Showing posts with label home. Show all posts
Showing posts with label home. Show all posts

Frugal Home Maintenance - Clean Your A/C Coils

We came home from a motorcycle ride on last weekend, and the house felt warm. I checked the air conditioner thermostat and it was 84F! We usually set our thermostat to 79F which is a frugal setting in Florida. We have a lot of appliances, pumps and electronics sucking our electricity everyday, so we try to conserve where we can - which is the air conditioning. But one frugal thing we should have done a long time ago, is to maintain the evaporator coils in the inside A frame air conditioner unit. We never cleaned it after our big remodel last summer and it was a dust fest in here while we installed drywall, painted, sanded and installed carpet and tile throughout most of the house. Consequently, our poor A/C has been working very hard to pull clean air through those caked up coils.

I first noticed last week when we had the thermostat set at 79, and the temp inside was 81. And the unit just seemed to run all the time, but it was not very efficient. I suggested to my husband, we needed to change the filter. But it didn't happen. When we finally did change the filter, it wasn't really that dirty so I knew it was a bigger problem than a dirty filter. So, with the filter removed it was possible to peek into the unit and see the real problem - a layer of iced up frozen dust and grime.

If you have this problem, you can simply clean the evaporator coils yourself and save yourself a couple hundred dollars on an AC service call. If you clean your coils and still have a problem reaching temp, then it is possible you have depleted some freon (if icing coils reappear), and you'll need to call a service guy.

Anyway, it's not hard to clean the coils, we just looked up a couple youtube videos on how to clean AC coils. You probably will only need to clean the underside of the A frame coils where the air is pulled through. The top side of ours was clean. We ran to the home improvement store and purchased a water based cleaning spray that was a foaming cleanser, it stated self rinsing so no water flush would be necessary. It cost $5.48. We also purchased a roll of metal tape to seal up the AC cabinet seams for $7.48.

  1. Turn off AC at thermostat. Gather your safety gear - eye protection, face mask and something to cover your hair from debris (a hat or hanky). You will also need a flashlight, stiff brush, cleansing spray, plastic sheeting and pans to collect debris, metal tape, and a household fan.
  2. Line the area under your A frame unit with plastic, then place pans or wash tubs under to collect the melting ice, water and grime.
  3. If iced up, melt ice using a hair dryer. Do not damage the evaporator fins by chipping away ice, just be patient and melt it.
  4. Using a stiff plastic brush (I used an plastic old dish washing brush with a long handle), dip it in water and brush down the big grime and dust layer toward the drip tray.
  5. When you can see the coils and they are kind of clear of debris, don your safety gear and spray the foaming cleanser all over the coils.on the underside of the A frame. Let it sit for five or more minutes until the foam has mostly dissipated. Then take your stiff brush and clean the remaining dirt from the coils. I also had to use a 2 ft long shish kabob poker to dislodge dirt from the top apex of the inside of the unit.
  6. If you have an air compressor, it will make cleaning and drying the unit easy. We used compressed air to blow out all remaining dirt and used it to help dry the evaporator fins. You must dry your unit completely before starting up again, or you risk icing up.
  7. Dry your AC evaporator coils with a household fan pointed in there to remove all moisture. We have a large window fan we pointed up there for an hour before we started up the unit.
  8. Replace your cabinet panels and tape seams shut with metal AC tape. Replace the air filter.
  9. Turn on your thermostat. Wait several hours for it to reach temp. Ours lowered the temp 1 degree in 30 minutes, but then next degree took an hour. 
  10. After a couple hours of your AC unit running, check the coils by removing your air filter and peek up into the unit to make sure the coils are not iced up. If not, just be patient - its working.
So, it took a good portion of our weekend day; but we feel more empowered and of course will do this simple maintenance job more frequently in the future.

When Paying The Mortgage Is Impossible

mortgage trouble

This information from the consumer federal trade commission is helpful if you're having trouble paying your mortgage.

If you are having trouble making your payments, contact your loan servicer to discuss your options as early as you can. The longer you wait to call, the fewer options you will have.
Many loan servicers are expanding the options available to borrowers – it’s worth calling your servicer even if your request has been turned down before. Servicers are getting lots of calls: Be patient, and be persistent if you don’t reach your servicer on the first try.
  • You may qualify for a loan modification under the Making Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) if:
  • your home is your primary residence;
  • you owe less than $729,750 on your first mortgage;
  • you got your mortgage before January 1, 2009;
  • your payment on your first mortgage (including principal, interest, taxes, insurance and homeowner’s association dues, if applicable) is more than 31 percent of your current gross income; and
  • you can’t afford your mortgage payment because of a financial hardship, like a job loss or medical bills.
If you meet these qualifications, contact your servicer. You will need to provide documentation that may include:
  • information about the monthly gross (before tax) income of your household, including recent pay stubs.
  • your most recent income tax return.
  • information about your savings and other assets.
  • your monthly mortgage statement.
  • information about any second mortgage or home equity line of credit on your home.
  • account balances and minimum monthly payments due on your credit cards.
  • account balances and monthly payments on your other debts, like student loans or car loans.
  • a completed Hardship Affidavit describing the circumstances responsible for the decrease in your income or the increase in your expenses.
For more information, visit Making Home Affordable.
If you’re interested in refinancing to take advantage of lower mortgage rates, but are afraid you won’t qualify because your home value has decreased, you may want to ask if you qualify for the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) or the HOPE for Homeowners (H4H) program. For more information, visit the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Avoiding Default and Foreclosure

