct contact with the bulb.

Since World War II, large UV lights have been used to kill airborne diseases in hospitals and laboratories. In the past five years, the technology has been made smaller and more affordable for residential and commercial use.
Jeff Moorehouse, a University of South Carolina engineering professor who specializes in heating and air conditioning, has studied scientific reports about UV lights as air cleaners. "It's existing technology. UV lights are everywhere - in fish tanks, grow lights and in glue hardener," he said. "The question is not if they work, but how efficiently."

Moorehouse said local scientists should study kill times for the specific microbes living in the Lowcountry. Effectiveness also depends on the power of the light, size of the room and length of exposure. 
Victoria Anderson, loan officer for Lighthouse Mortgage, has a portable light in her office and bulbs in the ducts of of her South Forest Beach villa. She's convinced the lights are good for her. "I think it has improved my allergies to mold and mildew," Anderson said.

Dr. Paul Long of Heritage Medical Center on Hilton Head Island wants the clinic's board of directors to approve the addition of air-conditioner duct UV lights. "I have no reservation about it," he said.
Large heating and air-conditioning companies, including Carrier and Trane, soon will incorporate ultraviolet lights in new units, said Enhance-It president Warren Lynn. "It's going to be in your house sooner or later," he said.
Lynn said he recently attended an international conference on heating and air conditioning in Dallas, where the technology was a topic.

Ben Phipps, service manager for Lang's, said customers are slowly becoming aware of the UV lights, resulting in increased demand. Both Lynn and Phipps said the lights are a partial solution, but not a cure-all, to better indoor air quality.

The UV lights range in price from $499 to $595 installed. The lights need a new bulb every year. The bulbs cost $70 - $100, depending on the strength.



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