The ability of ultraviolet light to slash 10 to 35 percent of HVAC energy use drives nine of every 10 UV-C installations today. By eliminating accumulated organic materials and biofilm growth in commercial air handlers, the use of UV-C significantly improves airflow and heat-exchange efficiency levels, which can not only reduce energy use, but also decrease system maintenance costs
and provide cleaner, healthier air. Just as an infection can spread from one part of the body to another, so can contaminated air, which is why an increasing number of home and building owners are choosing to install ultraviolet (UV) products that improve indoor air quality (IAQ) by cutting down on the spread of allergens, mold, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), bacteria, viruses, and more. It is important to pay attention to lamp replacement, either with an annual maintenance agreement, or by some other reminder. If it’s not being replaced, after a year’s time, the homeowner is not getting the benefit of the UV light, and the mold and bacteria will begin to grow, despite the glowing blue light.
As A/C equipment ages, it is generally agreed that its capacity, or the system’s ability to remove heat from the air, becomes compromised. Typically, the inefficiency primarily results from the buildup of contaminants on, and through, the coil’s fin areas. A fouled coil is not always obvious by appearance alone especially coils recently cleaned. If an A/C system is no longer handling the load, it is most likely that a fouled coil is the problem. If a coil looks good, but there are still questions about whether it is fouled, that can be determined by measuring airflow and comparing it to the original design. When airflow is reduced and space humidity is elevated, the conditions will typically bring about poor IAQ levels and occupant complaints. With a fouled coil energy use must increase in order to compensate for this loss of capacity. With DX systems, the increase stems from more energy used at the compressor and fan, and system run times are dramatically increased. In chilled water systems, added energy is used at the chiller to make lower water temperatures, and to increase refrigerant volume (pumps). At the air handler, fans are sped up or VFDs automatically adjust up to overcome higher coil pressure drops and reduced temperature differentials.
Users frequently report that UV-C installations are very cost effective. Many see paybacks in less than six months on energy calculations alone. But when coil cleaning and other reductions in maintenance, occupant complaints and call-backs are factored in, paybacks are often reduced much further. What’s more, it has been estimated that a UV installation costs no more, and often less, than a single professionally performed coil cleaning. Importantly, UV-C by itself doesn’t save energy; rather, it restores the coil’s performance to regain system capacity by 10 - 35 percent and more. And, as system capacity increases, the energy that had been wasted to compensate for lost capacity is returned in the form of lower power consumption by the system.
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