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How do UV Air Treatment Systems Work?

Due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, an increasing number of U.S. citizens are practicing social distancing, following the guidelines outlined by our government and the CDC. Essentially, we’re all spending more time indoors, for longer periods. While working remotely and keeping our kids at home during this time will be instrumental in slowing the spread of COVID-19, the air we’re breathing indoors must also be conducive to keeping us healthy and comfortable.

If you are looking for a residential air treatment system that destroys COVID-19, at this point, you’re not going to find it. However, if you’re looking for an air treatment system that can purify your air by breaking down airborne contaminants like mold, bacteria, allergens, and--yes--some viruses, then you’ll want to look into installing a UV air treatment system.


Unlike a standard air filter or an electrostatic air cleaner, a UV air treatment system uses concentrated ultraviolet (UV) light to destroy a wide array of indoor air pollutants. These systems can be equipped with a HEPA filter to provide additional protection against airborne dust, microorganisms, and other particles.

What Kinds of Particles Can UV Air Treatment Systems Destroy?

Ultraviolet light can harm several types of microorganisms, including mold, mildew, fungi, bacteria, and some viruses, by breaking down molecular bonds in their DNA. This either kills the bio-contaminants or renders them unable to reproduce, which, in turn, prevents them from infecting your living space. Some UV systems can also reduce other pollutants from indoor air, such as seasonal allergens and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

How do UV Air Treatment Systems Work?

A UV air treatment system works in tandem with your HVAC system. The installer mounts the UV lights inside of your ductwork. When air circulates through the ducts, the pollutants the air carries must pass through the UV rays, which destroy them.

But wait--isn’t UV light dangerous? While it’s true that some types of UV light have harmful effects on humans (namely UV-A Light and UV-B Light), most UV air purifiers found in homes and hospitals utilize UV-C light, which generally is not considered a risk for skin cancer. Additionally, because the UV light in an air treatment system is contained within your HVAC system, you don’t risk direct exposure to the lights.


When it comes to choosing an indoor air quality solution for your home, the number of options can be overwhelming. It’s important to keep in mind what you would like your air purifier capabilities to be and how much maintenance you’re willing to handle.

Portable Air Purifiers vs. Whole-Home Systems

Portable air purifiers allow you to concentrate filtration efforts in specific areas of your home, such as areas with high foot-traffic or where your pets tend to spend most of their time. They also tend to be more affordable than whole-home treatment systems.

On the other hand, if you have a whole household of allergy-sufferers, or if you live with someone who has a chronic respiratory condition, you may want to consider a whole-home UV light system. Your HVAC system moves air to every room in your house. It makes sense to improve your air quality within your HVAC system itself so that the air it circulates out is healthier than the air it took in.

Electrostatic Air Purifiers vs. UV Treatment Systems

Electrostatic air purifiers use static electricity to charge airborne particles to attract them and then trap them in a filter. As with a UV system, electrostatic air purifiers can be installed in your HVAC system. The filter needs to be cleaned with a vacuum cleaner or hose periodically (depending on how quickly it gets dirty).

While some electrostatic air purifiers are capable of trapping contagions, including some viruses, these systems don’t actually destroy or break down the contagions. A UV system’s UV-C light is what enables it to be “germicidal.”

To learn about UV light installation and other indoor air quality improvements we offer here at HVAC & Plumbing Unlimited, call us at (703) 454-5040 or contact us online.