What is germicidal UV-C light?
Before we define germicidal UV-C light, we need to define ultraviolet, or UV, light. We also have a whole blog post on the basics of UV here.
Ultraviolet light is a type of naturally present electromagnetic radiation that is in sunlight and actually makes up approximately 10% of the total light generated by the sun. UV light is electromagnetic energy with wavelengths shorter than visible light but longer than x-rays. The wavelength of this light ranges from 10nm to 400nm and is classified into three sub-bands; UV-A, UV-B, and UV-C.
UV light with wavelengths less than 290nm are considered to have “germicidal” properties. Germicidal means that the light can kill (inactivate) pathogens, just as it sounds. Earth’s atmosphere absorbs ultramagnetic radiation with wavelengths less than 290nm, meaning that most of the UV-C and UV-B generated by the sun is blocked by our planet’s ozone. Germicidal UV-C light is commonly used to inactivate or kill microbes on surfaces, in air, and in water. When implemented properly, UV-C lighting can kill up to 99.9% of pathogens.
Germicidal ultraviolet light kills pathogen cells by damaging their DNA. Exposure to the electromagnetic radiation (light) at certain UV wavelengths modifies the genetic material of microorganisms and destroys their ability to reproduce. The UV energy triggers the formation of specific thymine or cystosine dimers in DNA and uracil dimers in RNA, which causes the inactivation of microbes by causing mutations and/or cell death as well as failure to reproduce. (source)
Looking for UV-C disinfection systems? Click here.
Brief History of UV Light Disinfection
The disinfection properties of ultraviolet lighting have been known for over 140 years, since Downes and Blunt discovered the antibacterial effects of the shorter wavelengths of sunlight. Shortly thereafter, it was proven that the UV portions of the light spectrum were able to destroy microorganisms.
After confirming UV lighting’s ability to kill pathogens, the next step was to find a way to replicate the UV wavelengths that would result in the disinfection of surfaces, air, and water. The first UV quartz lamp was invented in 1904 and resulted in the germicidal lamp.
Germicidal lamps are a type of lamp that produce the wavelengths of ultraviolet light (UV-C; 200nm to 280nm) that have disinfection properties, like the ones used in this study to reuse N95 masks during the coronavirus pandemic.
Below are a few image examples of UV disinfection lighting at work:
Where should germicidal UV-C light systems be used?
There are many facility types that can benefit from ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI). UVGI is a method of disinfection that uses short wavelength ultraviolet light (UV-C) to inactivate or kill microorganisms and pathogens. UVGI has been recommended or used for the isolation of disease and bio-defense systems for buildings by the United States Army, the CDC, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and as a disinfection method for personal protective equipment (PPE).
Here's a list of some industries utilizing the technology:
Hospitals & Medical Facilities
Healthcare facilities are perhaps the most obvious application for UV-C light disinfection, where infection and viruses run rampant and spread from patient to patient and room to room. It has been proven that manual cleaning, even with chemical cleaners, simply isn't enough. Moreover, adding just two minutes of UV-C "cleaning" along with manual cleaning efforts has been proven to reduce bacterial load by 70%.
UV-C lighting can even kill "superbugs" (more here) as viruses and bacteria cannot become resistant to light-based methods of disinfection like they can with antibiotics and even chemical cleaners. In today's pandemic-stricken environment (read more about how UV-C lighting is helping with the novel coronavirus), you have to plan ahead and take advantage of our latest technologies, like UVGI products and systems.
Here are just some of the healthcare facility types that can benefit from germicidal UV-C light disinfection:
- Surgical centers
- Urgent care centers
- Nursing homes and other senior living facilities
- Dental offices
- Medical equipment storage facilities
- Pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities
Find out which UVC disinfection products are appropriate for your healthcare facility.
Schools & Universities
Schools are hotbeds for viruses and infections. Just consider the millions of schooldays missed due to illness. Missed school leads to poor outcomes for both students and school districts. Colleges and other higher education institutions are also at risk because students are often living in close quarters, ballooning the spread of illness. Student athletes at all levels are especially susceptible to a host of health issues from athlete's foot to staph infections, because of the skin-to-skin contact required in most sports.
Using germicidal UV-C light in education facility settings will keep students, faculty, and staff healthier, but also reduce the use of harmful chemical cleaners, which can contribute to respiratory illnesses, like asthma, especially in children, as well as allergic reactions.
Here are some of the educational facility types that can benefit from germicidal UV-C light disinfection:
- Elementary, middle, and high schools
- Colleges and universities
- Trade schools
- Daycare centers and other early learning centers
- School gyms and recreational facilities
- School buses
Find out which UVC disinfection products are appropriate for your educational facility.
Retail & Hospitality
Both retail and hospitality businesses survive based on patron recommendations and reviews, and cleanliness is a vital part of customer satisfaction. In fact, 78% of hotel guests agree that cleanliness is the single most important factor when choosing where to stay. And that's just one example. Below we'll take sectors of the retail and hospitality industries and describe their need for UV-C light disinfection specifically.
