tell all tuesday misadventures in home ownership

June 3rd, 2008

Tell All Tuesday ~ Misadventures in Home Ownership

I am starting to think I should start a blog dedicated solely to chronicling the real costs of owning a home, including all the things you have to fix that you never even thought about existing. Sure, when we bought this house, we knew we’d have to update a few appliances, and hopefully redo some of the finishes in the house, but there are many more things to a house than I’d ever truly thought about. Oh, the joys of being a hopelessly naive first-time homeowner.

Two nights ago we tried to run our a/c for the first time this year. I say tried, because once we turned it on, the a/c, the blower in the furnace, and the garage door opener all stopped working. Resetting that circuit on our circuit breaker fixed the problem, as long as you didn’t run the a/c. My spouse tried running it again last night (because he can’t leave well enough alone) and we couldn’t even get the circuit to reset once it shut itself off. We had called and set up an appointment with the people who installed the furnace for this morning, to make sure that it wasn’t something to do with the new furnace installation.

Well, they’ve been and gone, and he said that it has to do with the circuit board. I am not an electrician, so I can only pretend to repeat what he said, but in essence, the board is old, the “tabs” are loose, whatever that means, and that lets the circuit that keeps not working draw too much power (or something, I guess, I seriously didn’t really understand at all) because it is loose. He tightened the tabs and it works, for now, but for now is the operative word. According to his work order, he “tightened tabs on back of breaker so it would make better connection on the buss bar” whatever that means. He really did try to explain things to me but I had no idea what he was talking about, and I was upset, so I didn’t take most of it in. I’m sure everything I just said makes zero sense to an actual electrician.

Just once, I would like someone to come here and say “Oh, this is simple to fix, it is just this and ta da, all better” instead of “Oh this whole thing needs to be upgraded/replaced/etc”.

My spouse is calling electricians this afternoon to discuss what potentially this is going to cost and get some estimates, but I am certain it will be expensive. Honestly, with this, my wisdom teeth coming out on Friday, and the colonoscopy in a few weeks, I just don’t think we are going to be able to travel to the taekwondo World Championships this year. It is one thing to put debt reduction temporarily on hold to follow a dream, but it is another thing entirely to go into more debt to do so. We’ll have to see what happens with the electrical, I guess.

So, on to May’s financial wrapup, since we’re at the start of June already. We actually had a pretty good month in May as far as income coming in, since it was a three paycheck month from my spouse, and I did pretty well with taekwondo as far as recruitment bonuses. Add to that the economic stimulus check, and we had an incredible month as far as money coming in. However, we also spent an incredible amount of money, since we put in a new furnace. All in all, after figuring the amount we need to carry over to next month from this month for irregular expenses, we have a surplus of approximately $1132.12. Which I am sticking into our emergency savings account. Normally I would split it half and put half each to debt reduction and savings, but I need to pay ~$155 for the wisdom teeth removal Friday, and then also need to wait and see about the electrical problems. So the entire surplus will sit in savings until I figure out what needs to happen. As far as upgrading the electrical board in our house, I can gather together about $2500 within a week or so to go towards the electrical problems without having to turn to any kind of credit, past that, I’m not sure. We’ll see. I have absolutely no idea what these sorts of things generally cost. Hopefully my spouse will have insight into that by this evening.

If it is not one thing it is another. Apparently we’re not destined to be out of debt any time soon. All this is just underscoring to me the importance of being out of debt and being able to prepare for the inevitable problems of home ownership and, in effect, life. And here I was just yesterday dreaming about tankless hot water heaters

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29 Responses to “Tell All Tuesday ~ Misadventures in Home Ownership”

  1. Houses suck. That’s all there is to it.


  2. Hang in there. This, too, shall pass.

  3. Sounds like you need a handyman. ;)

    I wish there was a way to get you to World Championships. I’ll be so sad if you don’t go.

    Stupid houses.

  4. Oh, man…the only thing worse than unexpected home repairs are unexpected home repairs on stuff that you don’t even understand. I HATE those kind of conversations (which are also prevalent in regards to my vehicle) and I’m sorry to hear this. I can’t imagine a new circuit breaker will be $2k+ but then I am often surprised. Try and get a couple of opinions…these are the sorts of things that often seem to get different answers from different folks.

