UV Lamps vs UVC LEDs: Which is best for your water disinfection needs?

The directive just came down from the top, and next year’s product launch needs to have disinfection performance claims.


James Peterson

By James Peterson

Product Manager

If your company sees the opportunities in adding disinfection to your consumer or commercial appliances, then your product design and engineering team is likely considering ultraviolet (UV) disinfection technology. Designers need to choose between two potential solutions: UV lamp reactors or UVC LED reactors. While both options can effectively inactivate microorganisms in water, awareness of product usage and positioning often define which technology offers the best costs and design features that product designers can deliver.

The following three criteria can help you better determine which disinfection technology aligns with your product requirements so you can create the ideal UV-based water purification system for your market.

Download a free copy of our eBook, "Improving Value for Water Cooler Distributors with UVC LED Disinfection."

Frequency of Use

How often and for how long will water be dispensed from the product?

Mercury UV lamps perform well in continuous operation, offering high power for low cost. Lamps do require a warm-up time before water can begin dispensing. Because on-off cycling is strenuous, this can drastically reduce the lamp’s service life to no more than a year.

UVC LEDs, on the other hand, offer instant, high intensity UVC light output that can be cycled on and off to provide immediate dispensing while maintaining long life (typically, over 5-10 years in most consumer point-of-use products). Accounting for this lifetime difference is critical for long-term cost of ownership models when planning for new products.

For continuously flowing water, UV lamps have advantages for prolonged continuous operation.

For on-demand water dispensing, UVC LEDs have advantages of extending maintenance-free product lifetime and providing rapid user responsiveness.

Flow Rates

How much water will be flowing?

UV lamps has been used in municipal systems treating over one million gallons per day. High wattage, large lamp offerings give utilities and industrial applications the efficient power consumption and easy lamp replacement process for these needs.

Low flow applications like those seen in consumer appliances or point-of-use water dispensers can scale power and cost requirements more effectively to the lower end using UVC LEDs by providing high intensity output in compact low flow reactor designs.

For High Flow rates (over 5 gallons per minute), UV lamps have advantages with high wattage and size offerings for wide channel reactor designs.

For Low Flow rates (under 5 gallons per minute), UVC LEDs have advantages of high intensity point source output for efficient reactor designs.

Product Footprint

How much space is available in your product design to incorporate disinfection technology?

One of the major trends driving the water purifier market is the fact that a growing number of consumers are living in smaller spaces. As consumers demand smaller product footprints to accommodate smaller living spaces, existing water purification systems that use UV lamps are being squeezed to save space. Traditionally limited to lamp size and orientation, even some of the smallest UV lamp reactors are three to four times larger than UVC LED reactors.

The compact size of UVC LEDs, on the other hand, enables integration of disinfection into point-of-use products which, historically, could never fit UV lamp type reactors like small appliances, faucets, and beverage systems. 

For areas where bulkier products are allowable, UV lamp reactors have advantages when available space is not a design concern and lamp replacement access is possible.

For areas where compact product size matters, UVC LEDs have advantages for compact products needing to minimize product size and eliminate the need for replacement access design features.

Conclusion 

If the application is a larger, higher flow system in continuous operation, UV lamps can have advantages to provide the best solution to end users. When it comes to compact, point-of-use appliances and purifiers, UVC LEDs provide lower costs of ownership and better alignment with design needs as compared to UV lamps.

While UV lamps and reactors have become standardized in the market, not all UVC LEDs and reactors are the same, so designers should thoroughly evaluate multiple options to find the one that best meets their needs.