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HVAC UV Lights for AC Systems&#;Do They Work?

In , Niels Finsen won the Nobel Prize in Medicine for his use of ultraviolet light in the treatment of tuberculosis. Since then, ultraviolet lights have been widely adapted for all kinds of uses: sterilizing hospitals, sterilizing water, germicidal lamps in food establishments, and even curing nail polish faster. If UV light is so effective, how can it be applied to improving indoor air quality for residential HVAC systems? Will it kill mold and bacteria in HVAC systems? Yes, but you need to understand the priorities of indoor air quality and the types of UV lights available for residential HVAC systems.


About 2 years ago, we installed a 19 SEER Lennox XC 21 air conditioner. During our most recent AC service, the technician also installed a TopTech HVAC UV light inside the air handler, which remains turned on 24/7. According to the technician from Engineered Air, HVAC UV lights are very effective at controlling mold inside the air handler. All mold in line-of-sight of the UV bulb will be killed, keeping the coil mold-free. He also mentioned that several clients with respiratory problems are even able to tell if the UV bulb has burned-out due to reduced air quality. I&#;ll let you know if I am able to tell.


Types of HVAC UV Lights

There are two types of UV lights for HAVC systems.

  • Coil Sterilization &#; A &#;stick type&#; light installed inside the return air duct near that sterilizes the air handler coil. A coil sterilization UV light runs 24/7 and is the most common type of HVAC UV light. It is also most reasonably priced. Amazon lists the TopTech 14&#; UV light for $
  • Air Sterilization &#; A complete UV light unit that sterilizes moving air. The UV light unit is installed in the return air duct and cycles on with the air handler blower. Sanuvox is a top-rated manufacturer of air sterilization systems.

Studies Prove Effectiveness

Two studies point to the effectiveness of UV light in killing mold and bacteria, one in hospitals and the other in a commercial HVAC system.


The TopTech UV stick light bulb is estimated to last hours, just over 1 year. Replacement bulbs cost about $ Replace the bulb during each annual HVAC service and maintenance is nearly effortless.

Energy Cost

The TopTech UV light we installed is rated at amps. To calculate annual energy costs, I used these handy calculators

For just under $ per year ($24 electricity + $70 replacement bulb), my family has peace-of-mind knowing that we are breathing the highest-quality indoor air. It seems like a small price to pay. But it doesn&#;t make sense to install an HVAC UV light unless you&#;ve followed the indoor air quality priorities.

Indoor Air Quality Priorities

While HVAC UV lights are effective for killing mold, bacteria, germs and odors, make sure you have completed the indoor air quality basics:

  • Seal air ducts during renovation or construction
  • Install ducts in conditioned space
  • Ensure air-tight ducts, sealing all joints with mastic. See this Duct Sealing Guide from Building Science Corporation.
  • Install high-MERV filters, but be sure your HVAC system is designed for the higher static pressure of better filtration
  • Install UV light in HVAC system
  • Conduct regular maintenance, changing filters monthly and cleaning the coil annually


HVAC UV lights:

  • Control mold and bacteria
  • Reduce colds and flus &#; germs are not re-circulated by HVAC system
  • Reduce smells / odors
  • Remove VOCs
  • Are more effective in humid climates than dry climates
  • Reduces clogging in condensate drain lines by preventing algae growth.
  • Maintain a cleaner coil, improving cooling efficiency and reducing electricity costs.


HVAC UV Lights:


Bottom Line

HVAC UV lights are an effective means for improving indoor air quality, but only after following the indoor air quality priorities. Install an HVAC UV light and experience healthier indoor air quality.


Ultraviolet (UV) lights for HVAC systems are commonly known as ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI) systems. UVGI systems produce the same ultraviolet light that’s present in sunshine, and they are touted to “sanitize” your indoor air and the HVAC equipment. It sounds like a great idea in theory, but the claims don’t stand up to scrutiny.

If the goal is to improve your indoor air quality, there are less expensive and more effective ways to achieve it. Before you invest in expensive equipment, let&#;s explore the pros and cons of UV HVAC lights.


