HVAC Maintenance: Let There Be (Ultraviolet) Light

by | Feb 2, 2017


Energy managers have a job that is more important than saving money: They must keep people who work, live or visit the buildings safe and comfortable.

Air handling units are linchpins in maintaining that comfort and safety. Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) ran into a significant problem: It was determined that a musty smell in offices in terminal 2 of the massive airport was caused by mold and bacteria growth on the air handler evaporation coils. In addition to being unhealthy, the buildups hurt performance:

Moreover, the organic buildup on the coil had caused a pressure drop that reduced the volume of air passing through the coil as well as its heat-transfer efficiency. In other words, biofilms that can be several millimeters thick can choke an air handler and severely inhibit system performance.

The answer was ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI), which the airport got from UV Resources. In essence, UV-C, the Engineered Systems story says, damages the cells of the mold and bacteria and eventually kills those cells. It can be used, the story says, in coils, plenum interiors, drain pans and air filters. The story tracks the successful use of this approach by LAX.

It is a thriving segment. Earlier this month, Fresh-Aire said that the second generation of its miniature UV light is available. The Fresh-Aire UV Mini UV CE is, according to the press release, the first UVGI light that is Certified Europe (CE). The product also offers an advanced power supply.

The description is aimed at extolling the virtues of the new Fresh-Aire product. It does a good job, however, of describing the value proposition of the entire class of products:

Like all Fresh-Aire UV products, the Mini UV CE inhibits mold and other biological growth on blower and evaporator coil surfaces and sterilizes germs, viruses, allergens and other pathogens that can flourish in HVAC systems from condensation moisture and be distributed throughout a building. UV-C lights also save energy and reduce maintenance costs because surface areas free of biological growth promote optimum heat transfer and operate more efficiently.

The market is expanding. Transparency Market Research reported last year that the worldwide value of the segment would grow from $168.4 million in 2014 to $430.3 million by 2023. It would have an compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10.9 percent from 2015 to 2023.

HVAC, the report says, will be an important part of the overall growth of the category, which has several uses:

The upper room systems sub-segment, which is a part of the air disinfectant segment, is anticipated to be the largest segment in the overall market. Its wide application in areas of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems will help the expansion of its share in the overall market. Furthermore, upper room systems are known to consume less power in comparison to other systems, which will boost their demand in the foreseeable future.

UV-C, it seems, should be normal part of the care and upkeep of facilities’ HVAC systems.

Image: Nevit.

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