If you have fallen behind on your payments, consider discussing the following foreclosure prevention options with your loan servicer:
Reinstatement: You pay the loan servicer the entire past-due amount, plus any late fees or penalties, by a date you both agree to. This option may be appropriate if your problem paying your mortgage is temporary.
Repayment plan: Your servicer gives you a fixed amount of time to repay the amount you are behind by adding a portion of what is past due to your regular payment. This option may be appropriate if you’ve missed a small number of payments.

Forbearance: Your mortgage payments are reduced or suspended for a period you and your servicer agree to. At the end of that time, you resume making your regular payments as well as a lump sum payment or additional partial payments for a number of months to bring the loan current. Forbearance may be an option if your income is reduced temporarily (for example, you are on disability leave from a job, and you expect to go back to your full time position shortly). Forbearance isn’t going to help you if you’re in a home you can’t afford.

Loan modification: You and your loan servicer agree to permanently change one or more of the terms of the mortgage contract to make your payments more manageable for you. Modifications may include reducing the interest rate, extending the term of the loan, or adding missed payments to the loan balance. A modification also may involve reducing the amount of money you owe on your primary residence by forgiving, or cancelling, a portion of the mortgage debt. Under the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007, the forgiven debt may be excluded from income when calculating the federal taxes you owe, but it still must be reported on your federal tax return. For more information, see www.irs.gov. A loan modification may be necessary if you are facing a long-term reduction in your income or increased payments on an ARM.
Before you ask for forbearance or a loan modification, be prepared to show that you are making a good-faith effort to pay your mortgage. For example, if you can show that you’ve reduced other expenses, your loan servicer may be more likely to negotiate with you.

Selling your home: Depending on the real estate market in your area, selling your home may provide the funds you need to pay off your current mortgage debt in full.

Bankruptcy: Personal bankruptcy generally is considered the debt management option of last resort because the results are long-lasting and far-reaching. A bankruptcy stays on your credit report for 10 years, and can make it difficult to get credit, buy another home, get life insurance, or sometimes, get a job. Still, it is a legal procedure that can offer a fresh start for people who can’t satisfy their debts.
If you and your loan servicer cannot agree on a repayment plan or other remedy, you may want to investigate filing Chapter 13 bankruptcy. If you have a regular income, Chapter 13 may allow you to keep property, like a mortgaged house or car, that you might otherwise lose. In Chapter 13, the court approves a repayment plan that allows you to use your future income toward payment of your debts during a three-to-five-year period, rather than surrender the property. After you have made all the payments under the plan, you receive a discharge of certain debts.

To learn more about Chapter 13, visit the U.S. Trustee Program, the organization within the U.S. Department of Justice that oversees bankruptcy cases and trustees.

If you have a mortgage through the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) or Veterans Administration (VA), you may have other foreclosure alternatives.

Contacting Your Loan Servicer

Before you have any conversation with your loan servicer, prepare. Record your income and expenses, and calculate the equity in your home. To calculate the equity, estimate the market value less the balance of your first and any second mortgage or home equity loan.
Then, write down the answers to the following questions:
  • What happened to make you miss your mortgage payment(s)? Do you have any documents to back up your explanation for falling behind? How have you tried to resolve the problem?
  • Is your problem temporary, long-term, or permanent? What changes in your situation do you see in the short term, and in the long term? What other financial issues may be stopping you from getting back on track with your mortgage?
  • What would you like to see happen? Do you want to keep the home? What type of payment arrangement would be feasible for you?

The Hidden Costs of Owning A Home

While the actual costs may appear pretty cut-and-dry there are several hidden costs of homeownership which many people don’t even consider when they are looking into buying a home.

Taxes: While taxes are just an annual cost, getting slapped with a several thousand dollar tax bill just for owning your home can be a real shock the first year the tax bill comes due. You might be better suited to figure your approximate taxes and budget for the cost ahead of time so you are prepared when it is time to pay.

Insurance: You have just purchased probably the biggest thing you ever will in your life; you have got to insure it. Insurance is going to be required to some extent while you are paying down your mortgage; it’s also something you should continue to invest in once you’ve paid off your mortgage.

Maintenance: You never know what this could include, but the maintenance is going to be a big strain on your annual budget and could cause debt issues. Whether that’s the trash pick-up, lawn care, fixing a gutter, repairing your septic, upgrading your air conditioning or anything else; you will know these maintenance costs when they arise.

Cosmetics: Another thing that every homeowner will want to do is they will want to improve the beauty of their home. You will just have to tear down that awful dining room wallpaper. And while we’re on the subject the bathrooms could use re-tiling. Of course you will have to improve the front garden and of course the whole driveway has got to be repaved. Once you begin to realize all the things about your dream home which were not as dreamy as you thought when you bought the home, you will begin to see the cosmetic costs begin to rise.