  5. BTW, I wanted to add that this has sort of been my story since I paid off my consumer debt too. Much of it has been ‘optional’ but there have been a number of expenses that keep coming up ever since I paid off the consumer debt and I just keep not getting moving on my student loan debt. I am not as committed, therefore, not as discouraged as you are but I am having a similar experience.

  6. If you have the quote from the furnace guy correct, it is a relatively simple fix. Of course calling an electrician to come to your house can cost upwards of a hundred dollars before he even steps out of his truck.

    What it sounds like is that you have an old circuit breaker (not circuit board) and you need to have it replaced. They’re not that expensive, and it should take an electrician only a few minutes if he has the right one in stock. He’ll need to take the front off of the ciruit breaker panel, pull the old circuit breaker (the one with loose tabs) out, disconnect the circuit from it, connect the circuit to the new breaker, snap the new breaker back in, and put the front of the breaker box back on. It’s something I’d do myself (buy the breaker at Home Depot and install) but I’m not going to recommend that to someone who is nervous about electricity.

  7. OMG! It never ends! I’ve argued repeatedly that owning a home isn’t necessarily the great investment everyone seems to want it to be. You gotta love your home, warts and all! Just rename your Emergency Fund to “Household Maintenance Fund”; then it won’t hurt so much when you have to draw on it :-)
    But then you’d need a “Personal Maintenance Fund” (medical, etc), a “Car Maintenance Fund”….It never ends. Fingers crossed this isn’t major, or that there’s a temporary fix until funding is in place.

  8. I can promise you that eventually there will be a “lull” in these household emergencies. Just hang in there for a while. We replaced every appliance in our house during the first few years and then had a long time of peaceful living before things “cycled around” with our then eleven-year-old washer breaking.

    There will be a time for black-belt level saving and debt annihilation.

  9. debtheaven Says:

    June 3rd, 2008 at 4:59 pm

    I can’t be sure, but I think we paid about 1000 for ours about 10 years ago, HCOLA. I can’t imagine it would be anywhere near 2500.

    I really admire your ability to roll with the punches! As far as the old appliances go, I would probably take a month off whenever I paid off a debt and replace one. I hope they last that long!

    I hate to break this to you, but with a house, it just. never. ends. There’s always something.

  10. I feel your pain. My condo’s AC decided to break down in the midst of the Texas heat over Memorial Day weekend when I had a guest visiting. I was unable to get a repairman to come out until the following Friday

    Luckily, I am still covered under my home warranty, so there was no cost for the repair. I just hope the AC doesn’t decide to break down again as soon as my warranty is up…

  11. You will get out of debt and I hope that it’s soon. This was bound to happen sooner, rather than later, and I for one am much happier that it’s now, as your in a much better position than you were a year or two ago.

    Think flurries of snowflakes, I can’t wait until you tell us all that you’re debt free, house or no house.

  12. i totally understand. we don’t even have a house – we finally paid off our credit cards and have started saving for a house. we have $2500 saved. this afternoon, my hubby calls and says he has a flat tire. if they can patch it, it’ll be $9.99. if not …

    so i’m waiting to hear on that. but it’s always something. i’m putting off getting new glasses and a new bed and so many other things because we want a house so much. we’re bumping elbows in this tiny apartment.

    good luck with the electricians.

  13. Have you thought about trying to get the trip to the taekwondo world championship paid for through the place you are working as a recruitment trip?

  14. Gosh, I’m so sorry you have one more thing to deal with. I don’t think I’m ever going to buy a house! This kind of thing scares me!

    I hope and pray you can find a way to go to the taekwondo championships.

  15. I think that should be a cheap easy fix. At least from what it sounds like. I’d ask around, maybe a friend knows how to fix it. Sounds like you just need to get a new circuit board or circuit, either one should not be anywhere near $2,500. Repairmen will charge you a lot for their time though. I would recommend getting a handyman book. This is fairly basic, you should learn how to fix things like this.

  16. Echoing Sarah…my MIL says that to me a lot. ;)

    It’s certainly enlightening to see the specifics of what goes into a house. I never got to see the price tag on what happened to my family’s house. Sorry yours is causing you so much grief.

  17. If it really is what the HVAC guy said and a old bad breaker, that is an easy fix. The new breaker will be about $10 to $25 plus an hour of electrician’s billing.

    It sounds more like the new blower is pulling more amps than the old one and is right at the maximum rating of the breaker and is causing the breaker to overload and trip with the A/C added. It is interesting that they are on the same circuit. if this is the case, you will need a new larger breaker and possibly upgraded wiring.

