ASHRAE Weighs in on Health Benefits of UV-C

ASHRAE Weighs in on Health Benefits of UV-C

It’s official.

ASHRAE recently released two position documents (links listed below) examining the health consequences of using filtration and air cleaning technologies in HVAC systems. Our own Dean Saputa is an active member of one of the committees responsible for this research (the ASHRAE Filtration and Air Cleaning Position Document Committee). In addition, the ASHRAE Journal’s December 2015 publication has an article authored by Pawel Wargocki, Ph.D., the chair of the Filtration and Air Cleaning Position Document Committee answering some questions on some of the main positions and statement formulated.

Part of the Board of Directors-approved documents involved research examining ultraviolet germicidal energy’s (UV-C) impact on building residents’ health.

UV-C systems can be installed either directly in an HVAC air handler (induct) or as a stand-alone unit, such as in a room’s upper air zone. And, according to the new ASHRAE research, both methods can inactivate infection-causing microorganisms.

Here’s what the ASHRAE research committee found:

  • The UV-C wavelength inactivates microorganisms living on HVAC air ducts and evaporator coils with a kill ratio of 90 percent or higher, depending on light intensity, length of exposure, lamp placement and lamp life cycle. The technology removes both bacterial and viral aerosols from the air.
  • Several studies have examined the health benefits of using UV-C lamps to decontaminate the air streams in healthcare facilities. Some have concluded that, by eliminating harmful germs from the air, UV-C can protect a hospital’s most vulnerable patients from getting sick.
  • Other studies have found a significant reduction in building-related illnesses by using UV-C. These include the alleviation of conditions such as sick building syndrome, mold-related allergies and asthma.
  • UV-C has been found to be effective in eliminating fungus growing in HVAC systems. Rampant fungus can contribute to hypersensitivity pneumonitis, allergic rhinitis and asthma.
  • In a study conducted on guinea pigs, the animals were exposed to tuberculosis-infected air. The application of UV-C energy reduced the incidence or occurrence of the disease among the guinea pigs.

HEALTH BENEFITS OF UV-C

Overall, the ASHRAE position documents recognized the health benefits of UV-C as demonstrated by several studies and recognized that the technology is a potentially beneficial option that building owners should consider installing.

The separate research committees expressed the importance of performing quality control on all air-cleaning technologies. Finally, Association representatives identified the need to develop regulatory and guiding documents that would address the design, operation and maintenance aspects of technologies such as UV-C.

  • See ASHRAE’s position document on Filtration and Air Cleaning, which examines the effectiveness of UV-C in air filtration
  • See ASHRAE’s position document on Airborne Infectious Diseases for additional discussion of UV-C’s role in infection control.