An A-to-Z Guide on What There is to Know About UVC LED Lights

We all know this fact:

UV (Ultra-Violet) radiation is not good for our health in the long run. And that’s why a lot of us have been avoiding most traditional lighting systems.

Right?

However, it turns out that some spectrums of UV rays can be useful to us in many ways.

And:

That’s where the UV-C LED light comes in.

Now:

A lot of questions have been raised regarding the use of these fixtures with more emphasis on safety and application.

And to help you get the answers you need we’ve come up with an in-depth guide on everything you should know about these fixtures.

what is uvc

So, are you ready to learn?

If so, let’s get down to it…

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: What is UV Light?

Obviously, to understand the complexities of UVC lights, you must first learn the basics.

For example:

What is Ultraviolet light?

UV (Ultra Violet) light is a form of electromagnetic radiation that’s responsible for things like:

  • Sunburns or summer tans.
  • And the glow in black-light posters among other things.

Now:

Excessive exposure to UV radiation can cause damage to living tissue.

Therefore, it’s not always recommended to spend a lot of time under these types of lights

So, what’s so special about UV radiation?

Well, naturally, it comes from the sun and is transmitted in the form of particles at different frequencies and wavelengths (Electro-Magnetic (EM) Spectrum).

Get this:

The EM Spectrum is divided into regions as the wavelength decreases or energy/frequency increases.

And from these divisions, we get things like:

  • Microwaves.
  • Radio waves.
  • Infrared.
  • UV rays.
  • X-rays.
  • And Gamma rays.

Now:

Since our main focus is on UV light, that’s where we’ll focus more on.

We’ll begin with the fact that the UV region of the EM spectrum falls just between “Visible Light and X-ray” regions.

Some of its specifications include:

  • Frequencies ranging between 750THz and 30 PHz.
  • And wavelengths ranging between 400nm and 10nm.

With that in mind, you should note that UV radiation can be further split into sub-types; out of which, these three stand out:

  • Ultraviolet A (UVA); also called Near UVdue to its close resemblance to natural light and has a wavelength of between 315nm and 400nm. It doesn’t get absorbed by the Ozone Layer.
  • Ultraviolet B (UVB); also known as medium-wave or middle UVand has a wavelength of between 280nm and 315nm. It’s mostly absorbed by the Ozone layer.
  • Ultraviolet C (UVC); commonly referred to as germicidal or short-wave UV. UVC from the sun is often completely absorbed by the atmosphere/Ozone layer. However, there are artificial sources that are used by people for several purposes. This subtype has a wavelength range of 180nm to 280nm.

Fascinating stuff, right?

Well, that brings us to the next part of this post…

Chapter 2: What is UV-C LED?

So:

From the information above, we know that UVCs are a subtype of Ultraviolet lights.

Moreover:

We know that germicides are chemicals or agents used to destroy harmful microorganisms…

Therefore, why are UVC LEDs also called germicidal lamps?

Well:

It is because they can destroy, kill, or inactivate many kinds of germs and microorganisms.

And that makes these lights very useful and clean when it comes to killing or stopping the spread of bacteria in water, surfaces, and even in the air.

Amazing, right?

That’s why you can use UVCs to:

  • Sterilize your grooming tools e.g. hair clippers, combs, brushes, towels in a barbershop, or salon.
  • Disinfect and freshen your environment and the air in it.
  • Effortlessly kill germs and bacteria in your car’s interior.
  • Sanitize your pets and their living quarters.
  • Keep your baby’s room germ-free and so on.

Now:

I know a lot of you might be wondering; how does light act as a germicide?

If so, this next bit holds the answer to that…

Chapter 3: Do LED UV Lights Work?

First of all:

The process of using UV-C light to kill germs is often referred to as UVGI or Germicidal Irradiation.

How does this work?

Well, it’s simple…

When you expose a microorganism to UVC lamps, the light will penetrate through their cell wall and alters/disrupts the cell’s DNA.

Think of it this way:

An organism’s DNA is like a map; if you mess it up, the organism loses its sense of direction and won’t be able to move forward.

