4 Minute Read

When COVID-19 began spreading across the country, Bipolar Ionization and UV-C light technology became very popular disinfection methods for all industries. However, overtime, UV-C clearly became the better option, and we'll discuss why. First, let's define these methods to better understand the terms. 

Bipolar Ionization

Bipolar ionization is an air treatment method integrated into HVAC systems. This technology inactivates harmful pathogens by introducing positive and negative ions into the air. These atoms attach to particles in the air (including breath droplets and dust), enlarging them so they're more likely to get caught in filters.  There are multiple manufacturers for this technology, one of which is currently in a federal lawsuit against falsified safety claims. The health impacts of air ionizers are largely unknown, which we'll discuss in detail below in the "Safety" section.

UV Light & UVGI

Ultraviolet light (UV) is a type of naturally present electromagnetic radiation present in sunlight, with wavelengths classified as: UV-A (near), UV-B (middle), and UV-C (far) and range from 10nm to 400nm. UV light with wavelengths less than 290nm are considered to have “germicidal” properties. Ultraviolet light has the ability to kill cells by modifying the genetic material of microorganisms and destroying their ability to reproduce.

UVGI is a method of disinfection that uses short wavelength ultraviolet light (UV-C) to inactivate or kill microorganisms and pathogens, ultimately disinfecting surfaces and air. 

Speed of Treatment

 UV Light 

UV light can kill 99.7% of Coronavirus in 30 seconds 2, making this an extremely quick disinfection method. 

 Bipolar Ionization 

Bipolar Ionization usually takes upwards of 60+ minutes3 to fully reduce most pathogens in the space.

The Biggest Factor: Safety

 UV Light 

UV light has been around for many years and is deemed a safe technology when used properly. UVGI has been recommended and/or used for the isolation of disease and bio-defense systems in buildings by: The United States Army, the CDC, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). ASHRAE also recognizes that UV light is a "powerful tool in the fight against COVID-19."4

There are a variety of UV product types for both air and surfaces:

  • Air: UVC equipment that disinfects the air is a great option for continuous disinfection. There are (2) primary methods for UV Light air disinfection, each of which can be used even when spaces are occupied:
    • In-Room Air Disinfection
    • HVAC Air Disinfection
  • Surface & Air: UVC equipment intended for surface disinfection provides localized surface disinfection and spot treatment. These units should only be used to disinfect unoccupied spaces. For safety reasons, these types of UV-C units have controls and will also automatically turn off if someone enters the room during disinfection.

As with anything, there are bad options for UV sanitization products, so it's important to choose trusted equipment, from a reputable manufacturer, backed by clinical validation, reliable testing (in real world conditions), and proof of safety claims. For example, Sanitization Wands became increasingly popular during the pandemic, however, these types of UV products have not been proven to be effective and are not backed by research like many other UV-C products. We wrote an entire article: "Do UV Sanitizing wands really work", which you can read here. (Hint: the answer is usually no). 

It's also important to note that any UV can be dangerous if used improperly. That's why we always suggested working with one of our specialists as they can help guide you through the entire buying process. This way, you can feel confident that you're receiving quality products backed by research, and we will ensure you know how to utilize them properly.

 Bipolar Ionization 

Safety has become a major concern with Bipolar Ionization due to falsified claims of safety and also lack of research.

Bipolar Ionization is losing its reputation, particularly because of a recent federal lawsuit filed against one of the manufacturers for making false claims about the technology's safety. Although these false safety claims were only against one specific manufacturer, it raises concerns for the technology as a whole. 

In addition, Bipolar Ionization lacks significant research. Any claims that Bipolar Ionization is a safe option for disinfection do not hold up in independent studies because testing for this technology is often done in chambers, which does not mimic real-world conditions.

There is now speculation that Bipolar Ionization can actually do more harm than good. The EPA specifically notes that Bipolar Ionization "may generate ozone and other potentially harmful by-products indoors."5 Another study found significant concerns with ion air purifiers (which includes Bipolar Ionization), as the technology led to an increase in substances commonly found in paints, paint strippers, aerosol sprays and pesticides.

So, regardless of the effectiveness of Bipolar Ionization, there is not enough research that can validate claims that this technology is safe to use in occupied spaces, or at all

UV Light Destroys COVID

UV-C light is the clear winner when compared to Bipolar Ionization. UV-C disinfects surfaces and air, provides much quicker disinfection, and is backed by significant scientific research. Bipolar ionization is less effective, lacks validated research, and the technology is being questioned over false claims of safety. 

How do I purchase UV-C light for my spaces?

As we mentioned earlier, there are a variety of options when it comes to UV-C disinfection, so it's important to discuss with a specialist to ensure you're purchasing the right products for space. UV-C products must be purchased with many factors in mind including: room size, occupancy, and disinfection type (air vs surface, or both).

Contact Stouch Lighting and we'll create a customized UV-C plan for your entire space! We're manufacturer-neutral, so that means our focus is on you and ensuring you get the right product for the right price. If you're not convinced about UV-C yet, you can read more about it here or explore all our UV lighting content here!


1 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7319933/
2 https://www.ajicjournal.org/article/S0196-6553(20)30809-9/fulltext
3 https://indoorairtest.com/pure-plasma-bipolar-ionization/
5 https://www.epa.gov/coronavirus/can-air-cleaning-devices-use-bipolar-ionization-including-portable-air-cleaners-and-duct