What Is Ozone?

Ozone (O3) is a form of oxygen.  It is a natural and highly reactive gas composed of three oxygen atoms. It is a powerful disinfectant and odor eliminator. 

How Does It Work?

Ozone is oxygen, just like the oxygen in normal everyday air. Whereas the oxygen we breathe is O2 and is comprised of two oxygen molecules, ozone is O3 and is comprised of three oxygen molecules. Ozone is HIGHLY reactive. The O3 molecule is not stable in the presence of normal oxygen – it desperately wants to give up its 3rd oxygen molecule. When ozone comes in contact with organic compounds such as odor molecules, pollutants, mold, mildew and viruses (and many other unpleasant things) it reacts molecularly with the substance. You’ve heard the term “oxidize” applied to products such as bleach, laundry detergent and toothpaste. This is exactly what ozone does to organic compounds, it oxidizes them. That is why ozone smells similar to pool chlorine (chlorine being another potent oxidizer). This oxidizing reaction is quick, and in the process the ozone gives up one of its oxygen atoms and degrades back into O2

The only element left over from this process is pure oxygen (O2), which makes it perfect for treating everything from odors, insects and powdery mildew in a grow room, to killing viruses and bacteria (Covid-19, the common flu virus, Staph, C. Diff, etc.) in residential and commercial environments.

Instead of spraying chemicals that can leave residuals on surfaces that may be harmful to people and pets as well as the objects you’re spraying (food and food surfaces, appliances, keyboards, drapes, etc.) it leaves behind only pure oxygen! Ozone saturates everything in your room – it saturates objects left in your area and even gets behind wall coverings!

Highly Reactive

Powerful Oxidizer

No Residues or Byproducts

Where Does It Come From?

In nature, ozone is created in one of three ways. 

The first is when oxygen in the air is exposed to high intensity ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun. The “ozone layer” resides miles above the Earth’s surface, and this ozone reduces the amount of harmful UV radiation that reaches us.

The second is when oxygen is exposed to a high voltage electric arc, such as lightning. “Corona Discharge” ozone generators use this method to produce ozone.

The last is industrial pollutants, which can create ozone when the pollutants react with each other in the atmosphere. 

Commercial Ozone Generation Systems Produce Ozone in One of Two Ways:

The first is Corona Discharge. Think of it as man-made lighting. Corona Discharge systems rely on an electrical arc passing through a substrate/catalyst. They work well, however they require frequent maintenance. They also require very clean, dry air. Environments with just a small amount of humidity degrade performance considerably. Corona discharge units also produce a considerable amount of heat, which then needs to be removed from the area.

Image: Sarah Cartwright
Image: Wallpaperflare

The second most common type of ozone generator uses special UV lamps that produce ozone. UV lamps are like other light bulbs – they produce light in a certain spectrum. Indoor plant growers use light bulbs that produce light of different wavelengths, usually a reddish light for blooming plants and a whitish or bluish light for vegetative plants. The color of the light output corresponds to the amount of energy that is contained in each photon. Just like there are different types of visible light there are different types of UV light. Our proprietary bulbs produce two spectrums of UV light- at 185nm and 254nm. When an un-shielded bulb produces light at under 240nm, ozone is produced. Light at this frequency is so energetic that it breaks the bonds between oxygen molecules in air. These free oxygen molecules recombine to form O3 (ozone). 

Not all germicidal UV lamps produce ozone. When a UV lamp operates at under 240nm it produces ozone. In fact most UV lamps have a coating to prevent ozone from being produced. Our lamps are tuned to the “far” UV (or “vacuum” UV) spectrum and produce an output measurable at 185nm.

UV ozone generators are better than Corona Discharge generators because they are more reliable and have a longer lifespan. CD units have a higher failure rate, and once they’re done you have to throw out the entire generator and purchase a new one. UV ballasts last for years and years and are inexpensive to replace. Lamps are easy and relatively inexpensive to replace, and when you do replace a set of lamps you essentially have a brand new unit (full UV/ozone output again). UV lamps provide a constant output; no “bursts” like CD.

