Adding to Debt So We Can Cool Off

Adding to Debt So We Can Cool Off

Air ConditionerI just added to our massive debt pile in a significant way. That’s not a happy statement, but it’s reality.

I added about $7,600 to the massive debt. Uggh!

I was going to say something more profound to describe what I’m feeling, but I think this video sums up the feeling…

The chaos…the screaming…that’s about how it went down in my head.

I added debt in order to cool off…literally. My Heating, Ventilating, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) system for the upstairs of the house just kicked the bucket. I knew this day was coming, but I didn’t plan for it. Sort of like the ostrich with his head in the sand, I hoped I could just ignore the problem and it would go away.

It didn’t go away.

Old HVAC Systems

We bought a foreclosed house at a great deal, but it came with some “issues.” We fixed up the immediate needs and moved in. The pile of “these can wait” repairs included the old HVAC systems for the house.

We have two HVAC zones, one upstairs and one downstairs. That means two different systems. Both units were installed when the house was built, about 26 years ago. Let me tell you, 26 years is a long, long time for HVAC systems to last, especially in our climate.

These things had so many band-aid repairs that it would be difficult to count. I’ve had many repair techs come out and to put band-aids on them and I would often hear something that sounded like this…

“Whew! I haven’t seen one of these in forever.”
“We have a fan motor for one of these that has been sitting on the shelf for over 10 years.”
“That part has no markings left on it. I’m going have to guess at what size it is.”
“Back when these were installed, they didn’t even have a ratings system for system efficiency.”

Basically, everyone who saw these systems told me they were old. When I would ask how much longer they might last, no one would commit to anything. Rightfully so. But somehow, they managed to keep heating and cooling the house with the temporary repairs.

Giving Out…All at Once

Finally, the systems gave out, and at the worst possible times. First, the downstairs system kicked the bucket. That one went out this past February, during the coldest part of the winter. Awesome! That was $5,200.

Then, the upstairs system kicked the bucket. This one went out in August, during some of the hottest days of the summer. Awesomer! This one is $7,600.

This just adds misery to an already ugly financial situation. We were forced to take on more debt in order to stay comfortable in our own house. We live in southern Virginia, which means that it gets cold enough in the winter to always need heat and it gets hot and humid to the tune of 100+ degrees for much of the summer. There are very few weeks where we don’t have either the heat or air conditioning running.

The Upside

I would think that the downside of losing both HVAC systems within 6 months is obvious…the serious financial hit. Plus, it’s no fun to freeze in February and sweat in August. However, there is a great upside to this situation.

• We installed brand new HVAC systems that are the size we need for our house. These are custom to our house. The old systems were installed by home builders and they were not ideal. The systems were undersized for the home, meaning they had to work harder to keep up with our temperature demands.
• Our heating and cooling efficiency just went as high as can be. The new systems are rated for high efficiency, whereas, the old systems never had an efficiency guideline to meet and were not even meeting that low standard because of their age.
• Over time our electric bills will go down because the new systems won’t be cycling as frequently as the old ones did.
• I may be able to get a rebate from my power company for the new systems. There are two potential rebates available, one for $300 from Energy Star and one for $200 from our power company. At least it’s something.

There is always a tradeoff for financial moves like this. Sure, I have to take a huge hit to my wallet today, but the silver lining is that I save money over time. Not to mention increasing the resale value of my house.

I need to focus on the positive anywhere that I can. I’ve got massive debt to tackle and setbacks like this are not helping me.

The only regret I think about, and this is very briefly, is that I never budgeted for the HVAC system replacement earlier. Had I taken my head out of the sand and planned for this when we bought the house, I might have been able to soften the blow a bit. But like I said, I don’t dwell on regrets and the past, so I can only focus on the future with cool air and reduced debt.

Have you been surprised by any major house repairs? Tell me about them in the comments.

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  • The upside is that you hopefully won’t need to replace these items again for some time. And you’ll be reducing energy consumption and hopefully the bills associated.

    • You said it, IH! I shouldn’t have to think about HVAC for a long, long time and I will get reduced utility costs along the way. Great upside…once I pay for them.

  • Mustard Seed Money

    I’ve found when I am in debt that Murphy’s law always creeps up. i.e. Bad things always seemed to happen when I didn’t have any money. Now that I am out of debt, for whatever reason, Murphy’s law is no longer a problem. 🙂

    • That damn Murphy…always showing up when you least expect it. I know what you mean. Things seem to hit you all at once or not at all. This year has been an all at once kind of year, but I’m attempting to hit back at my debt just as hard. I’ll win in the long run but Murphy will get a few good shots in along the way.

  • Now that we have 3 houses (one we live in plus 2 rentals), we keep about 10k sitting in our “house fund.” Stuff goes wrong ALL the time. It’s always stinks to have to spend the cash, but it’s nice to have it sitting there!

    • Stuff goes wrong all the time in just my 1 house, so I can imagine that things happen frequently when you have rental properties. That’s where I’m heading, towards investing in real estate, and research tells me to plan for the worst. Or at least budget for it, like you have. Thanks for the number, too, gives me a target to shoot for.

  • Our AC unit was manufactured the same year I was born, and has been in use since I was 2 years old, which is to say it is 26 years old. I know it’s going to die relatively soon, although the HVAC guy says nothing is wrong with it mechanically at all.

    This is a great reminder that saving up for that eventuality needs to be a fairly high priority for us.

    • Woof! 26 year old HVAC is amazing! Mine was up there as well. Couple of things that helped me in the aftermath, in terms of easing the thoughts of that huge price tag…26 years ago they had no efficiency ratings for HVAC systems to meet, so a new system will be SOOO much more efficient, saving you in utility costs. The old system also costs more to repair because parts are obsolete and hard to find…plus you are only putting a band-aid on it.

      Keep the old system going with low cost repairs if you can and save up for the new system. Wish I could tell myself that 5 years ago. Good luck!

    • Woof! 26 year old HVAC is amazing! Mine was up there as well. Couple of things that helped me in the aftermath, in terms of easing the thoughts of that huge price tag…26 years ago they had no efficiency ratings for HVAC systems to meet, so a new system will be SOOO much more efficient, saving you in utility costs. The old system also costs more to repair because parts are obsolete and hard to find…plus you are only putting a band-aid on it.

      Keep the old system going with low cost repairs if you can and save up for the new system. Wish I could tell myself that 5 years ago. Good luck!

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About Brian Stephens

Brian is on a journey from massive debt to real estate mogul. Join him as he stumbles and fails on his way towards long term success. Debt isn't pretty and turning it around won't be either. His primary goal here is to tell the story and network with like minded people who want financial independence through real estate investing.

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