UVC for HVAC-Case Study in Local Hospital

The pictures above clearly show the effectiveness of using UVC lights to remove bio-organisms from the evaporator coils (..effectively cleaning the coils) of an HVAC system. All of that crud shown in the bottom of the two photos came from the coils, after less than two months of the UVC light install. The crud seems to be dead now, but was previously alive (I presume) and was present and most likely reproducing within the air handler of this HVAC system.

The use of UV lights in water filtration systems is fairly common. The use of these lights in HVAC equipment is not. Why?..I asked myself over a year ago. The answer is: no one wants to get caught with snake oil…and, there are associated filter and non-metal component degradation issues (due to the UV exposure over time)when used in most residential setups. Overall, UV lighting industry lacks government regulation so there have been and currently still are many products on the market that are simply ineffective. Ineffective at what you ask?

These lights (when applied properly) are supposed to kill 99.9% of the bio-organisms (i.e. mold, mildew, viruses, etc.) that grow inside the evaporator coils of your HVAC system. The evaporator coils are part of your “air handler.” Meaning, unless you’ve been using a top of the line filter with rubber gaskets, the likely-hood is good that a good percentage of the conditioned air inside your home or business is passing over these bio-organisms…after getting filtered. This occurs because any particulate that bypasses the filter and sticks to the evaporator coils, though, you can always get your coils completely disconnected, cleaned, and reinstalled.

Why do the bio-organisms form on evaporator coils (probably more than anywhere else in your home or business)? Because there is a food source..particulate(i.e. dust..SOME of which will pass through even the best filter money can buy) , and water (which is created when the semi-warm air from your HVAC return passes over the cool coils..creating condensation).. That said, a superb media filter like the AprilAire that has gaskets will cut down on this occurrence tremendously, and is all I currently depend on in my own home.

So, don’t freak out, these bio-organisms (most of which are naturally occurring outdoors) probably won’t kill you..they haven’t yet right? But, they could be the cause of some discomfort (i.e. allergies).

How do you greatly reduce or eliminate this discomfort? Well, in a commercial setting like this hospital that uses large metal chilling units in which the lights are not in close contact with disposable filters, I say install UVC lighting in your HVAC system, in conjunction with a premium filtration system. But, in a residential situation, where there is one or two smaller units for each house, I’d stay away from the UVC lighting for now. The reason why, is because the UVC lights can eat up your air filter over time and even some components of the air handler.

Let me clarify. In regards to indoor air quality and your HVAC, I feel a good filter is priority number one, and in some larger scale settings that UVC lighting (among other things like duct/attic sealing) is secondary. So if I owned a hospital or stadium..I would definitely spring for both. With an ROI of one year or less on the lights (in a commercial application), which is what these distributors claim..seems like an obvious choice to me, for commercial chiller application.. In smaller more traditional application, the issues relating to filter and component degradation must be addressed prior to install, because filtration is most important! With a revamped system that addresses these issues(like use of metal to protect the filter from the light..), I feel these lights have a good chance of becoming common place in homes.

To summarize, the lights kill harmful bacteria while making Large Commercial Chilling Systems run more efficiently, ultimately saving places like stadiums and hospitals lots of money and providing their attendees health benefits. Retro fitting this system in your home would cost you less than $1000, and the yearly bulb change out, done by a professional, would cost you less than $250, but again..I would hold off on putting it in your house until they get filter degradation worked out.

Do your homework regarding air purification (beware of any purifier that produces OZONE, this particular product does not). Not all UVC lights are equal in performance, a study done by the EPA (of participating UVC light manufacturers) seems to support claims that this light is the strongest and most effective of its kind. Ultimately, the light itself seems to work great, but you’d better make sure its not going to eat your filter..

Check out this cool video to see more. -DC

Filtered H2O On the Go!

Every year, roughly 22 billion water bottles are thrown away. That’s an astonishing number, and as I mentioned in a recent post about plastic..the stuff (plastic), just doesn’t ever completely break down (unless it happens to be biodegradable…which the vast majority isn’t). What about recycling you ask? Roughly eighty-six percent of water bottles used in the U.S. are NOT recycled.

So we have diagnosed the problem, what are some solutions?

-stop buying plastic water bottles

-use filtered water instead

How do you do this on the go? Well with a filtered re-usable water bottle of course!

The manufacturer claims that this filtered stainless steel bottle can filter water from your nearest tap or even lakes, rivers, and streams..pretty much every type of water other than salt water. Now that’s what I call convenience!! Check it: www.ecousable.com


*And no worries, BPA free;)

Non-Toxic Treated Wood Alternative

While running around at the Austin Green Living Expo this past weekend, I came across a couple of products that particularly caught my interest. One was a wood sealer/stabilizer called Petrify.

Petrify is made from local Texas cedar trees, from which cedar oil is then extracted and combined with silicone. This naturally resistant (to insects, rot, & decay) cedar oil and silicone mixture is then sprayed onto hard/soft wood, plywood, or bamboo to remove all moisture and bring on the early stages of petrification. The manufacturers claim your wood will last a lifetime after only one application.

This product sounds like a great alternative to treated wood (that’s used a lot on outdoor projects). It’s well known that treated wood can contain some pretty harsh chemicals..though the industry is improving.

I haven’t used Petrify yet, but I plan to try it out in the near future, and I will be sure to do a follow up post.