Or…

DNA is like a blueprint; a little alteration can greatly affect the intended structure and cause a collapse in the entire cell.

 You get my point, don’t you?

So, when that happens, the cells’ reproduction becomes inhibited, hence, stopping the spread or growth of that microorganism.

Amazing, right?

And that’s why these lamps are often regarded as efficient and effective germ killers.

Note:

A germicidal UV lamp is always most effective at ~254nm; that means that a UVC LED 265 nm can give you amazing and fast results.

Anyway:

People often ask this nest question a lot too…

Chapter 4: Is UV C Light Visible?

Long story short:

NO!

Here’s why…

According to Wikipedia, visible light is just a region on the Electromagnetic Spectrum where our eyes are more sensitive to.

And that’s why we can “see it.”

However, you should note that the sun (natural light) often has more infrared than visible light; in fact, the part of the EM spectrum that we can see is often a very tiny portion of the entire spectrum.

Anyway:

Back to the main question; is UVC visible? And if not, why?

Well, it all boils down to the wavelength.

Visible light from EM radiation often has a wavelength ranging from 380nm to 760nm (or 400 to 790 THz).

Fun Fact:

Did you know that white light is often a combination of different wavelengths within the visible light range?

That’s why you can use a prism to split white light into several different colors; just like in a rainbow.

So:

From the above, we know that visible light ranges from 380nm to 760nm in wavelength, right?

And that’s why UVC lights are invisible; due to their 180nm to 280nm wavelength range.

In more technical terms:

The human eye lens (cornea) blocks shorter wavelengths like the ones in UVC lights…

Now:

UVC applications are many; one of them being in air purifiers.

And on that note:

Here are a few things you should know about these air sterilizers…

Chapter 5: Do UV-C Air Purifiers Work?

Fun fact:

UV radiation has been in use as a water, surface, and air disinfectant for decades now.

And:

Even with LED UVCs being relatively new, traditional germicidal lights look more like fluorescents and incandescent lamps.  

Basically, this means that this method of purification isn’t new.

Now:

To answer the question above…

Yes, UV-C purifiers do work; in fact, very effectively.

Their primary objective is to reduce the spread and growth of indoor pollutants.

How?

Well, these devices often use their short-wave UV energy to kill/inactivate airborne pathogens like:

  • Viruses
  • Mold
  • Bacteria and so on.

As mentioned above, UVCs inactivate microorganisms by altering or damaging their DNA; this is exactly what air purifiers do.

Get this:

Since most microbes are unicellular, they heavily depend on their DNA for survival and replication.

Therefore, if you destroy their DNA, you destroy the microbe

Catch my drift?

So:

With all that said, there is still one critical question we haven’t asked about these types of air purifiers…

Which is…?

Chapter 6: Is UV C Light in Air Purifier Safe?

Safety! Safety! Safety!

It’s the one thing we all have to consider before buying something in order to keep ourselves, our kids, family, friends, pets, and guests safe.

The funny thing is that, at first glance, an air purifier looks very harmless; in fact, you might find yourself asking whether it’s working or not.

Why?

Well, these lamps are known to be silent and sometimes invisible (colorless); the blueish glow – in some – is often as a result of the materials used to make the fixture.

Plus, they are completely odorless.

And that’s why it’s sometimes hard to tell whether it is working or not and may take some time getting used to.

Now:

You should note that even the best UV-C germicidal lamp fixtures have shortcomings; one of the biggest ones being Ozone (O3) production.

Note:

Ultraviolet C light radiation has been known to convert Oxygen (O2) into Ozone (O3) gas through photolysis and combining the individual atoms with oxygen molecules.

But:

Some manufacturers have found a way around this by coating purifiers with special chemical catalysts that limit the production of Ozone.

Also:

Direct and long-term exposure to UVC radiation from a purifier can damage your eyes and skin.

Therefore, it is recommended that these devices be installed in areas with minimal human contact unless it is fully closed in by its casing.

Moving on…

Chapter 7: Does UV C Kill Viruses?

Truth be told:

The year 2020 will go down in history as the year the whole world came to a standstill.

Want to guess why?

Well, if your guess is COVID-19 (Coronavirus), you are every bit right.