  • Help to control new mold and bacterial growth
  • May reduce smells/odors
  • May reduce clogging in condensate drain lines by preventing algae growth.
  • Maintain a cleaner coil, improving cooling efficiency, and reducing electricity costs.


  • Destroy non-UV stabilized plastics in the air handler. Only items in the line of sight are affected
  • May destroy the drain pan in years
  • May break down the flex duct in as little as 2 years
  • Dust quickly builds up on the UV bulb so it needs to be cleaned often to ensure its effectiveness and with UV light being harmful to humans, make sure the system is off before you maintain it
  • UV light is great against mold mildew bacteria but not very effective with viruses
  • UV light does not filter air, it just kills off the particulates so you still need to use filters
  • UV bulbs are short-lived and need to be replaced yearly
  • The system itself ranges in price from $ to upwards of $ Pair that with replacement bulbs costing anywhere from $$


While a UV light may help sufferers of breathing problems by destroying mold and mildew growth, HVAC UV lights are costly to install and upkeep, and will ultimately cause the need for HVAC repairs due to damage. There are more cost-efficient ways to improve your indoor air quality that won’t destroy your system components:

  • Clean and/or replace your filters regularly. Your first line of defense against airborne microorganisms is your HVAC filter, which is designed to trap particles before they enter your HVAC unit (and before the air is redistributed throughout the home). It’s recommended that average homeowners change their air filters *at least* every 90 days or more often if they own pets or produce more particles than average.
  • Consider high-MERV filters. Filters are rated on a MERV scale, which stands for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value. if you seem to have trouble with your indoor air quality, or if you’re interested in preserving the best possible breathing conditions, a high-MERV filter (17 to 20) may be better.
  • Seal your ductwork. If you’re trying to improve your air quality, make sure you inspect your ductwork.
  • Keep your house clean. Your filters and UV lights will be doing a lot of heavy lifting, but don’t make them work harder than they have to.

If you are struggling with poor indoor air quality, or have more questions about UV HVAC lights, please reach out to us today! Here at North East Air Conditioning and Plumbing, we want the best for you and we’re always happy to come up with a plan to improve your HVAC experience.

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Note: For those of you who want to install the UV lights by yourself, we filtered most lights in stock this week and publish a post: Best HVAC UV Lights For DIY (Updated on Feb 8, ). We will update this list every week as some products could be out of stock due to a notable boost in sales recently.

The thought of mold and bacteria multiplying in the HVAC system and being circulated through ductwork is troubling to anyone who wants a sanitary home. It can be a serious threat to those with breathing issues such as asthma and C.O.P.D.

You’ve heard that ultraviolet lights effectively sanitize air and equipment. Is this true? How much do they cost? Are they worth it?

These are the questions answered in this guide to UV light cost and effectiveness.

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Do UV Lights Kill Mold, Bacteria and Viruses?

Ultraviolet lights were shown to kill mold, viruses and bacteria more than years ago. In fact, in , Niels Finsen was given the Noble Prize in Medicine for using UV to effectively treat patients with skin infections.

Today, UV lights are used for germicidal use in hospitals, restaurants and grocery stores. And they have been shown effective in killing sterilizing an HVAC system. Here are two examples:

1). In , a study at Duke University Medical Center showed that UV lights killed 97% of bacteria that were resistant to antibiotics, the so-called superbug bacteria that are the toughest to kill.

2). The Journal of Applied and Environmental Biology reported in that germicidal UV radiation significantly reduces airborne fungi in air handling units.

Will it Work on the Coronavirus?

This is a question we’re hearing often, and there might be good new! UV germicidal lights are known to kill viruses of many kinds.

Can UV Light Kill COVID?

UV light might kill coronavirus! According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Vaporous hydrogen peroxide, ultraviolet germicidal irradiation, and moist heat are the most promising decontamination methods” for COVID commonly called coronavirus.

More on UV Light from the CDC

Testing is still in the early stages, but promising results are expected. In discussing disposable masks, technically called filtering facepiece respirators, or FFRs, the CDC discusses decontaminating them and advises that “Because ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI) vaporous hydrogen peroxide (VHP), and moist heat showed the most promise as potential methods to decontaminate FFRs, researchers, decontamination companies, healthcare systems, or individual hospitals should focus current efforts on these technologies.”

