Something in the air

Good indoor air quality is critical, and replacing your HVAC system could be your ticket to better health.

Think of the term “air quality,” and chances are images of smoggy Southern California vistas enter your head. But indoor air quality (the air in your home and other buildings) is a huge deal — so huge, in fact, that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ranks indoor air quality as a Top 5 environmental risk to public health. *EPA studies have found that indoor air pollutants are up to 5 times greater than outdoor pollution levels, the result of poor ventilation, toxic candles, the use of air fresheners and household cleaners, and many other reasons.

Add to this the fact that EPA research indicates that people spend about 90 percent of their time indoors, and indoor air quality becomes a critical issue — especially for vulnerable groups such as the young, the elderly and those with respiratory or cardiovascular disease.
Sherée Nelson was prone to severe episodes of asthmatic bronchitis when she and her husband decided, in May 2014, to get a new air conditioning and heating system installed in their Southern California home, with financing through the HERO Program.

The main reason, Nelson says, was the outrageously high electric bills she and her husband were paying during the warmer months due to their aging HVAC system — the one that came with their five-bedroom home built in 1989. The Nelsons got a state-of-the-art HVAC system, with an air cleaning component that keeps allergy-causing agents out.


“I haven’t had a single asthma attack and haven’t had to use an inhaler,” Nelson says. The Nelsons may not have been able to afford their new HVAC without the HERO Program, which allows homeowners to make energy- and water-saving improvements to their homes with no money upfront and to pay for them over time through voluntary assessments to their property tax bill.

So far, 440 communities within 49 of California’s 58 counties have adopted HERO, which is made possible through a public-private partnership with municipalities. Since its inception in 2011, HERO has financed $1.97 billion in home energy and efficiency improvements in 82,500 homes. New HVAC systems may not only result in cleaner air inside homes, but also considerable energy, emissions and utility bill savings. The HERO Program offers financing for several dozen other home improvement projects that may improve indoor air quality while at the same time helping the environment in general.

Charlotte Samples was able to make many environment-friendly upgrades to her 1974 home through the HERO Program, including a new air conditioning and heating system, new energy-efficient windows and a whole house fan, and an air filtering system that kept her Southern California home free of allergens.

Improving her indoor air quality was a life-changer for Samples, whose husband was in poor health at the time. The improvements allowed her to move her husband, Denver, back home from a care facility so he could enjoy the last three months of his life without worrying about allergen-choked air aggravating his already grave condition.
“The changes made the indoor air cleaner and fresher, and sealing up the leaks really made a difference,” Charlotte says. “I wanted to make this home nice
for him.”

Ventilation systems, mechanical systems that bring outdoor air into the home, air filtration systems, dehumidifiers and humidifiers are all products which may reduce such ailments as irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, headaches, dizziness and fatigue that come with poor indoor air quality. Consult the HERO Program to learn more about financing these products, so you can decide if any of these improvements are right for you.

Doing so could help you breathe easier.

Photo Source: Healthy Homes Coalition

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