OXIDIZATION

Oxygen is an element vital to the biology of most advanced lifeforms. Without it our cells would not be able to produce energy. We do not breathe oxygen in the form of single atoms; the oxygen we breathe is O2 (molecular oxygen). Molecular oxygen consists of two oxygen atoms bonded together. Single atoms of oxygen are actually very toxic to all life forms. We almost never see single atoms of oxygen in nature because they have two unpaired electrons. These atoms want to rip the electrons off of anything they can find. Scientists call this process “oxidation”. It’s the same chemical reaction that chlorine uses to kill bacteria in swimming pools. In our case, the Big Blue’s lamps output light that carries enough energy to split the O2 found in normal air into individual atoms. A percentage of these atoms bond together into O2 and a smaller percentage bond in to O3. O3 has the same problem that single atoms of oxygen does – it wants to swipe electrons from other molecules. This oxidization process is toxic to all forms of life. It disrupts the cell wall and simply rips it apart – it’s membrane stops functioning. Molecules cannot transfer through this membrane and parts of the cell can leak through the disrupted cell wall. Oxidization can affect important structures in the cell such as DNA and cellular enzymes, disrupting the pathogen’s ability to function at a cellular level. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Ozone

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Will ozone remove the fragrance from my plants?

No, when used properly. BIG BLUE ozonators are designed to be used as a scrubber between grows or installed in the exhaust ducting. This ozonized air is to be directed outside of any grow areas and living spaces. For most applications we do not suggest mounting the BIG BLUE as part of an air intake system or using it in a room with flowering plants.

In our city (Houston, TX) we already have high ozone days that instigate warnings for respiratory health. If I am using ozone in my indoor garden, will this increase my health risk?

As you know, ozone is the most dangerous component of smog. This ozone is created when the sun reacts with hydrocarbons (the major component of smog) in the atmosphere. Ozone can be very harmful if you are asthmatic or have allergies. You are also probably aware that ozone is extremely unstable. The measurement of ozone in cities is taken out of doors. If the same measurements were taken inside your home (with the HVAC running and the windows open) it would only be 1/10th of the outside measurement. Also many of the machines that we have in our homes (i.e. laser printers or copiers) can produce harmful levels of ozone for some people! If you have these conditions Blue Air Products would never recommend that you use our products while you are in your enclosed hydroponic garden. When you are using the BIG BLUE to sterilize your grow space between harvest and planting, it should be run on a timer or be turned at least 30 minutes before you re-enter the enclosed garden. This time allows the unstable ozone molecules to revert back to harmless oxygen.

How can I tell when the ozone levels are too high?

A small percentage of people can be considered ozone sensitive. These people will find the smell of ozone, at any level, to be too much. The EPA and the FDA have stated that levels below 0.05 ppm are safe for humans. Again, some people will find any level of ozone approaching this level to be overpowering. Fortunately, it takes long term exposure at levels approaching 0.1ppm to cause any harm. We suggest using a timer with the BIG BLUE and then waiting an hour or so before entering your room just to be on the safe side.

In our city (Houston, TX) we already have high ozone days that instigate warnings for respiratory health. If I am using ozone in my indoor garden, will this increase my health risk?

As you know, ozone is the most dangerous component of smog. This ozone is created when the sun reacts with hydrocarbons (the major component of smog) in the atmosphere. Ozone can be very harmful if you are asthmatic or have allergies. You are also probably aware that ozone is extremely unstable. The measurement of ozone in cities is taken out of doors. If the same measurements were taken inside your home (with the HVAC running and the windows open) it would only be 1/10th of the outside measurement. Also many of the machines that we have in our homes (i.e. laser printers or copiers) can produce harmful levels of ozone for some people! If you have these conditions Blue Air Products would never recommend that you use our products while you are in your enclosed hydroponic garden. When you are using the BIG BLUE to sterilize your grow space between harvest and planting, it should be run on a timer or be turned at least 30 minutes before you re-enter the enclosed garden. This time allows the unstable ozone molecules to revert back to harmless oxygen.