This video shows an interview with the CEO of Xenex, a manufacturer of UVGI lights. It discusses how it is being used in hospitals for sanitizing and disinfecting purposes.

What Kind of UV Light is Used in HVAC Systems?

The UV lights installed in HVAC systems are Ultraviolet germicidal irradiation lights, the kind being used to kill COVID in tests being conducted.

The CDC warns that lights are more or less effective based on their UV intensity and the amount of time the contaminated surface is exposed to the light.

Since HVAC UV germicidal irradiation lights are on full-time in most cases, the dose is considered quite high.

Promising but not Proven

Tests are ongoing. While it appears that UV lights kill coronavirus, remember that intensity and dose are different for each light.

We recommend that you don’t take your health safety for granted. If you are concerned about potential contamination in your home, clean affected surfaces thoroughly. You might also want to open windows for fresh air unless you believe there is a threat immediately outside your window, which would be rare.

And consider having a UV germicidal light added to your system. If you already have one, make sure the bulb is working.

Fresh-Aire is a leading manufacturer of whole-house UV germicidal lights and other technologies. It claims that, “Fresh-Aire UV systems are tested and validated against bacteria, viruses, mold & fungus…and achieve up to a % reduction on microorganisms.”

Here is the latest update from Fresh-Aire.

Bookmark this PickHVAC page because we will continue to update this section as relevant testing data becomes available.

UV Light Options for your HVAC System

Two types of UV lights are made for sanitizing your heating and air conditioning system. They have various names including purifying lights, germicidal lights, sanitizing lights and sterilization lights.

Coil Sanitizing Lights:

If you have central air conditioning, then you have an indoor coil. It is a prime location for the development of mold and bacteria. Why?

Because the coil is used to condense moisture from the air to dehumidify your home during AC cycles. As air passes over the coil, dirt, pet dander and other debris stick to its wet surface. The combination creates an ideal setting for the growth of mold and bacteria that can be spread through your home in the passing air.

Coil UV lights are the most common HVAC sterilizing lights. Single-lamp and dual-lamp models are produced. Coil sterilization lights are installed where they can shine directly onto the surface of the coil, and they are left on continuously.

Air Sanitizing Lights:

This type of HVAC germicidal lights are installed in the ductwork bringing return air to the system. Their purpose is to kill airborne germs and mold. Stick and U-shaped lamps are used by various manufacturers.

Some air germicidal HVAC lights are coordinated with the blower motor to turn on and off as it does. These must be hardwired with the system, so installation cost is on the high end of the spectrum.

Also Read:Best HVAC UV Air Sanitizing Lights For DIY

How Much do UV Lights Cost?

There are four costs associated with germicidal HVAC lights: Fixture cost, installation cost, replacement lamp cost and energy cost.

TypeLight CostInstallation CostLamp CostEnergy CostTop Brands
Coil Sanitizing Lights$$+$$$$60$$30 each yearGuardian Air
Top Tech
Pure UV
Air Sanitizing Lights$$+$$$$$$30 each yearSanuvox

The most popular lights for both the coil and the air ducts cost $80 to $ Most lower-cost units use a single lamp. Those with higher cost use two lamps and, for air sterilizing UV lights, also include an air filter to clean the air of allergens.

Lamp life is 9 to 14 months for most brands, so expect to spend an average of $$50 per year for new lamps depending on whether you install a unit with one lamp or two.

DIY Installation is Possible

Many UV lights for HVAC systems include a V plug. They aren’t hardwired. Some have a magnetic mounting bracket for quick, simple installation. The process requires accessing the coil cabinet or ductwork, using sheet metal screws to install a light that doesn’t have a magnetic bracket, and plugging it in.

If you have DIY skills that are at least mid-level, then you might be able to save installation cost by doing it yourself. Complete instructions are included with most lights. We don’t recommend hard-wiring a light yourself – only installing those with a power cord plug.

Note: Be sure to seal up ductwork after installation using pro-grade duct tape or mastic. Air leaks allow contamination of the system, hurt efficiency, reduce indoor comfort and can be noisy.

Additional Benefits

Bacteria and fungus cause two additional problems that are eliminated when they are. First, they cause odors including a musty smell that can infiltrate your whole house.

