Years before the coronavirus pandemic forced the world to take shelter indoors, three Santa Clarita Valley companies were worried about the quality of air being breathed.
When the pandemic hit, others started to realize the importance of improving indoor air quality, ironically turning to technology that’s been around for ages in the fight against COVID-19: UV-C.
“UV-C radiation has the highest energy amongst things and is capable of directly damaging the DNA and the RNA backbone of microorganisms,” said Dr. Ashish Mathur, vice president of innovation and technology at UltraViolet Devices Inc., during an SCV Economic Development Corp. and Chamber of Commerce webinar, adding that UV-C can be deployed against most microorganisms, such as the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19.
Since then, UVDI, UV Resources and Applied Companies have been working with the SCVEDC, chamber and Santa Clarita City Council to figure out how to adapt their technologies into their local community, whether in offices, industrial, commercial or even school buildings.
“Air is necessary for life, and clean air is absolutely essential for your good health,” Santa Clarita Mayor Pro Tem Laurene Weste said. “UV-C technology is proven, it is available now and there is no need to wait. … We have the tools in the 21st century toolbox to destroy this virus and future viruses by being prepared with this technology.”
The city of Santa Clarita immediately began installing UV-C into heating and air conditioning systems at citywide facilities, including City Hall, the maintenance facility, a library and even new constructions, like the Canyon Country Community Center and Sheriff’s Station, with the goal of incorporating it into all city buildings and facilities.
UVR President Daniel Jones called this a great step forward, benefiting everybody going into the future, whether it’s flu season or another pandemic.
Jones touched on a point agreed upon by all three companies: That while it may feel like the pandemic is winding down, the reality is that there will be other viruses.
“It’s taken this tragic situation to really bring it to the forefront and say maybe this is something we should be doing all the time, not just in a pandemic,” Jones added.
There are various applications for UV-C disinfection, such as in ducts, air purifiers or via sanitation robots, for example, with each doing its part to purify and sanitize in what these companies agree needs to be a multi-layered approach.
Applied Companies released a COVID filtration product line, with a mobile filtration unit that combines filtration and disinfection technology to kill pathogens, according to Vice President Joseph Klinger.
At UVR, its upper room ultraviolet germicidal radiation system, which attaches within a space, went from a low-moving product in 2019 to its No. 1 product in 2020 and continuing into 2021, according to Jones.
UVDI recently had its UV system for HVAC units tested against SARS-CoV-2 in a biosafety level 3 certified laboratory, which found that it can inactivate 99.99% of the pathogens with one pass through the moving air stream, according to CEO Peter Veloz.
For Klinger, whose company primarily works with the aerospace and defense industry, he first got involved in adapting his systems for COVID-19 so his kids could return to school safely, and strives to continue trying to raise awareness on the importance of indoor air quality.
Here in the SCV, all five school districts have upgraded indoor air quality in preparation for students to return to the classrooms.
William S. Hart Union High School District officials purchased more than 1,200 commercial-grade HEPA air purifiers to be used in classrooms and communal office spaces.
“All of our HVAC units have been tested, sanitized and equipped with the maximum filtration possible,” read a statement released by the district. “As we anticipate student return, units are being tuned to operate with the highest amount of fresh air available while still being able to perform the function of temperature comfort for staff and students.”
Similarly, both the Sulphur Springs and Castaic union school districts’ directors of facilities have worked to ensure optimal ventilation in classrooms that meets the requirements for both the state and county public health departments, as well as the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air Conditioning Engineers, including air filters to reach the most efficient rating.
Through the process, Newhall School District’s maintenance director Fred Palmer has consulted with his fellow maintenance directors in other districts to share ideas and action plans.
It’s been through this and the district’s COVID-19 task force and safety committees that Palmer has been able to provide the best results, which include cleaning and inspecting all HVAC units, cleaning evaporator coils, increasing the MERV rating in air filters and their rate of change, among other things.
“Our efforts to provide better air quality are ongoing, we are currently working with architects, engineers and vendors to explore additional upgrades and their related expenses,” he said.