Some Thoughts on Using Far-UVC in the Real World

I know a lot of folks have been interested in 222 nm far-UVC devices to help protect against SARS2 and other airborne (and surface!) pathogens, so here’s another installment in my “test pilot” program using this tech in the real world (to see the previous post, click here). For background, pls check out this:


So far, I’ve used 222 nm tech in these use cases:

  • Having non-COVID conscious friends over for dinner indoors, without masks (yes, you read that right) (Sterilray Sabre)
  • Sterilizing the air in the house after non-masked people have been in (Sterilray Sabre)
  • Having unmasked people in the garage and driveway (yes, I’ll use it outdoors, too!) to look at/buy stuff when we were getting the house ready to sell (Sterilray Sabre)
  • Dental exam (Ergo X-One, held as close as possible to the mouth/nose area)
  • Doctor’s office (Ergo X-One, *only* to reduce viral load around my mouth/nose while wearing an N95)
  • Public showers in campgrounds when we don’t have the option of using a portable outdoor shower, masking for most of the shower (Ergo X-One, which is a POOR fit for this, but I wasn’t going to risk the Sabre around water; waiting for a Beacon I can plug into a portable power pack & hang on the door)

The other night when my wife was invited to a big to-do for her biz was our first opportunity to try and use far-UVC – the Sterilray Sabre, in this case – “in public.” The venue was a hotel ballroom with several dozen tables and roughly 150 people, with 4 to a table. Unfortunately, all this was set up & occupied before we got there and we had no idea going into it where my wife would be when it was her turn to present. As such, we didn’t have a chance to scope out any spots where I could set up the Sabre. Also, at that point the room was packed, so there wasn’t even a spot with a clear radius of 5’ or so (my minimum working distance for it in public – it’s 150W), and no place to set up the stand so I could get some elevation gain to reduce masking (more on that shortly).

So we sat in a spot that gave us about 15’ clearance from the nearest attendees and was right under an air handler, wearing our N95s.

Finally, my wife gave her presentation – which was almost last – and after that the formal session was over, freeing up some tables near where my wife was talking to a couple people. It was a good thing: the dam sort of broke and a bunch of people surged over into that part of the room to look at all the goodies on the tables.

Here are a few pics of how things were laid out (note that this was during an “ebb” of people at that end of the room; there were quite a few more just out of the frame):

The Sterilray Sabre on a table top

Sterilray Sabre on a table top, side view

Backpack with two 5 amp-hour EGO batteries to power the Sterilray Sabre

Sterilray Sabre protecting my wife and others (or from others!)

Keep in mind, this was the first not-in-our-home use of the Sterilray Sabre, so it was a little intimidating. You can be “subtle” with something small like the X-One (palm sized) or even a Beacon (about 4 x 6 inches). But the Sabre is about the size of a baseball bat and mine is white (although I had actually ordered a black one, but oh well), so it’s not “subtle” at all.

Gathering my gumption, I unzipped it from the tripod case I carry it in, plugged it into one of the two 5 Ah EGO batteries I brought in a backpack (that’s almost 4 hrs of run time; I carried that much power with me b/c I had no idea how long we might need to run it or if AC plugs would be available; this is also one of my favorite features of the Sabre, beyond its massive output), put it on one of those small circular bar-height tables pointing at my wife & the people around her (between 10-15 feet away), and switched it on.

As it always does, the Sabre instantly came on and did its thing, putting out its blueish fluorescent glow, the cooling fans humming. I kept it on until my wife was ready to leave, maybe 15-20 minutes later, when I turned it off and packed it away.

