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Her air conditioner died in the Vegas heat. Then a company came to the rescue

Updated July 10, 2024 - 1:25 pm

Kit Herron sat barefoot in her living room as makeup streaked down her face. It was July 5, and Herron’s home had been without air conditioning for nine days.

Tears slipped out of the 77-year-old’s eyes when she recounted praying to God to fix her cooling woes.

Christopher Burton, a physician at the University Medical Center’s Aliante Quick Care, said one can get heat stroke if one’s house lacks proper air ventilation. The elderly are quite susceptible to heat stroke because they easily become dehydrated, Burton added.

“As we age, we just get much thinner skin and it does not retain the water,” he said.

Doing what’s right

On July 5, a local air conditioning company installed a new central air conditioner worth nearly $8,000 at Burton’s home.

Spencer Wilhelm, the general manager of Legacy Air, said the company participates in a program with a distributor called Do What’s Right. Through the program, Legacy Air can install up to five free units per year to customers in dire need.

Because Herron was elderly and could not afford replacing her broken unit, she “fit the bill perfectly” for the program, Wilhelm said.

Curtis Coker, a Legacy Air service manager who helped get Herron the new unit, said he used to work for companies that would instruct him to leave houses if customers could not afford their air conditioning services. Leaving a home with broken air conditioning always really bothered Coker, he said.

“To be able to go, ‘Hey, don’t worry. You don’t have to sit in a hot house. Your animals don’t have to suffer and you don’t have to suffer. We have something available. Just give me a little bit. I can go sort that out.’ It’s an awesome feeling,” Coker said.

90 degrees inside

Herron, who became accustomed to strong air conditioning as a flight attendant for United Airlines for 34 years, lives alone and has no relatives in Las Vegas, she said. Her house is 79 years old, and it’s located in the Crestwood neighborhood of Las Vegas, which borders the south part of downtown.

On June 27, the air conditioning in her home stopped working, Herron said.

Herron and her dog stayed at a motel on Fremont Street for roughly a week while their air conditioning was out of commission, she said. Fans and ice water were no match for the temperature inside Herron’s house, which would get up to 90 degrees.

“I couldn’t sleep in it,” Herron said.

Around 6 a.m. and 7 p.m. on days during this period, Herron would return to her home to air it out, take care of her two cats and feed feral cats in the neighborhood, she said.

Herron said the first company she asked to fix her air conditioning realized that refrigerant was leaking from the 10-year-old central air conditioner in her backyard. The company charged Herron nearly $500 to put some refrigerant into the unit, which did not solve the problem, she said.

When the actions of the first company failed to get her air conditioning working again, Herron had two other companies take a look at her unit, she said.

‘Couldn’t figure out what to do’

After the second and third companies failed to solve her cooling woes, Herron went to Home Depot on June 29 to buy a portable air conditioner, she said.

Herron said she started to cry at Home Depot because she did not know how or when she would get her air conditioning fixed.

“I couldn’t figure out what to do,” she said.

A couple saw Herron crying at the store and approached her, she said. They connected her with a man named Bob, who handles their air conditioning problems.

According to Herron, Bob came out to her house that afternoon, realized that refrigerant had leaked into “the coils” of her unit and told her to call the unit’s manufacturer because the leak was serious.

The unit’s manufacturer, Trane, connected Herron with Legacy Air, a dealer for Trane in Herron’s ZIP code. Legacy Air first came out to Herron’s home on July 1.

“It very quickly became apparent that there was really nothing that we could do to help repair the unit. And furthermore, Ms. Herron was in a position where financially she would be unable to either repair or replace the unit,” Wilhelm said.

According to Coker, Legacy Air installed the new unit at Herron’s house on Friday — just two days before the hottest day in Las Vegas history — because Friday was the first day someone at the company was available to do the installation.

“It’s hot,” Coker said. “We’re slammed.”

Contact Peter Breen at pbreen@reviewjournal.com. Follow @breenreports on X.

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