Secondly, the buildup of the organisms might eventually clog the drain inside your HVAC air handler or furnace. When this happens, AC condensate will eventually leak. This increases the potential for mold and mildew growth and might also cause water damage.

What Else Should Be Done to Prevent Problems?    

UV lights are part of the solution to keeping your HVAC system and ducts clean and healthy. There are three additional steps you can take.

Keep filters clean or fresh: If your filter is washable, wash it per manufacturer’s instructions. If it is a replacement filter, change it every month if you have pets, you smoke or you live in a dusty environment. Otherwise, it can be changed every six weeks to three months depending on how heavily your HVAC system works. Remember, the filter needs attention during AC seasons too, not just when heating.

Use a high-MERV filter: These filters remove smaller particles from the air, so less debris gets into your HVAC system where it can promote bacteria and fungus growth. If you have an older or cheap furnace, it might not be suitable for a high-MERV filter. Check with your HVAC technician or the furnace owner’s manual.

Seal ductwork properly: Gaps in ducts allow dirt, debris, allergens and other impurities to be pulled into the system. Duct sealing eliminates that. Plus, it prevents wasted heat and AC, so can reduce your HVAC costs by 20% to 30% according to Energy Star.

Are UV Lights for HVAC Worth the Cost?

After the cost of the light or lights you choose, you can expect to spend $45 to $70 per year to pay for the energy they use and for replacement lamps. Is it worth it?

Your health provides the answer. If you and household members do not have breathing issues or allergies and if you’re not experiencing higher-than-normal rates of colds and other viruses, then you probably don’t need germicidal UV lights in your HVAC system.

However, some might be reading this post because those problems are a reality in your home. For you, HVAC UV lights can be part of the solution. We recommend these steps:

1). Have your furnace or air handler and coil thoroughly cleaned (though we don’t recommend duct cleaning)

2). Seal ducts to prevent infiltration of contaminants

3). Ask your technician if a high-MERV filter is right for your furnace or air handler, and install one if so

4). Have a UV coil light installed, since the coil is the primary location for the growth of fungi and bacteria

5). If your issues are severe, have a UV air sanitizing light installed in the duct

6). Remember to clean or replace your filter as recommended

If you’d like to discuss having your HVAC system cleaned or UV germicidal lights installed, you can get free local estimates here in 3 minutes. You’ll get your questions answered, and if you want estimates for having the work done, they will be provided. There is no cost or obligation to you for using the free service.

Air Scrubber Plus Cost, Reviews, Does it Work?

How Much Does It Cost to Install a UV Light for My HVAC System?

Installing an HVAC UV light is an easy, cost-effective way for you to improve the air quality in your Denver home.

Aside from sterilizing bacteria/viruses/mildew/mold spores, UV lights can also help cut energy costs (less microbial/organic buildup in the HVAC system means less energy is needed to push air into your home).

But, we get it—if you’re thinking about installing a UV light inside your HVAC system, your first question is probably, “Is this within my budget?”.

Well, the cost to install a UV light for an HVAC system can cost anywhere from $ to $+ in the Denver area.

The main factors that will affect your overall cost include:

  1. The specific wavelength the UV light emits

  2. The type of UV light system you choose

  3. Features of the UV light system

  4. Professional vs. DIY installation

We’ll explain how those 4 factors affect the cost to install a UV light in your HVAC system.

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Cost factor #1: The specific wavelength the UV light emits

UV lights that emit a higher output of UV-C light (at the wavelength) are more expensive.

We know, that probably sounds like gibberish. We’ll explain…

Ultraviolet light exists within the spectrum of light with wavelengths between – nanometers (nm). But only a small portion of that spectrum actually sterilizes DNA microbial contaminants: wavelengths from to nm.

This range is called “UV-C” or “germicidal” light. Of all UV light, UV-C light is the most effective when it comes to destroying microbes because their shorter, stronger light waves can penetrate deep into the microbe’s DNA/RNA.

Within the UV-C range, the strongest microbial-sterilizing wavelength is nm.

Keep in mind, though, all germicidal light produces “secondary emissions”. In other words, no HVAC UV light can produce % of its light energy at that critical wavelength.

