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UV leds and lamps

How UV LEDs Differ From Traditional UV Bulbs

The discovery of UV light has created a profound impact on the air, water, and surface disinfection. As UV technology keeps evolving, we’re seeing UV LED technology as an alternative to traditional UV bulbs increasingly more frequently.

UV discharge lamps and UV LEDs are both effective at inactivating microorganisms. However, the popularity of UV LED technology, in particular, has increased over the years. In fact, scientists predict that by 2023, the global UV LED market will reach $1,163.5 million!

In this article, we will share an objective comparison of both technologies to help you understand how UV LEDs can serve as an alternative to traditional UV solutions. A better grasp of the technology can also help you avoid possible scams or low-quality products on the market.

UV LEDs vs. UV Bulbs: What’s the Difference?

1. Wavelength

While both UV LEDs and UV bulbs emit UV-C light, the fundamental difference between them is the type of radiation. While all UV-C light is germicidal, it varies by intensity. Therefore, different types of UV-C light will require different exposure times for effective 99.99% disinfection.

UV lamps emit narrow and fixed wavelength spectral lines while UV LEDs emit narrow and selectable wavelengths. This means that UV LEDs can offer the flexibility of choosing the specific intensity of UV light desired.

Since each pathogen varies in its sensitivity to specific UV wavelengths, the ability to select a particular wavelength is beneficial. It enables UV-LED technology to target and disinfect specific molecular bonds effectively.

2. Usage of Mercury

UV disinfection may be a safer option than chemical disinfectants such as bleach. However, all conventional UV lamps contain several milligrams of mercury in liquid or amalgam form.

Mercury lamps can easily break during transportation or due to improper handling and use. This increases the risk of mercury exposure which can have harmful effects on the body and even be fatal. Mercury can also be damaging to the environment.

On the other hand, UV LED technology provides a safer alternative. It contains no mercury or toxic materials. Therefore, there’s no risk of mercury exposure in the case of improper installation or breakage.

Furthermore, since UV LEDs do not emit specific wavelengths for ozone creation, they have a more sustainable production process. This advantage has created new opportunities in the medical field, where conventional UV lamps with mercury are not allowed for safety reasons.

3. Energy Use

Conventional UV bulbs require about 5-10 minutes to warm up. On the other hand, UV LEDs offer high-intensity UV-C light output. So, you can turn them on and off without needing warm-up times. Because UV LED technology is not impacted by this on/off cycle, it offers unlimited lamp cycling.

Researchers state that the lifetime of UV-C LED lamps is of more than 5000 hours. This means that you won’t have to replace them for over 10 years or even longer. Meanwhile, depending on the environment as well as how you use them, mercury lamps will need periodic replacing.

Due to these differences, UV lamps are advantageous for prolonged continuous operation. Meanwhile, UV-C LEDs are perfect for rapid disinfection and flexible running times.

4. Application Flexibility

In comparison to UV LEDs, UV lamps are heavier and bigger. This limits their use cases. So, they’re usually installed with fixtures or combined with other devices.

Alternatively, UV LEDs are compact and integrable with various appliances including air purifiers, air conditioners, and even portable products.

5. Costs

If it were for durability alone, UV LEDs would’ve probably already replaced traditional lamps in most disinfection applications.

While prices of UV LEDs are coming down, they are generally more expensive. However, UV mercury lamps have a lower production cost and, as a result, they still are dominant on the market.

Keep this in mind when selecting UV light products, especially if they are portable and handheld. Even though UV LED technology is becoming more common and less expensive, it’s easy to mistake regular LEDs for UV LEDs. This has, sadly, resulted in many cheap, ineffective, and even fake products, such as cheap UV cleansers, on the market.

Final Words

UV-LEDs are a viable technology for disinfection. They address several disadvantages associated with UV lamps and offer new opportunities to many industries. These include increased efficiency and portability. Moreover, UV LEDs are an environmentally friendly alternative to mercury lamps.

As UV LED technology develops further and becomes less expensive, it may replace traditional UV bulbs completely in the future.

Despite the differences stated above, both technologies emit UV-C light. This means that if not handled carefully, they can cause damage to human skin and eyes. Therefore, no matter which of the two you’re using, be sure to be wearing protective equipment such as gloves and goggles.

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