UV to the Rescue: A Two-Minute Tech Read

Ken Erdmann | Nov 18, 2019
As an electrician and systems integrator over the last 40 plus years I have seen some radical changes in technology and the systems we install and integrate. While most reading this post are intimately familiar with the changes that have had such a huge impact on our industry when it comes to the integrated custom entertainment and communication systems we install, I’ll bet there is one area that you all may not be as familiar with.
I am referring to the lighting technology used to make our food and home environment cleaner and safer. 

Using ultra-violet light to kill germs, mold and bacteria has been part of the food service, processing, and handling industry for many years. I’ve worked for a number of smaller industrial and commercial clients doing electrical work, and one of those was a soft drink bottling plant — this company used huge amounts of liquid sugar and corn sweeteners that were stored in large stainless steel tanks, in order to ensure purity of the product we installed high output UV lighting systems in the tanks, since these lights killed any bacteria and prevented the growth of mold. In some cases UV lights were also used to disinfect tools and mixers to ensure nothing could contaminate any part of the system. The use of UV lighting ensured a pure system without using harsh or toxic chemicals.

From Hospital to Home

Medical services have used UV lighting sources as a means of ensuring implements were as sterile as possible. In a few of our customers’ home we’ve used UV light installed in the fresh air ducts to kill mold, bacteria and control allergens. While limited in use these were effective in homes for people with compromised immune systems.
These UV light sources came with a number of cautions and safety warnings. These were wide spectrum high light output UV sources that could cause vision problems when viewed directly and over time with exposure might increase the risk of skin-related problems.  

Today research is being done using LED lamps and luminaires to target specific bacteria, molds and allergens. The University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland discovered that a specific blue-light wavelength of proper intensity could deactivate methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, (MRSA) and other strains of bacteria. They found that using LED blue-light sources between 400 to 420 nanometers was effective in killing not only MSRA, but other strains of bacteria (in fact, 405 nanometers was the best for the elimination of MRSA).  

This groundbreaking research could save hundreds if not thousands of lives every year. Hospitals spend huge amounts of money and allocate massive resources in the effort to keep MRSA from infecting their patients.

More Than MRSA

The University of Strathclyde has continued their research using blue spectrum LED lighting against other bacteria including listeria and E.coli. The University has licensed their patents to a number of companies who are manufacturing lamps and luminaires that are being used in hospitals and other locations to control bacteria and other unwanted contaminants. Research is also being done using blue spectrum and UV light in wound treatment and care.
This becomes important to us in the residential world because companies like Neu-Tech Energy Solutions and Kenall are making lamps that are direct replacements for standard LED lamps using off-the-shelf luminaries.

These companies are providing lamps for residential applications that require mold remediation and anti-bacterial uses.  You could, for example, use a lamp that combines white lights combined with the blue lights to kill mold in a shower. If customers are aging or have compromised immune systems due to illness or injury or chronic health problems the installation of the proper combination of blue and white light sources could have a dramatic impact on the quality of life.


Overview of this material from Electrical Contractor Magazine  

Companies developing this tech:

NOTE: This Emerging Trends piece is brought to you by CEDIA’s Technology Advisory Council and Technology Application & Innovation department.