So, when choosing an HVAC UV light, check that:

  1. The system actually produces light at the wavelength

  2. At least 80% to 90% of the system’s energy is generated at nm

If the system meets the 2 requirements above, it will likely cost more than systems that can only generate low amounts of the wavelength. But keep in mind that if the system doesn’t meet those 2 requirements, you’re basically wasting money on an ineffective product.

Cost factor #2: The type of UV light you choose

Now that we know how UV lights sterilize contaminants, let’s look at the 2 different ways they can be used inside the HVAC system.

There are 2 different types of HVAC UV lights, each named for what they clean:

1. “Air-sterilizing lights” clean the air.

Air-sterilizing lights are typically more expensive than coil-sterilizing lights (the other type of HVAC UV light).

Why? Well, air-sterilizing lights are more powerful—the bulbs typically have a higher wattage and generate a higher percentage of energy at the wavelength. You see, air-sterilizing UV lights have to be more powerful because they’re designed to sterilize contaminants in the airstream (which move at up to thousands of feet/minute). That said, these systems need to be strong enough to render enough damage to the contaminants within the fraction of a second that they pass under the UV light.

Consider this type of HVAC UV light if…

you have someone in your family with serious allergies or asthma. These systems prevent mold spores from producing in the HVAC system but they also get rid of odors, chemical vapors and toxins in the air.

2. “Coil-sterilizing lights” clean the evaporator coil and drain pan.

Coil-sterilizing UV lights are designed to sterilize contaminants on the evaporator coil and drain pan inside your HVAC system. These systems are typically less expensive than air-sterilizing UV lights.

Here’s why: The evaporator coil and drain pan are stationary, meaning there’s no limit to the microbe-to-UV-light exposure. That said, these systems don’t have to be quite as powerful as air-sterilizing systems in order to sterilize contaminants.

coil-sterilizing UV light placement
Consider this type of HVAC UV light if…

you primarily want to prevent mold/mildew growth within the HVAC system.

Keep in mind that both systems have similar operational costs. Even though air-sterilizing lights are typically higher-wattage, most are designed to turn on only during cooling cycles (when air is actually moving through the ductwork). Coil-sterilizing lights are usually on 24/7 but are lower-wattage systems and require less energy.

Cost factor #3: Features of the UV light system

The more features a UV light system provides, the more it typically costs.

Additional features that HVAC UV light systems might offer include:

  • Remote wireless LED status displays that alert users when maintenance is needed, bulbs need replacing, etc.

  • Auto-sensing smart ballasts that provide LED troubleshooting displays to let you know where the problem lies should the light stop working properly.

  • A “sight glass” that allows you to peer in to see if the light is on and working properly without risking damage to your skin or eyes. Note: UV lights installed in the HVAC system can cause short-term eye irritation if you look at the light directly (while it’s on) for long periods. However, because they are installed in an enclosed space far away from human contact, UV-C lights do not cause any other adverse health effects and only improve the air quality.

  • An odor production unit that oxidizes odors (instead of just masking them) to reduce unpleasant smells in the house.

Cost factor #4: Professional vs DIY installation

Opting for professional installation will raise the overall cost of your HVAC UV light installation by $–$

But be warned: You risk losing a lot more money in the long term if you try a DIY UV light installation.

Why? Well, placement and sizing of a UV light in your HVAC system requires extensive knowledge of how UV-C light works and how the HVAC system works. If you don’t place or size the UV light properly, you could cause harm to your HVAC system (especially the evaporator coil) or the light might not even work properly.

For example, if you’ve chosen a coil-sterilizing UV light, the light must be placed on the cold air side of the evaporator coil and the bulb must be within a very specific distance of the face of the coils. Not sure what any of that means? Then you should probably have your UV light professionally installed.

Another reason to avoid DIY installation? Depending on the manufacturer, not having a professional HVAC technician install the UV light could automatically void its warranty.

Need a quote for your HVAC UV light installation?

If you live in the Denver area, we can help. We offer fair, upfront pricing on all of our indoor air quality products.

Plus, if you choose us, we can typically install your HVAC UV light on the same day.

Schedule a FREE estimate

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