Innovative Financing Makes Energy Efficiency Upgrades Affordable in California

Many older homes in the U.S. lack adequate insulation and air sealing, according to ENERGY STAR. Air leaks boost utility bills, and can cause discomfort from drafts and uneven home temperatures. With rising energy costs, many California homeowners are air sealing and insulating their homes to keep heating and cooling bills down. Property assessed clean energy (PACE) is a way of finance energy-saving home improvements in California through property tax bills, making energy efficiency upgrades affordable to many homeowners. Air sealing a home can, however, cause air quality issues to arise, increasing the importance of a ventilation strategy.

Solving Indoor Air Issues

Inadequate ventilation can cause numerous indoor air quality issues, especially after air sealing a home because stale air becomes trapped and fresh air cannot enter. Moisture issues can develop, leading to mold growth. The build-up of toxins due to lack of fresh air can compromise occupant health.

Although many houses have exhaust fans in the bathrooms and kitchen, there needs to be sufficient makeup air for such systems to function properly. Historically, leaks and gaps in the exterior provided this makeup air. Once cracks and gaps are sealed however, reduced air movement makes it difficult for exhaust fans to properly remove moisture, odors, fumes, and toxins.

Zehnder heat recovery ventilation (HRV) and energy recovery ventilation (ERV) systems create an energy-efficient solution when retrofitting existing homes. Unlike exhaust-only ventilation systems, Zehnder HRV and ERV systems create balanced ventilation throughout the entire home.  

Better Indoor Air Quality

Once the exhaust requirements for bathrooms and the kitchen is calculated, an equal amount of fresh air is supplied continuously to bedrooms and living spaces. Zehnder systems promote home air quality by removing stale or contaminated air, while replacing it with fresh, filtered air.

Save Money on Utility Bills

In warm weather, Zehnder HRVs and ERVs save energy by lowering the temperature of fresh incoming air, reducing home cooling bills. In cold weather, they pre-warm intake air, reducing heating bills. The more efficient the ventilation system, the more energy people will save. In fact, Zehnder HRV systems are up to 95 percent efficient, dramatically lowering energy bills.


To offset the initial cost of retrofitting a home for energy efficiency upgrades, an innovative program known as PACE exists. Many California homeowners were encountering financial obstacles in paying for energy-saving home improvement projects. For this reason, PACE financing was created to enable homeowners to pay for money-saving improvements over time, through an affordable program.

With low rates and financing terms up to 25 years, program participants make convenient payments through their property tax bills. The PACE funding program allows homeowners to reduce utility bills right away with energy-saving upgrades, simultaneously increasing home comfort, property values, and durability. PACE provides up to 100% financing, giving homeowners no out-of-pocket costs for energy-efficiency upgrades.

Zehnder HRV and ERV systems, air sealing, and insulation are all eligible upgrades for PACE financing, making these home improvements a winning combination of energy-efficiency, comfort, and indoor air quality.

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Sarah Lozanova is a regular contributor to environmental and energy publications and websites, including Mother Earth Living, Green Building & Design, Triple Pundit, Urban Farm, and Solar Today. Her experience includes work with small-scale solar energy installations and utility-scale wind farms. She earned an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio Graduate School and she resides in Belfast Cohousing & Ecovillage in Mid-coast Maine with her husband and two children.

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