So:

If there’s one thing the virus has taught us is that – even with our massive advancements in health systems – we should always be prepared for anything.

And that’s why a lot of research has been done in order to find a viable treatment to a virus that has ravaged the whole world.

Here’s a fact:

Short-wave UV light radiation can kill viruses…

And that’s why one of the biggest questions in some people’s minds has been:

Can we use UV-C LED sterilizer lamps to kill the corona virus?

Probably, YES.

How?

Well, like all viruses, COVID-19 is made up of unicellular organisms.

And we know that the right UV LED wavelength has the power to stop replications and spread by altering the virus’ DNA.

What does this mean?

No new replications equal no new virions; in turn, that means that the old ones die off and the spread/growth is stopped.

So, yes, there’s a possibility that we can use these lamps to remove/inactivate the Coronavirus from surfaces, water, and even air.

But:

And this is a very big BUT…!

Scientists are still in the process of determining how effective/lethal UVC radiation is against the novel coronavirus.

Also:

Even if Type-C UV rays can help us stop the spread of COVID-19, it will only be useful to kill its virions present on surfaces, in water, and in the air.

Note:

Portable UV sterilizer lamps SHOULD NOT be used to disinfect hands or any other part of human skin; that’s because this type of radiation can cause skin irritation and damages to a person’s eyes.

So, yes you can use UVC LED Light to disinfect surfaces, water, and air, but you should only use alcohol-based sanitizers to disinfect your hands and skin.

With that in mind, here’s something else you should note…

Chapter 8: How Long Does It Take UV C Light to Kill Germs?

It has been said:

The best UV germicidal lamp kills up to 99.9% of germs and microorganisms.

An impressive figure, right?

However, the effectiveness or efficiency of these sterilizers is always dependent on two things namely:

  • Distance
  • Duration

In terms of distance…

Research has shown that most 360-degree UV-Cs are effective for at least a 6-inch radius.

And:

Basically, the further you move away from the lamp, the less killing power it has.

Note:

Light Intensity determines how far the effects of these germicides will be felt.

And that’s why hospitals often use high-intensity UV lamps that can have a radius of up to 6 feet and are usually on autonomous robots that are constantly on the move.

In terms of duration…

The working principle is quite simple;

The longer the duration the higher the disinfection/killing rate.

So, what’s the relationship between time, distance, and intensity in germicidal lights?

Well, here are two important things you should note:

  1. The distance and intensity must be directly proportional; the longer the distance from the light source, the higher the intensity should be for maximum efficiency.
  2. Also, for a UV-C lamp to be effective, you can either have a high-intensity light lit for a short periodor a low-intensity light over an extended period.

On average:

A standard UVC 270nm LED fixture can kill most microbes within a six-inch radius in ten seconds.

Now:

A lot of people have also been asking whether you can use germicidal lamps to kill mold.

If you are one of them, this next part is for you…

Chapter 9: Does UV C Light Kill Mold?

Short answer:

Yes!

These fixtures can destroy up to 99.9% of mold spores and even prevent future growth.

However, you should note that mold spores and some bacteria are often quite hard to kill; even using UV light.

And that’s why it always recommended that you use high dosages of UVC when trying to eradicate mold.

Now:

That is easily achievable by using high-intensity UVGI over an extended period.

That gives the fixture enough power and time to break down mold spore particles, hence, helping to curb their growth and spread.

Note:

You won’t be able to get a high-intensity UVGI fixture for residential use easily; that’s because these types are often reserved for hospitals and commercial use.

Therefore, you may have to consider hiring a mold remediation company that has a high-intensity UV lamp.

Anyway:

With all this talk about high-intensity UV radiation in residential areas, the following imperative question must come to mind…

Chapter 10: Is UV C Light Harmful to Humans?

Yes!

Even the best UV sterilizer lamps can cause you harm.

You should note that the effects of using UVC light in human environments can be dangerous.

How?

Well, here are a few instances that these lamps become risky to human health:

1. It Can Cause Eye and Skin Damage

You should note that:

Much like microbes, our bodies (skin and eyes) are made up of trillions of cells.

