Remember how I was so excited to (be about to) have $2,800 in savings? Turns out, we had even more of a surplus than expected. So savings is going up to $3,055!
But about that money…
The guest house unit
Nadine came over to tell us that their air conditioner didn’t seem to be blowing as coolly as it should’ve been.
I figured it was just an issue of Arizona summer temps, but both that and the main house’s HVAC were overdue for tune-ups anyway. So I found a place with a good Better Business Bureau rating that had reasonable ($59.99) rates, and gave them a call.
Alas, the news wasn’t good for either of A/C units.
The guy confirmed that the cooling was being impaired by a clogged blower. Badly clogged, apparently. He had us peek in and, yeah, suuuuper dirty.
The outside portion also needed a cleaning, probably because of the backed-up blower, so the total cost would be $615.
He couldn’t do it the same day because apparently mini-splits are a pain to dismantle. (To see the blower we had to stoop to peer through a slot, while also craning our necks almost to our shoulders to see the blower behind all the other parts.) So he wanted to go back to the office and look over the schematics before he did any work.
But he did assure us that the cost of the tune-up would be deducted from the cost of any work, so at least it wasn’t a delay tactic to get more money.
The main unit
Before he even got on the roof, the HVAC guy pointed to pigeons huddled under the unit. Apparently, it’s usually an indication that they’re enjoying cool air from a leak in the unit.
He came back from the roof and showed me several worrisome pictures. There were spots where the seal was degraded and some where it was just gone completely. (He estimated that we were losing probably 10% to 15% of our cooled air. Gah!) There were some ducts that were filthy (even by HVAC standards) and some spots where issues had caused standing water, which was turning some of the surrounding metal brown.
The seal needed to be redone, the unit needed to be cleaned, panels needed to be attached and insulated and the drain needed to be flushed. Cost: $1,237.
Low pressure sales
The repairman was quick to assure me that neither unit had actually been damaged yet. He also didn’t push for us to agree to the work immediately. Instead, he just emphasized that, while the repairs were pricey, we should definitely make them a priority. But I got the sense he was talking about months rather than a couple of weeks.
He also said that it absolutely made sense to check with a couple other companies. He was confident that their prices would be competitive and that the findings would be the same.
Unfortunately, those other companies wanted to charge me a trip fee. So I considered my options: Pay $50 to $70 to maybe get different information or to go with a business that had an A rating with the BBB, good reviews on HomeAdvisor.com and no-pressure estimates. Ideally, I’d have called around until I found some places that would come out for a free estimate.
But I was tired and stressed — and my coping skills are still not quite back to their normal levels (which are still lower than healthy-brained people) — so I decided to go with the known quantity.
The guest house unit was far more of a problem than expected.
When the workmen opened the unit, the found that the blower wasn’t just caked with dirt. There was mold. Lots and lots of mold.
Apparently, the mold had been blowing in from the unit because this is what we found behind the in-laws’ TV stand:
The guys went back to the office to get some special tools, then spent about an hour and a half trying to get as much of the mold as possible (and spraying the unit with disinfectant).
The lead, who was the same guy we’d met the day before, told me he’d do his best to minimize the extra cost. True to his word, he fiddled with the numbers so that we only paid about $100 more than the estimate — despite three guys staying almost two extra hours.
The next step
Mom attacked the moldy area of the carpet with a Shop-Vac, then with a vinegar and water spray (#MomVacation); but we all knew this was a stop-gap measure. Obviously, the carpet and pad have to go.
In theory, it’s no great tragedy. That carpet has been dead since about six months after they moved in. A dirt yard, dusty climate and two dogs that sometimes have accidents/can be inclined to revenge-crapping quickly took their toll.
So it’s always been the plan to eventually get the place tiled. The keyword being “eventually.”
The guest house is only about 450 square feet, but that still won’t be cheap. Nadine voiced concerns about tile being too slippery (since they’re both mobility impaired), so I agreed to check out vinyl too. But vinyl is, by definition, a laminated surface, and those also slippery. And also probably more easily damaged/stained by two dogs’ nails/bladders.
But we’ll see what the companies have to say. I’ve scheduled appointments with two national flooring companies and have a call in to a handyman Funny About Money recommended. I’m hoping he can see us soon because we can’t really dawdle when it comes to mold. I want to have something figured out by the end of next week and have it get underway asap.
A financial groin shot
The repairs ended up being around $1,900 in addition to the $120 we’d already paid for the tune-ups.
Adding to that hurt was the $400 down payment on a $3,000, five-year maintenance plan. It gives us free tune-ups — which would be $1,190 over five years — plus discounted parts/service and no trip fees (including after-hour surcharges). More importantly, when it’s time to replace one of the units, the cost of the plan gets applied to the new model.
Impressively, we’d have enough in savings if those (and $500 in car repairs that I’ll talk about in another post) were the only extraordinary charges this month. In fact, we’d have around $500 left in mid-September. Heck, maybe even $800 after saved savings and any end-of-the-month surplus.
But the billing cycle doesn’t end for another 10 days, and ya don’t dawdle when mold is present. Meaning that the flooring will almost certainly be included in the next credit card statement, which will mean dipping into our emergency fund.
A (short-term) bleak future
I know that at least some of you will point out that this sort of thing is exactly why emergency funds exist. And yes, logically, I know that.
But I’m pouting because it’s the first time in three years that we’ve had to touch the EF. And that was only because we found ourselves unexpectedly needing a replacement car. Even then, it was only $150 (and only for about 10 days).
This time, it’ll probably be significantly more — and take longer to pay back. Depending on the cost, it could take multiple months. It makes me glum.
Making me glummer (totally a word) is that we had been planning to use part of savings to replace the guest house door. It’s beat-up and ugly and, more importantly, needs a bit of a shove increasingly often.
The new door and a screen are going to be around $300 after tax, with installation being around $400. Not astronomical, but definitely a chunk o’ change.
And yes, we’ll get back to a good balance; and yes, not having enough savings is an incredibly first-world problem. But it’s still frustrating as hell for now. Especially because of all the things I’d like to do around the main house. But that’s a post for another day.
Have you guys had any unexpected repair bills lately? Or other bad financial news? Misery loves company, folks!