Time: Another one of the hidden costs of homeownership; maybe the biggest, most straining, and least expected of all is time. You spend so much time and effort making your career successful; when you come home you just want to relax and not worry about anything. But when you are a home owner you have to worry about everything.

Of course if you bought your home a few years ago and you’re having trouble keeping up with all these unexpected costs, you may wish to look into mortgage modification. Mortgage modification may not be right for you, but if you can stay in your home by adjusting payments and working out a deal with your lender, it might help you budget better for future costly expenses.  

Buy a Better Home with Better Credit Scores


The prospect of becoming a first-time homeowner certainly is a time of excitement but there are a lot of other considerations that will be involved to make the time a stressful one. While the mortgage process itself can be complex and frustrating at times, the time period before actually applying for a mortgage loan can actually be the most critical for your home options, your wallet, and your overall financial stability.

Am I Covered?

Whenever we are in our backyard we see across the fence a huge, old tree in the middle of our neighbors backyard where the branches have started to fall off sometimes. When we were gone on vacation a couple weeks ago, we came home to find a branch had fallen into our backyard and broken a plank of fencing. It was negligible damage, but there is a bigger branch hanging over our yard that has me watching it closely (with my good eye).
 
We keep hoping the neighbor will trim the tree since branches are often falling into their backyard, but its unlikely since the owners bought the foreclosed house and have inconsistently had renters in it. Anyway, I happened to come across some information that will help us deal with the problem when it becomes a problem. The Federal Citizen Information Center has a handy guide outlining exactly what typical homeowners insurance policy (HO-3) covers.
 
As far as a tree falling -
- If the neighbor's tree fell on our fence or house, then our insurance will cover the damage and pay for the tree removal.
- If our (or our neighbor's) tree fell in our yard without hitting a structure, then we're on our own.
- If our tree fell on our house, then our insurance will cover the damage and pay for the tree removal.
- If our tree fell on our neighbor's house, then their insurance will cover the damage and pay for the tree removal.
In other words, if your property gets damaged, your insurance pays regardless of who the tree belonged to. But if the tree doesn't do any damage, insurance doesn't get involved.
Here are some other handy things to know -
 
A pipe bursts and water flows all over my floors. Am I covered?

Yes.
The HO-3 covers you for accidental discharge of water from a plumbing system. You should check your plumbing and heating systems once a year. While you are covered for damage, who needs the mess and hassle?
What if water seeps into my basement from the ground, am I covered?
No. Water seepage is excluded under the HO-3. And if the water seepage is not due to a flood you will not be covered under a flood policy. Seepage is viewed as a maintenance issue and is not covered by insurance. You should see a contractor about waterproofing your basement.
A neighbor slips on my sidewalk or falls down my porch steps and threatens to take me to court for damages. Does my policy protect me?
Yes. The policy will pay for damages, if a fall or other accident on your property is the result of your negligence. It will also pay for the legal costs of defending you against a claim. Also, the medical payments part of your homeowners policy will cover medical expenses, if a neighbor or guest is injured on your property. You should check to see how much liability protection you have. The standard amount is $100,000. If you feel you need more, consider purchasing higher limits.
A tree falls and damages my roof during a storm. Am I covered?
Yes. You are covered for the damage to your roof. You are also covered for the removal of the tree, generally up to a $500 limit. You should cut down dead or dying trees close to your house and prune branches that are near your house. It's true that your insurance covers damage, but falling trees and branches can also injure your family.
During a storm, a tree falls but does no damage to my property. Am I covered for the cost of removing the tree?
Your trees and shrubs are covered for losses due to risks like vandalism, theft and fire, but not wind damage. However, if a fallen tree blocks access to your home you may be covered for its removal. Decide if you need extra insurance for the trees, plants and shrubs on your property. You may be able to purchase extra insurance, which will not only cover the cost of removing fallen trees, but will also cover the cost of replacing trees, and other plants.
If a storm causes a power outage and all the food in my refrigerator or freezer is spoiled and must be thrown out, can I make a claim?
The general answer is no. However, there are a number of exceptions. In some states, food spoilage is covered under the homeowners policy. In addition, if the power loss is due to a break in a power line on or close to your property, you may be covered. You should check with your agent to find out whether you are covered for food spoilage in your state. If not, you can add food spoilage coverage to your policy for an additional premium.
I have children away at college. Are they covered by my homeowners insurance?
If they're full-time college students and part of your household, your insurance generally provides some coverage in a dorm, typically 10 percent of the contents limit. If they live off campus, some companies may not provide this limited coverage if the apartment is rented in the student's name.
My golf clubs are stolen from the trunk of my car. Does my homeowners policy cover the loss?
Yes. The HO-3 covers your personal property while it is anywhere in the world. However, if your golf clubs are old, you will only get their current value, which may not be enough to purchase a new set. Consider buying a replacement cost endorsement for your personal property. This way you will get what it costs to replace the golf clubs, less the applicable deductible.
 
Thanks to FCIC for questions and answers