This means that our cells can also be affected by UV radiation.

In fact, this is why people get sunburns and tans when they spend a lot of time under direct sunlight.

Therefore, the same can happen to you when you get exposed to high-intensity UV over an extended period.

What’s worse is that UVCs can cause damage and pain in your eyes’ corneas.

And if that’s not bad enough…

High-exposure to radiation promotes the formation of cancerous tumors that can prove fatal if not detected in time.

2. It Can Cause the Formation of Harmful Ozone Gas

Ozone levels above the safety limit not only have an uncomfortable smell but also can cause several health complications including:

  • Lung damage.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Coughing
  • Chest pain.
  • Throat irritations.
  • Worsening chronic respiratory diseases e.g. asthma.

In fact, it’s not advisable to exercise/workout in ozone-filled environments because they can cause adverse respiratory problems.

Also:

Ozone gas is very volatile and can easily react with organic materials in our bodies to form toxic compounds with highly-negative effects.

3. It Can Worsen the Situation Instead of Fixing It

Note:

To survive, microorganisms often mutate. And that could be in terms of adaptiveness, strength, and reproductivity.

That’s why you might find different strains of the same virus existing at the same time.

Now:

During these mutations, a partial or incorrect alteration to the microbe’s DNA can cause it to mutate into something impervious to the methods being used to contain it.

And when that happens, you’ll be left with hardcore germs that will need more than just UVGI to kill them.

After all, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?

So, the main point here is that there is no room for half-baked sterilizations.

If you are going to use UV to kill germs, viruses, and mold, make sure you do it right the first time. 

So:

As we wrap up, there’s one more question we need to answer…

Chapter 11: Why Is UVC the Most Dangerous?

Get this:

Ultra-Violet light radiations are often categorized into five sub-parts; out of which the top three we’ve already discussed.

These five parts include:

  1. UVA (400 – 315nm)
  2. UVB (315 – 280nm)
  3. UVC (280 – 100nm)
  4. VUV (200 – 10nm) – Vacuum Ultraviolet.
  5. EUV (121 – 10nm) – Extreme Ultraviolet.

Now:

The reason why I didn’t mention VUV and EUVs earlier was that they are not very common.

Basically, they are both Vacuum UVs because they only propagate in a vacuum; that means that they are highly absorbed by almost everything including thin air.

And that’s why VUV radiation from the sun never makes it past the Ozone layer and upper atmosphere.

But:

You should note that VUVs can sometimes propagate through nitrogen.

With that in mind:

You should also note that all UVs can be harmful, however, the dangers associated with each often increases as their wavelengths decrease.

What do I mean by that?

The shorter the wavelength, the stronger the radiation energy and damage potential.

Get it?

From this:

There are two clear facts that stand out…

  1. Only UVA, UVB, and UVC radiation can work in plenum/non-vacuum spaces.
  2. UVC radiation has the shortest wavelength (strongest radiation energy) of the three above.

And that’s why UV-C lights are the most dangerous i.e. they have the potential to do more harm to microbes and even human skin/eyes than UVAs and UVBs.

So:

Chapter 12: Is It Worth Investing in Germicidal LED Lamps?

I’d say YES!

Why?

  • These fixtures offer a cleaner, more convenient approach to disinfectingour environment with a proven 99.9% disinfection rate. You can say bye-bye to messy and tiresome “soap and water” disinfection techniques.
  • UVC LED Lights work fast. That means you can get rid of microbes and harmful germs in a matter of minutes.
  • Also, if these fixtures are used right, they pose little risk to human health. For example; you can stay away from a room that’s under UV light sterilization to avoid getting exposed to it.
  • Their automation functionalityallows you to switch them on and off without even being close to them. Cool, right?
  • Lastly, some of these lights are highly portable; meaning you can move around with them wherever you go and use them to disinfect the places you spend time in when you are traveling.

But:

Only you get to decide whether or not UVC lamps are for you.

And that’s a wrap.

I hope this post was useful to you and helped to answer some – if not all – of the questions you had in mind about Ultraviolet C LED lights.

If you have any other questions, feel free to post them in the comments section below.

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