Recycled Leather

Recycled leather..the first time I heard about this stuff was from a friend of mine who told me she heard (second hand information..don’t you love it) that Lance Armstrong has leather floors in his house. Weird I thought. But actually, what a great idea. This innovative product not only looks super cool and high-end, but also creates a “round three” of sorts…for leather from mainly old and unwanted vehicles, but also left over belts from bridal showers and proms..keeping it out of the landfill, and potentially on to your floor!

It comes in 12″ x12″ tiles and 4′ x 5′ sheets. It can be used as wall covering, flooring, or for cladding a desk or counter..like we did. Another big plus.. this product received a rating of “excellent” for indoor air quality. Check out their gallery at ecodomo.com.

Soap Nuts!

Back to Blogging…

I just got my new order of sustainably harvested soap nuts in from a company called Nature’s Wash. What are soap nuts you ask? They are actually berries that grow on trees in a region of India (if I remember correctly). The trees are considered trash trees for the most part (I guess they just spring up all over the place or something to that effect), though the locals do understand their virtues and indulge in them regularly from what I hear…to wash things of course.

How do they work, well they are basically coated with natural soap that can be used for a variety of cleaning purposes. I use them (along with vinegar and a non-chlorine oxygen bleach)to wash my clothes. What I love about my clothes now..is that they don’t irritate my skin. And as for smell, there is no smell..perfect right??

I will be doing a video blog soon to show you exactly how we do laundry at my home, but in the mean time if your interested, check out their website: NaturesWash.com

And if you live in Austin, they are having a launch party this Saturday (Feb. 20) from 6-10 PM at the Big Red Sun. I support these guys and I encourage you to as well…keep it clean, go green!

2009 Renewable Energy Roundup & Green Living Fair

Video of Our Presentation- at the ’09 Renewable Energy Roundup & Green Living Fair in Fredericksburg, Texas




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Environmentally-Friendly Plastic and the Race for Renewable Energy

Renewable energy existing capacities, at end o...
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So far, the issue of “environmentally friendly” plastic has been a true catch 22 for environmentally conscious citizens. We’re stuck with two plastic options: plant-based, and petroleum-based. Currently, plant-based plastics have a larger carbon footprint than do the petroleum-based kind because of the resources (ie: corn fields) and extraction processes required to create them.

Petroleum-based plastics created from fossil fuels actually have much less of a carbon footprint, but conversely they pollute our environment with…well…plastic. The pollution left by these petroleum plastics will take many many lifetimes to break down, and when it finally does, will combine with organic matter to continually disturb our delicate ecosystem.

There are those out there who don’t even like the idea of biodegradable plastic. They say the gases (mostly methane) and organic matter that discharge during the degradation process lead to potentially harmful effects to our environment and atmosphere.

This whole thing seems like walking over burning coals, and it’s difficult to find the next step. Lets try to stay cool though.

So, what can we do? We can start by jumping head first into renewable energy. Although more resources are required to create these plant-based plastics, if the energy we use is renewable, then theoretically we could use as much as we want without causing great harm to the environment. Renewable energy that’s used to create plant-based plastics provides an alternative that will leave a much smaller carbon footprint than any other currently available option.

Rapid innovations offer hope, and alternate solutions. Did you know we can even genetically modify plants to grow plastic now? Weird! Until that route is perfected, however, promoting renewable energy resources is our best bet.

My final verdict is: continue to promote plant-based materials while letting technology and social consciousness do the rest. I truly believe our technology is evolving rapidly and we will be over the renewable energy hump in no time. As far as the biodegradable issue, maybe we should look into non-degradable, but completely recyclable plastic options.

Just my thoughts though; be your own judge.

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High-Performance Grout Sealer with a Holistic Approach

We are wrapping up a mostly cosmetic remodel of a 1970’s bathroom that will primarily be used by two precious little girls. A portion of the job involved re-tiling a tub surround with some trendy white on white subway tile.

Sealing the grout afterward is a must, so we reached for something that was non-toxic and zero VOC to do the job.

AFM Safecoat Grout Sealer is what we came up with.“Unlike conventional sealers, Safecoat sealers are made without formaldehyde preservatives or toxic mildewcides or fungicides“-quoted directly from the manufacturer. Additionally, Safecoat claims to provide five years of protection with just one coat.

These are the type of holistic/high-performance products we feel good about using in our own homes and on our own jobs, as well as recommending to others. The devil is in the details, do your best to get ’em right!

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3 Cheap Alternatives to PVC Shower-Curtain Liners

PVC, one of the quote on quote dangerous plastics, is present in the overwhelming majority of shower curtain liners in America today!

Here are three cheap and convenient alternatives available at: Target, Wal-Mart, and Bed Bath & Beyond (on-line or otherwise). They’ll look and feel just like your old ones, just without the health and environmental risks. These bad boys are chlorine-free, odorless, and bio-degradable! Enjoy!

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Health and Luxury in 1 Shower Head!

Want to eliminate the chlorine gas from your shower and improve your skin at the same time? Step into the lap of luxury with the Maia Satinjet Beauty Shower.

This bad boy has massage pivong heads, sleek design, high functionality, and best of all, a replaceable vitamin C filter that handles up on the chlorine present in our municipal water supply. According to the manufacturer, you will literately smell the difference.

Health and beauty does come at a premium however with a price tag of $349, but sometimes it truly pays to be spoiled..in this case with healthier skin and improved indoor air quality. Fortunately you can make up for some of the upfront cost, by using the included flow re-stricter (don’t worry it will still work..thanks to aeration!), potentially saving you up to 50% off your water heating bill. Enjoy!

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