Food & Beverage Service and Processing
There are an estimated 48 million cases of food-borne illness each year! Food-borne illnesses can wreck a restaurant's or food processing plant's reputation and diminish customer base almost instantly. Also, illnesses spread from staff member to staff member so easily because of the close contact required in the industry, potentially leaving you understaffed. This doesn't even mention FDA recalls of foods because of viral and bacterial outbreaks (remember when we couldn't eat romaine lettuce?).
Germicidal UV-C light has been proven effective at killing pathogens like E. coli and salmonella, common food-borne bacteria that cause widespread illness. Keep your customers and staff happy and safe by disinfecting your surfaces.
Here are just some food and beverage facilities that can benefit from UV-C disinfection light systems:
- Food trucks
- Catering businesses
- Banquet halls
- Food processing and packing facilities
- Grocery stores and supermarkets
- Convenience stores
- Food storage facilities
Hotels & Motels
78% of hotel guests agree that cleanliness is the single most important factor when choosing where to stay. Cleanliness and safety have a genuine impact on a hotel's reputation and bottom line.
As we've mentioned, manual cleaning simply does not do enough on its own. Sometimes cleaning this way actually does more harm than good as you spread germs from surface to surface. Add in UV-C disinfection procedures to your hotel's "cleaning" and market that to your guests- it's sure to make an impact and convince them to come back again, or stay at other branches.
Guest rooms are a great place to start with UV disinfection in this industry, but the uses for this lighting extend beyond that to conference rooms, restrooms, gyms, pools, banquet halls- any space within your hotel or motel can utilize UVGI (ultraviolet germicidal irradiation), justifying your investment in UV-C systems.
Exercise and athletic facilities are at a higher risk for certain infections, think athlete's foot and staph, because of the close contact and the sharing of equipment. Gyms, fitness clubs, recreation centers, pools- all of these spaces are used by so many people each day, and bacteria thrive in moist (read: sweat!) settings. Distinguish your gym or athletic club from the others by providing your members with the assurance that their equipment, locker room, etc. is truly clean by adding that extra layer of protection UV-C disinfection light provides.
Here are just some of the specific spaces that can benefit from UV disinfection lighting in the fitness industry:
- Specialty fitness clubs and centers
- Recreation centers, including youth rec
- Public pools
- Basketball courts, tennis courts, hockey rinks- all organized sporting facilities
Recently, cruise ships have gotten a lot of attention because of the novel coronavirus, which spread rapidly aboard multiple cruises, causing them to dock and isolate all over the world.
Airlines, airports, trains, and, train stations are additional spaces where close sustained contact and artificial air, as well as inconsistent manual cleaning, can lead to rapid spread of disease. And both cruise lines and airlines can flourish or fail based on customer safety and satisfaction.
Families love to travel from all around the world to theme parks, like Disney World and Six Flags, for getaways. Massive crowds waiting hours in line and then crowded in small spaces on rides, in bathrooms, in restaurants means swift spread of germs. Water parks are especially susceptible to spreading bacterial infections.
Find out which UVC disinfection products are appropriate for your retail and hospitality facility.
Similar to retail and hospitality are national accounts. Restaurant chains, national retailers, like clothing stores, grocery store chains, etc. also require disinfection because they're heavily trafficked and crowded and require a good reputation to succeed. The important distinction between a chain restaurant and a mom and pop restaurant, as an example, is scalability and national implementation. Stouch Lighting has experience facilitating cross-country lighting projects. We understand the importance of a uniform look and feel for brand loyalty purposes as well as seamless implementation across potentially hundreds of different locations.
Find out which UVC disinfection products are appropriate for your multi-site project.
Municipal & Government
Many towns, cities, etc. are familiar with UVGI as it is often used for the disinfection of wastewater. Relying on a UVGI system for your wastewater disinfection over traditional chlorine and other chemical methods is safer and more environmentally friendly while remaining comparable if not more affordable
in cost. Most importantly, UV lighting effectively kills pathogens that chlorine treatment misses, namely Cryptosporidium, which causes gastrointestinal infection in humans.
UV-C light can also be used to disinfect surfaces, materials, and air, as we discuss as one of our FAQs here.
There are so many other municipal and government applications for UV-C light disinfection, and we list some below, but let's discuss another important one: correctional facilities. In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, it's become clear that prisons and jails are breeding grounds for viruses and infections because of close living quarters. Protecting this population could be made easier with UV disinfection technology.
Here are some of the municipal and government facility types that can benefit from germicidal UV-C light disinfection:
- Wastewater treatment plants
- Parks and recreation facilities
- Correctional facilities
- Veteran affairs
- Judicial court facilities
- Fire and police stations
- Public works
Find out which UVC disinfection products are appropriate for your government or municipal facility.
Commercial Real Estate/Offices
A clean work environment leads to healthier employees, which means less absence and more productivity for your company.
