UVC disinfection devices (those that use ultra violet C band light to deactivate germs) have garnered world wide attention recently as an effective tool in the fight against the corona virus. UVC technology has long been used in various industries for disinfecting food and water against a large number of pathogens. It has also been widely used in home water purification systems – the UV+RO combination uses the same UVC technology and has become the gold standard in water purification as UV is the most effective technology in killing stubborn germs.
With the Covid-19 pandemic in full swing, a plethora of UVC devices of varying quality have hit the market from handheld wands to automated robots that claim to disinfect against corona virus in seconds. Consumers, unaware of this technology till recently, have been befuddled by these products that seem to be quite useful and even life-saving but are neither sure of their effectiveness nor the quality of the product.
We, at Bragpacker, have researched this space extensively, have been using UVC devices for years and have interacted with a large number of manufacturers of UVC products and here, below, is what we have learnt. Hopefully, it will help you make an informed decision about whether and what UVC product to buy.
How does UVC Technology Work?
UVC disinfection, as a technology, is pretty solid and proven. As mentioned earlier, it is already widely used for decades in industry and at home. UVC exposes living organisms, such as bacteria, viruses, or cysts to a germicidal ultraviolet wavelength. With enough energy, UV radiation disrupts the DNA in pathogenic microorganisms so they cannot reproduce. The ultraviolet light thus prevents the pathogen from spreading disease and renders it safe.
Will UVC kill the Corona Virus as well?
UVC light has been successfully used to deactivate SARS and other corona viruses and specific light dosages have been calculated for them. Because the COVID-19 virus (SARS-CoV-2) is so new, the scientific community doesn’t yet have a specific deactivation dosage for it. However, we know the dosage values for comparable viruses in the same SARS virus family are 10-20 mJ/cm2 using direct UVC light at a wavelength of 254nm; this dosage will achieve 99.9% disinfection (i.e., inactivation) under controlled lab conditions. In real-life, the virus is often hidden or shaded from direct UVC light, reducing UVC’s effectiveness. To compensate, devises are able to apply dosages of 1,000 – 3,000 mJ/cm2 to ensure 99.9% deactivation.
What should one look out for when purchasing a UVC disinfection device?
One needs to be careful when buying a UVC device as there are many products out there that do not inspire confidence due to their untested outputs and designs. Take into consideration the following points before choosing your UVC device.
- The quality and make of the UVC tube:
The most important component of the UVC device is the lighting element itself. The UVC germicidal tube used in the product needs to have a consistent output so that the dosage required for disinfection can be reliably obtained. Note that UVC tube wattage can also reduce over a period of time. Hence, it is imperative that the tube used is from reputed brands that guarantee the specified output. Brands such as Philips, Sankyo Denki are considered to be among the most reliable. There are other decent Indian brands as well that are available. However, we recommend that you strictly avoid unbranded or unknown Chinese brands as the quality of tubes they use can be highly suspect.
- Safety Features:
Direct exposure of UVC light can be harmful to human skin and eyes. Thus, it is important to have designs and features that help to avoid accidental exposure while the device is in use. For handheld devices, this means that the design should enable you to hold the device without exposing your hand to the light. For UVC chambers, they should have an auto switch-off feature when the chamber is opened during use. For standalone room disinfection devices, a movement sensor, delayed start or a remote control are essential. Such features will reduce the possibility of accidental exposure.
There are a lot of Made in China UVC devices now available online but pretty much all of them use UVC tubes that are unbranded and have no certification of any kind. Hence, there is no way for the user to know whether these devices actually work and apply sufficient and uniform dosage to disinfect items. Plus, replacement tubes may also not be available for these products if the tube gets damaged or breaks, rendering the device completely useless. Hence, it is a better investment to use products that are supported by warranty from local manufacturers and have replacement tubes that are easily available locally.
- What UVC can’t do:
Beware of products that make unrealistic claims about the product in terms of what they are able to disinfect and how long they take to do it. For example, claims by some tiny, portable devices of being able to disinfect surfaces in seconds should be taken with a grain of salt. The tubes used in these simply donot have the power to provide large dosages required to disinfect effectively in a few seconds. You should look for products that use tubes with atleast 8W of output, if you want fast disinfection. Similarly, most UVC devices may not be suitable to disinfect your masks and PPE as these items are multi-layered and UVC cannot penetrate beyond the top layer. Protocols for disinfecting such high risk items are quite stringent and generally not possible at home.
Fact is that there is a massive spike in demand for UVC devices and not enough quality supply. UVC tubes, the main component in the devices, themselves are in short supply or available at inflated costs at the moment. Price also varies based on quality as described above and there are several dirt cheap Chinese imports available. However, in our experience, it is possible to get high quality handheld devices for under INR 3000, chambers between 15-30 liters under INR 10,000 and room disinfection lamps (> 30 W) for under INR 25000.
There is no question that UVC technology has now become main stream and a great weapon against the corona virus at home, office and public spaces. We can expect to see a lot of new developments (especially the usage of Far-UVC light) and wider applications for UVC in the near future. Hence, it is very useful to be aware of this technology and we hope that our blog has helped you catch up with some of it’s important aspects for your personal purchases.
Full Disclosure: Bragpacker.com sells UVC products as well. But we are not tied to any particular brand or manufacturer. Thoughts and opinions mentioned above are based on our own research to identify the best UVC products for our customers at fair prices. Our selections can be viewed here.