Monthly Archives: May 2011

Ants In Air Conditioner

We have two HVAC systems.  One controls the temperature downstairs, while the other controls the temperature upstairs.

Less than two months ago, I had both HVAC systems cleaned and inspected, so I was shocked when one of them started acting up.  I would turn on the upstairs system, air would circulate, but instead cooling, the room remained warm.  Upon inspection, I noticed that the fan, inside the outside unit, wasn’t spinning.

I called the HVAC company and they sent out a technician.  He inspected the upstairs controller and duct work and found nothing.  He then went outside and removed the protective cover from the outside unit – and found the problem.

All around the “contact” – the little piston-like device that tells the fan to spin – there were ANTS.  Fire ants, to be exact.  The ants were crawling in and around the contact area, and were preventing the contact from making, well, contact.

Apparently, this is a rather common problem, especially in the hot and humid South.  He turned off the breaker to the outside unit, removed all of the dead ants and used a small vacuum to remove the living ones.  He then suggested that I put some granules of fire ant poison, sprinkled around the base of each outside unit.  (I did this as soon as he left.)

The technician recommended treating the area for fire ants two or three times a year.  He also suggested visually inspecting the units once a month or so, especially during the spring and summer.  I asked him why the ants would choose to get inside the unit in the first place, and he suggested that it might have something to do with the slight magnetic field around the copper coil.

For the cost of a service call, we now have ice cold air, no more ants, peace of mind, and a little more knowledge.

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Mortgage Payoff Progress For April With Chart

In February of 2010 my wife and I purchased our very first home.  We have a conventional 15-year mortgage and our plan is to pay it off in less than 10 years.  Our stretch goal is to pay it off in less than 7.

As of March 31, 2011, we have made 13 regular mortgage payments – and several additional principal-only payments.

When I posted February’s update, we had paid off 5.72% of our mortgage debt.

When I posted March’s update, we had paid off 6.26% of our mortgage debt.

As of the end of April, we have now paid off 6.90% of our mortgage debt.

Here is our most recent chart –

The chart below shows two percentages.  The blue percentage is how much I still owe – the balance.  The red percentage is how much I have reduced – the paid.

This chart does not represent how much of my house I actually own – it simply reflects how much of our mortgage balance we have paid.  We actually “own” much more than 5% of the house, based on appraised value and initial down payment.

We have made 14 regular payments and have lived in the house for just over a year.  Our contractual remaining term is 13 years and 10 months, but our actual remaining term is 13 years and 7 months.

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Increasing Emergency Fund Balance

We have decided to increase the amount of money that we keep in our emergency fund.

One of our goals is to keep an amount equal to six months’ worth of expenses in our emergency fund.  The primary purpose for the money in our emergency fund is to replace (or supplement reduced) income.

Income designated for mid- and long-term savings goals (like automobile replacement, new furniture, etc.) is kept in the same savings account – but is not considered part of the emergency fund.  The savings goals are part of our monthly budget – payments that we “make” to ourselves, each month.

As a side note:  We also have long-term disability insurance.  The emergency fund is designed to replace income, should we find ourselves unemployed.  The disability insurance is in place, should one of us become, well, disabled.

Like I said, we have decided to increase the amount that we keep in our emergency fund.  Here’s why –

1.  Inflation.  I’m not interested in what the pundits say – inflation is here and very, very real.  I have been using a grocery price book for several years – and the cost of food and household items is up, rather dramatically.  Feeding and clothing our family of five now costs considerably more than it did just three years ago.  This has to be factored in our calculations.

2.  New house.  We moved in to our new house, just over a year ago.  I now have enough data to estimate our monthly-cost-of-living-here.  Plus, we now have a fixed mortgage payment, home owner’s insurance, and taxes to consider.

3.  Kids.  When I first calculated six months’ worth of expenses, we had just two children.  Now, nearly five years later, we have three.  Providing for them is our top priority, so their needs must be added to our emergency fund calculations.

4.  Peace.  This one has very little to do with “math” and much more to do with “peace of mind”.  Personally, I’m not convinced that the worst of the great recession is behind us – and I want to be better prepared for any further downturn.

So, we are going to increase the amount of money that we keep in our emergency fund.  We have recalculated what six months’ worth of expenses is for our family – remembering that some wants will go by the wayside, and even some needs will be affected, should we face a real emergency.  Redirecting the money towards savings will also slow our mortgage debt reduction (just a bit), but in the end, the peace of mind will be worth it.

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