  18. I’m so sorry to hear about this. Electrical issues can be serious and are not really DIY, especially when you’re dealing with the circuit breaker board and the main power coming into your house. Making a boo boo there could be fatal. There’s a reason why electricians do a long apprenticeship. A handyman book is good for teaching you to replace a light fixture or add a switch, not for something like this, in my opinion.

    As for the whole money pit effect, it’s sad but true. There seems to be no end to the things that need replacing.

    I mentioned my house repairs elsewhere the other day in discussing how my emergency fund would have another $3,000 in it if it weren’t for the fridge that flooded the kitchen floor and the storm that removed part of our rolled roofing, allowing melted snow into our bedroom. It could have been worse. My neighbour’s metal storage shed ended up on their roof in the same storm!

  19. The good times of owning a house! I think most people don’t realize the hidden costs that come over time. If anything, I saw that this winter when my ten year old furnace went out. That was a great $1,800 investment.

  20. Good luck with everything :) I hope it all works out well for you. It always seems that there are more expenses than you expect, no matter what you’re doing. I am in the process of starting up a music career, and there are so many expenses I never thought I’d have to deal with. And doing that while working for the life insurance company I work for is a big strain. But hopefully it’ll all work out in the end.

  21. WaiWaiWaiWaiWaitaminit here. You had a licensed, bonded contractor put in the furnace lash-up, right?

    In our parts, an HVAC technician IS an electrician. Something’s out of whack here. When they put in the new contraption, they should have checked to be sure your system could handle the load. These guys need to make this right, or maybe pay to make it right if they don’t know how.

    Call your state’s registrar of contractors and discuss.

  22. Funny About Money’s right! Of course! they probably deliberately tried to confuse you! Don’t do any repairs until you get definitive word as to what’s going on. They should have upgraded the electrical if there was a chance of overloading. Check your contract, call the state license folks, get written estimates. Think Judge Judy!

  23. @Funny – Yes, we had a licensed bonded contractor install the furnace, and with all the proper permits. In fact, coincidentally, the building inspector came today in fact and gave the furnace two thumbs up. Heh.

    They claim it isn’t that our system can’t handle the load, it is something with the board itself. or something. Again, I don’t really understand all that well. But it makes my head hurt just the same. :)

  24. Sorry ;-(

  25. I’m with Jay. Especially for homeowners, “emergency fund” can be misleading because the name suggests you only dip into it in the case of unexpected emergency, say you get in a horrible boating accident and can’t work for 6 months or your house burns down. However, everything in your home was built not to last forever, so eventually, everything will have to be replaced and it costs money to do so. Just to take an AC unit for instance, say it costs $3500 originally and has an expected life of 7-10 years (making these numbers up). I guess some people may consider it an “emergency” when one day their AC unit goes out and gets angry at the “hidden” costs of home ownership. In fact, you can pretty much figure this unit (and a comparable replacement) will cost you $350-500 per year (not including utility costs and upkeep). Same can be said for your car and any number of major appliances, of course, people, I think, generally think of major purchases as a one-time, “biting the bullet” session which they hope they don’t have to repeat.

  26. paidtwice Says:

    June 4th, 2008 at 9:29 am

    @Lo.Price – For someone inexperienced in the ins and outs of home ownership, some things are truly hidden costs, at least to me. Appliances I understand – I wasn’t shocked or anything about the furnace. Disappointed it didn’t last longer, and irritated, but I wasn’t shocked or surprised by it. But this electrical thing – well, let’s just say i had no idea stuff like that gets replaced. I know nothing. I am a recipe for disaster :)

  27. I feel your pain. This has been a tough month for us. Our garage door opener broke for the second time in 2 years. Every time lightning strikes anywhere close, it fries, and it’s even plugged into a protector. Apparently the first time it happened, we should have replaced the whole unit, not just the circuit board, but the repair tech obviously didn’t know what he was doing. We had someone new come out to fix it this time ($240). Add to that a speeding ticket, car taxes (expensive in my city $300 for a 2004 saturn), a piece of plywood flying into my car while driving at 70 mph on the interstate ($500 deductible), and high gas prices. It hasn’t been a fun month. We shouldn’t have to dip into the emergency fund, but we won’t have much of a surplus this month.
    Great blog by the way.


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