Nov 14, 2002

Air Purification with Ultraviolet Light

A perfect fit for water treatment dealers

The water industry has been blessed with business
opportunities spurred by the strong demand for pure water. While consumer demand
has escalated for water purifying devices, it pales in comparison to what has
happened in air purifying. The indoor air purification industry still is in its
infancy, yet is recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to be a
market valued well into the billions.

The Chelsea Group, a market research organization
specializing in indoor environmental issues, reported a high willingness by
consumers to act on indoor air quality (IAQ) problems. This high interest is
rooted in and supported by strong media coverage, government activity and
personal experiences.

The group's research showed that more than 80 percent of the
employed full-time population would spend their own discretionary income on one
of four IAQ improvements at home including products and services that would get
rid of bacteria, mold, dust and odors, and to improve air quality in their
homes. Some consumer reports say Americans are spending $10 million a day on
products to improve the air in their environments. If consumers are spending
that kind of money, maybe it is time to consider how you can get a little bit
of it.

Is It a Fit?

Diversification often is important for the continued success
of a business, particularly if there is a shared basis to the diversification.
Over the last several years there have been a number of product/service
extensions for water treatment dealers to consider. One such product/service
extension that certainly deserves consideration and is gaining momentum is
providing environmental improvements not just for water but also for air.
Cleaning the air can be a natural extension and generate significant revenues
to those that already are involved in the "purifying" business.

Is UV the Answer?

If adding air purifying as an additional profit center makes
sense, then all you have to do is decide which kind of air purifying products
you are going to sell. There are hundreds upon hundreds of air purifying device
manufacturers out there touting a variety of air cleaning methodologies.

One method that seems to match well with water treatment
dealers is ultraviolet (UV) light. Water dealers have seen an emergence of UV
light technology as an answer to many water quality problems. Even though the
first UV water disinfection system was used in 1909, we now are seeing a
resurgence in its use for various water disinfection applications, and it is
receiving ongoing attention in all water industry trade publications. While use
of UV light for water treatment is becoming more and more popular, it also has
been used successfully for air treatment for more than 80 years. Heating and
air conditioning trade publications continually provide favorable accounts on
UV's use. Professional periodicals such as the Journal of Occupational and
Environmental Medicine report UV is safe and economical and can provide
significant help with the fight against "sick building syndrome." UV
light for air disinfection is approved by the Food and Drug Administration and
recommended by the Center for Disease Control.

Because of the extensive coverage UV already has received in
water dealer publications, it probably is not necessary to explain the
scientific details of how and why it works, except to note that it works the
same in air as it does in water. In essence, UV destroys contaminating
organisms by photochemical damage to the DNA or RNA. In practicality, UV light
inactivates microbes at a constant rate over time. How long it takes to
inactivate microbes depends on the dose or power of the ultraviolet lamp. The
higher the power or intensity of the lamp, the shorter the time period to
destroy the contaminant.

Whether the ultraviolet lamp is in a portable air purifying
device or installed in a ventilating system, the destruction of harmful
organisms is directly related to the power of the lamp and the time period the
organisms are exposed to the lamp. Exposure to the lamp actually means exposure
to the lamp's radiant field. In a ventilating system (see Figure 1), the
radiant field extends way beyond the lamp itself and can be intensified by the
reflectivity of surrounding surfaces creating a vast "killing field."
The same can occur in a portable unit. However, the farther away from the lamp
the air passes, the less intense the exposure and, therefore, the less
disinfection. Even so, the typical residential HVAC system recirculates air
more than 50 times a day and the cumulative exposure to the UV lamp's power can
be very effective in controlling biological contaminants.

New Development in UV Light

To make UV light even more effective in its fight against
contaminants, some manufacturers are enhancing its power through improved
science and electronics. One option is the use of ultraviolet lamps that also
produce ozone. While the use of ozone is somewhat controversial, it can have a
very positive effect on odor control as well as aid in the reduction of
airborne volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Photocatalytic technology or
irradiating a catalyst with UV light to reduce VOCs and biological contaminants
also has become more popular. In addition, UV light can be the energy source
for the creation of a photoplasma. Plasma has been reviewed well by the EPA as
extremely effective in reduction of all types of surface and airborne

No matter which UV air cleaning methods you wish to provide
for your customers, an important key is the electrical power source used to
drive the lamps. Traditionally, magnetic ballasts have been used to power the
lamps. These are the same types of ballasts that are used to drive typical
fluorescent lamps and have the same inadequacies. These types of ballasts are
electrically inefficient and can provide great variances in actual power
supplied to the lamp. Changes to the power being supplied to the lamp affects
the lamp's output and therefore its purifying ability. As such, at any given
time you do not know how well you are purifying. Today, there are electronic
and solid state ballasts available that deliver consistent power to a lamp so
that you are purifying at a constant high rate (Figure 2).

Market Potential

Markets for indoor air quality are tremendously
under-penetrated. Consumers and businesses alike are looking for solutions to
their air problems. Another fact from the Chelsea Group validated that point
when they reported consumers want help in understanding how to improve their
indoor air quality. This is the exact kind of service you now provide in
assisting your customers in improving their water quality. So, find a good
manufacturer of ultraviolet air purifiers--a manufacturer that uses advanced
technologies, minimal requirements 
to get started, good dealer support and training programs and helpful
marketing materials. See if you can get just a little bit of that $10 million a
day by extending your purifying business into a market that is just waiting for
your help and service.

About the author

John Garrett is president and CEO of Biozone Scientific, a manufacturer of air and water purification devices using lightwave-based technologies. Garrett holds several patents, has worked with major corporations and government agencies on air contamination issues, and has been a frequent lecturer in the United States and abroad on indoor air quality and ultraviolet light.