It may seem impossible to keep high-traffic areas free of germs during the COVID-19 pandemic. Even with social distancing, areas like waiting rooms, lobbies, or retail stores can easily become crowded.
But this is where one type of ultraviolet lighting product really shines. It's called upper-room germicidal UV, and it's so effective because it can run constantly (even while people are in the room).
If you're not sold on this method yet, consider these points:
- A scientist from Columbia University recently said he's proven that ultraviolet light can inactivate SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
- The Illuminating Engineering Society (IES), a trusted resource for the lighting industry, lists upper-room UV as the most effective method for disinfecting air.
- UV products and fixtures have been around for decades, primarily used in healthcare settings. When manufacturer guidelines and safety measures are followed, they are an extremely effective way to disinfect areas.
These points probably have you thinking, "That's great, but how much do these upper-air units cost?"
First, let's dive deeper into how these products keep your busiest areas clean. Then, we'll tackle the cost based on square footage.
What is upper-room germicidal UV?
Upper-room or upper-air germicidal UV focuses on air disinfection in rooms with high ceilings.
Upper-air units continuously emit UV-C rays above people's heads.
Since UV-C energy can be harmful to skin and eyes, this method of disinfection only works with specially designed fixtures that are properly installed.
There is a very limited risk of exposure when safety measures are followed correctly.
How upper-room germicidal UV works
Since upper-air units only emit UV-C light above people's heads, you might wonder how they can disinfect an entire room or area.
The air in rooms is constantly mixing, even without the assistance of HVAC ventilation or fans. The same air that's above our heads eventually makes it way to lower spaces in a room.
Upper-room germicidal UV is more effective when there are fans or HVAC because they increase the amount of air moving from the upper space to a lower space, or air changes per hour (ACH).
One study noted by the IES found good air mixing results in very high ACH even in the lower space (up to 24 air changes per hour).
Why upper-room germicidal UV is effective
Upper-room germicidal UV fixtures constantly run so the air is disinfected all the time. This can help prevent airborne transmission of viruses and bacteria, which is something many other products are not able to prevent.
For example, germicidal UV products that disinfect surfaces (like hand-held wands or mobile UV units) are only effective until pathogens hit the surface again. Even germicidal UV fixtures for HVAC equipment do little to prevent person to person transmission.
The IES notes that two studies have shown upper-room UV fixtures to be about 80% effective against the spread of tuberculosis (TB).
80% may seem low compared to other products that can inactivate up to 99.9% of pathogens. But remember, we are talking about the transmission of germs from person-to-person, not how well the product kills pathogens. Given that perspective, 80% effectiveness
is very high.
Building requirements for upper-room germicidal UV
Upper-air UV units should only be installed in buildings with ceilings that are more than seven feet tall. That should place the UV-C energy level above the heads of customers, patients, and employees.
If your space is smaller or has much higher ceilings, there are still upper-room UV options that can work for you. Contact us for a free lighting consultation.
Upper-air units have very few limitations beyond the ceiling height requirement. They can be used in patient waiting rooms, busy retail areas, crowded restaurants, or lobbies.
Cost for upper-room germicidal UV
Like any other lighting project, the cost for upper-room germicidal UV will vary by space and square footage. It will also depend on the amount of coverage you want. There is no one-size-fits-all approach.
But we've created a four-step process to help you get an idea on how much you'll spend to install upper-room germicidal UV products.
1. Identify high-traffic areas
Step 1: Identify areas where upper-air fixtures will work. They are not a good match for rooms or areas with short ceilings.
If you're looking at a larger area, you may have to install multiple units to get the coverage you want.
As you think about high-traffic areas, go ahead and calculate the room dimensions. This will save you time on the next steps.
2. Identify appropriate products
Step 2: Identify the products appropriate for your space.
As with other UV lighting products, upper-room germicidal UV fixtures must be properly installed and maintained in order to work effectively and meet safety recommendations.
American Ultraviolet®, a manufacturer that has produced UV products since the 1960s, offers three different upper-air fixtures.
The TB and the CM series are traditional upper-air units. The CM was designed to fit in corners for smaller rooms.
The RAM is an enclosed fixture that uses fans to help pull air in and out of the unit.
Here are the product specifications:
|American Ultraviolet® RAM Series
|Coverage: Between 100 to 300 square feet||Coverage: 75 to 100 square feet||Coverage: 150 to 300 square feet|
|Price: Starting at $1,100||Price: $680||Price: Starting at $1,045|
3. Consider different configurations
Step 3: Based on the square footage of your area and the product you'd like to use, it's time to consider the best configuration for your space.
Will one fixture cover the entire room, or will you have to use multiple fixtures? How will you stagger them to get optimal coverage?
A lobby or waiting area is going to be very different than an open area, like a bullpen.
For a smaller space, one fixture mounted in the center of the wall may be enough to cover the entire area, like in the image below.
For a larger space, you may need more fixtures. In the example below, the configuration uses four fixtures total. The first two can be mounted on opposite walls. The second two can be mounted in the middle of the room, back-to-back.
This will ensure the entire room is covered by the upper-air fixtures.
4. Find the exact specifications
Step 4: It's almost time to execute your project. But before you do, you need to make sure you have the exact specifications.
Germicidal UV fixtures are safe when they are used correctly. However, if you take a project like this into your own hands, you are assuming a high amount of risk.
It's extremely important for upper-room fixtures to emit UV in a specific area above our heads and to have proper coverage. If the fixtures are not mounted properly, there is a chance for exposure to humans or insufficient coverage to effectively disinfect in a space.
In this situation, it's best to consult with a lighting specialist who can dial in the rest of the details for you.
Other considerations for upper-room germicidal UV
While upper-air units are the most effective way to disinfect air in your building, pairing it with other cleaning options will give you the best chance for reducing transmission of COVID-19 and other pathogens.
You might consider using upper-room units in a busy, occupied space and mobile UV units in an area where there is down time.
If you're ready to discuss the best option for your building, schedule a consultation with one of our lighting specialists. We can find a solution to help fight COVID-19 now and protect your building for years to come.