Will high heat levels affect the ozone output?

Yes. Blue Air Products has compensated for the heat that is produced by grow lights and other grow room equipment. We use larger and multiple lamps to produce enough ozone to adjust for this heat. You may install the BIG BLUE as close to the odor source as possible without concern for the increased temperature levels found in most grow rooms.

What is the difference between ozone and ionization?

The four most effective methods of purifying the air we breathe are: ultraviolet light, active oxygen, purifying hydroxyls, and negative ions. Ultraviolet light produces all of these odor fighters. Ionizers, by themselves, create negative ions which attach themselves to solid particles, such as dust, pollen, soot, smoke, etc.. This particulate then drops from suspension to form a harmless dust. Ionizers alone will not eliminate 100% of the odor causing contaminates.

Will the high humidity levels of my garden affect the ozone output?

No. Ultraviolet bulbs could be immersed in water (do not try this at home) and continue to produce ozone. Ultraviolet lamps are used extensively to purify the water in pools, spas, ponds and bottled drinking water. Humidity is a factor in producing ozone, but high humidity actually helps the BIG BLUE produce more ozone. Almost 50% more ozone is produced at 85% RH than it is at 50% RH. Competing ozone technologies are hampered by high humidity levels. Corona Discharge ozonators use an exposed electrical arc to produce ozone. It’s kind of like putting your toaster in the bathtub and expecting it to continue to brown your bread.

What is the difference between corona discharge (CD) and ultraviolet light (UV) ozone?

Corona Discharge ozonators use an exposed electrical arc to generate ozone. A byproduct of Corona Discharge ozonation is nitric acid. When mixed with moisture from the humidity in the grow space this corrosive “syrup” contaminates the surfaces that produce the ozone. This requires frequent cleaning of the arcing surfaces or the contamination will reduce the ozone output of the generator.

UV lamps use concentrated ultraviolet light waves to produce ozone. These bulbs do not produce harmful residues. Humidity does not affect their function. There is no need to constantly clean the UV lamps during your grow cycle, unlike with Corona Discharge style ozonators.

Some Corona Discharge units can produce more ozone, but not in high humidity environments. You may have experienced static electricity. This usually happens in extremely dry conditions. However, when it’s damp outside, not so much. For grow room applications where humidity is almost always a factor, this gives a huge advantage to the BIG BLUE and its UV lamps.

One other issue with Corona Discharge units is that you need to run them with some type of baffle. The reason is that these units produce ozone in “chunks”; they generate a set amount of ozone and then release it. It is not a continuous process. We frequently hear from customers who complain that they tried a Corona Discharge unit in their exhaust systems and it did not work because they would smell strong ozone coming out of the system and then smell garden odor because the ozone did not have a chance to mix with all the air exiting the room. The worst part of this is that most ozone manufacturers don’t even offer a baffle box for their units!

I heard that ozone degrades plastic. Is this going to cause everything plastic in my room to be worthless after using the BIG BLUE?

It’s true that ozone can degrade materials such as plastic. However, under normal use the concentration produced by the BIG BLUE and the short contact time is not nearly enough to cause any kind of problems. It takes a tremendous amount of ozone to cause this type of damage, and the contact time would have to be months/years, not hours/days.

I was reading a forum on the internet the other day and someone said that ozone killed the taste and smell of their plants. I don’t want to lose terpenes. Is this true?

When used properly, as part of an exhaust system or used as a scrubber between grows, the ozone produced by the BIG BLUE will not affect the taste or smell of your plants. As long as you let the ozone completely dissipate from your growing environment (typically about an hour or less) before introducing your plants you have nothing to fear. What you do not want to do is introduce high levels of ozone into a room with live plants.