Aside from this, cleanliness and health is a trend- you could even qualify for the WELL certification, a designation reserved for buildings designed with health in mind. These types of certifications are a wonderful PR opportunity in addition to the obvious benefit of a healthier space. If you're looking to lease your space out, consider your use of germicidal UV-C light systems a marketing tool for potential tenants as well.
Industrial, Manufacturing, Distribution, and Warehousing
Industrial facilities often require the handling of material from diverse geographical regions, as well close contact of employees to keep production running.
Find out which UVC disinfection products are appropriate for your commercial/industrial/multi-family facility.
Many non-profits are gathering places for community members, and anywhere communities gather, germs spread. Churches, community centers, charitable organizations with community-focused services, etc. can all benefit from the extra level of protection UV-C disinfection light systems provide. Sadly, non-profits like homeless shelters often suffer breakouts of diseases because of close living quarters, as has happened with coronavirus.
Here are some of the non-profits that can benefit from germicidal UV-C light disinfection:
- Churches, synagogues, and other places of worship
- Community centers
- Homeless shelters
- Food banks
- Medical-related non-profits, like blood banks and clinics
- Membership organizations, especially those with large conferences and gatherings
- Other social welfare organizations
Find out which UVC disinfection products are appropriate for your non-profit.
Our Service Offering
What type of germicidal UV-C light system do I need in my facility?
Germicidal UV-C lighting is versatile and available in different forms to suit its many applications.
Mobile UV-C Disinfection Units
Germicidal UV-C light systems are available in portable form as mobile UV-C disinfection units. These units or carts can be moved easily from room to room to disinfect multiple spaces. They're commonly used in hospitals and other medical facilities; after a patient room or operating room has been cleaned, for example, and is ready for the next patient, the mobile UV-C disinfection unit is placed in the room and activated to disinfect surfaces and air in that space. These units are usually on wheels or tripods and are easy to operate and transport.
UV-C Ceiling and Wall Fixtures
There are several options when it comes to the type of UV-C fixture for your space. Here are a few:
- Ceiling installed- These UV-C disinfection fixtures are hung from the ceiling of your facility, often recessed within the ceiling like a conventional troffer, or hung via chain or aircraft cable. Ceiling mounted UV-C light fixtures are extremely effective because you can space them apart appropriately to disinfect your specific space based on size and level of disinfection required.
- Wall mounted- Similarly to the ceiling installed fixtures, wall mounted fixtures can be spaced and installed for appropriate disinfection levels based on the size and contours of your facility.
All of these options can disinfect on demand with preset and controllable cycles. Read more about controls and UV-C disinfection lighting below. You can even run the cycles overnight or whenever the spaces are unoccupied, and all fixtures have automatic shutoff sensors if anyone were to enter the space during disinfection (read more about safety and UV disinfection lighting here).
Additional Uses for Germicidal UV-C Light- HVAC
Aside from the many diverse applications for germicidal UV-C lighting detailed above, the lighting can be used successfully in HVAC and other air handling systems. This is relevant for nearly all of the applications noted above. UV disinfection systems are mounted in new or existing duct systems, controlling the spread of airborne toxins by killing germs in the air before it circulates. One of the great advantages of this is that you can install the disinfection system and let it be without much thought, but the health benefits of your germ-free air remain.
Additional Benefits of Germicidal UV-C Lighting
Controls, Sensors, and More
People often have safety concerns regarding UV lighting. We've answered many FAQs on safety and UV-C lighting here. Germicidal UV-C lighting is particularly safe because of the controls, sensors, switches, etc. available to use with the technology. This technology allows for the following (and this is not an exhaustive list):
- The lighting to be turned on and off from outside of the space, meaning no one has to be present when the UV disinfection is in process
- The lighting to be pre-programmed with certain disinfection cycles so you can run the disinfection whenever convenient, even at night or when unoccupied
- The lighting to be controlled from many devices, including smart phones and tablets
- The lighting to have an auto on/off setting so it will automatically turn off if someone accidentally enters the room, for instance, or automatically turn on when the room locks
As we discussed above, germicidal UV-C lighting is available in both permanently installed and mobile units. This type of versatility is a huge benefit. Also, by simply adjusting the number of lighting units in a space you can easily scale the disinfection to fit the size you need.
What are the next steps to implement germicidal UV-C lighting for my application?
We'd be happy to discuss your specific application so we can develop the appropriate project and product criteria, just click here or below. One benefit of working with Stouch Lighting is that we are manufacturer-neutral, meaning we never try to "sell" you on a specific product because our list of the manufacturers we work with is always expanding. We have the ability to source the product that's best for you because we have access to so many products.
Are you looking for additional information about UV disinfection lighting? Check out some of our other content on the topic:
- What is UVGI?
- What is UV-C disinfection lighting?
- Using UV disinfection lighting to kill coronavirus: FAQs, Part I
- Using UV disinfection lighting to kill coronavirus: FAQs, Part II
- FAQs on safely using ultraviolet disinfection