Here are some initial impressions after this short trial run:

  1. There’s been a LOT of discussion over the last year or so about 222 nm/far-UVC safety, and people wondering if we should get permission to use it, etc., etc. I’ve come to my own conclusion, which you may or may not agree with: protecting my wife and myself or others in our family takes priority. None of the 99% of the public who goes around unmasked asks us for permission to expose us to a pandemic pathogen, and – while it goes against my innate nature – I’m going to take a page out of their playbook, if you will. Am I going to do what I can to minimize exposure to others and use the equipment properly and safely? Sure. But I’m not going to dither wondering if I can use a device (Sabre or otherwise) that could help prevent infection. If the configuration of the venue allows, I’m just going to use it. If someone asks questions, I can show them plenty of material from Sterilray’s site and others. If someone running the venue asks me to turn it off and I can’t convince them otherwise, I’ll comply. But protecting “me and mine” comes first. Sorry, no longer sorry.
  2. Of the 20 or so folks who were in that group near my wife, only a single person paused to take a closer momentary look at the Sabre (I was watching carefully for any reactions). But she neither asked about it nor did so much as frown and moved on. The rest paid it not a bit of attention, even though it was clearly visible and I was standing right beside it (being one of the 3 men in a room of ~150 women and one of only 3 people masking, I was pretty obvious, lol). My takeaway there, subject to additional experience, was that most people aren’t going to notice or care. I think they figure if a gadget like that is there, it’s “supposed” to be there. Works for me.
  3. The Sterilray Sabre has two small fans behind the lamp for cooling, and in a quiet room in a house they make very perceptible, although not unpleasant, noise. In a larger room like this with even a modest amount of conversation going on, it was imperceptible from a couple feet away. I took a reading with an app on my iPhone, pointing the mic first at the bulk of the room (we were on one end), then at the Sabre 2 feet away. The room reading averaged about 65-70 dB, while when pointed at the Sabre (with conversations going on 10-15’ on either side of it), the reading was 55-60 dB. So when using the Sabre in any sort of public venue, the fan noise is likely going to be minimal or unnoticeable at more than a few feet.
  4. A BIG problem in this particular situation was what’s known as masking, where one person blocks the light from zapping the air that could be inhaled by someone else (remember, light requires direct line of sight). My wife, who was masking the entire time, was talking to someone in close quarters and was masking the other person, and thus the airspace between them (note: I reminded my wife that she MUST wear eye protection in a situation like like this). So I tried to wrangle the Sabre and the backpack around a bit to get a clear shot. The good news, such as it is, is that they were likely getting a fairly strong downdraft from the ceiling ventilation ducts, but this is something else we need to work out: my wife always needs to make sure that she (or, more precisely, the air in front of her mouth/nose) is in clear line of sight of the Sabre and she’s not standing so close to people she’s talking to (and wearing eye protection), although that was largely due to it being so loud at that point.

The next thing was post-high-risk event protocols. Even though we masked and used the Sabre when we could near the end, being in a room with that many folks is always a risk (and we didn’t have Enovid; the refills I ordered a week before didn’t arrive in time) and we’re currently staying with my 87 year old dad who has multiple vulnerabilities. One could argue we should really just move out for a week or so, and there’s certainly wisdom in that. Dad didn’t want us to do that, so I set up the Sabre in the far corner of the dining room: from there it can cover the dining room, kitchen, and living room out to just short of the entryway (blocked by an angle in the wall) and the hallway leading to the bedrooms. Then I put a Levoit 300 HEPA in his study and bedroom, and a Coway AirMega in our bedroom. We’re in Phoenix so go out very little because of the heat, so nearly all our waking hours are spend under the Sabre, and we kick the AirMega on high when we nap or sleep (it gets loud on high, but boy does that thing move a lot of air!). We’re now at 48 hours from diving into the Virus Hotel; at 72 we’ll take some RATs (for what that’s worth) and go from there.

Anyway, I hope this gives folks interested in far-UVC some food for thought. I’m not saying we’re doing everything right; a lot of this is playing it by ear as we go, as there aren’t many people (as far as I know) out in the real world doing what we’re doing, but I hope that our experience can help inform your choices about this technology and how to use it.

Some Thoughts on Using Far-UVC in the Real World

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