I did a post a few months ago about why it’s important to have an emergency fund. December 27th, I re-confirmed the importance of having an emergency fund when we arrived home from our “horrible” trip (see this post for further explanation) to Maine. The drive home was relatively uneventful. We made good time, the weather was good and we didn’t hit any traffic (all amazing feats because it’s normally a pretty stressful drive). When we arrived home we unpacked the car into our building’s lobby so that Eric could return the car to our garage (city living is so fun, ugg). Cold and tired after a week of sporadic sleeping due to power outages, I carried Brooklyn upstairs and opened the door to our condo.
The Smoke Before the Fire
I was immediately overwhelmed by the smell of smoke. Terrified, I ran to the guest bedroom to check on the cats and make sure that there wasn’t a fire in one of the bedrooms. Our condo is small so it wasn’t much of a run (10 steps or so) to get to the spare bedroom. But before I got there, I noticed that the smoke appeared to be coming from the
boiler room closet where the furnace is. I opened the door and the wall behind the furnace (it’s a wall mounted unit) was black and sooty. The wall directly outside the closet was really hot to the touch (and smoke damaged). Despite my immediate panic, I remembered to turn off the power to the furnace using the emergency wall switch. I yelled downstairs to Eric and he came up to see what was going on (I suspect I was yelling something to the effect of, “Our closet is on fire.” which was bit of an exaggeration-but not that much as we’d later find out).
We turned off the gas manually and called my step-dad. He reassured us that gas heat is very safe and that there was probably nothing to worry about (I appreciate him telling me that in the moment, because I kept imagining our condo burning to the ground). I cried for a minute because I was so scared and mad and sad. I kept thinking that if we’d been away from home for one more hour we might have come home to a burned down house.
We had an HVAC man come take a look at the furnace on the 28th. As soon as he took the cover off the unit he told us that we were very lucky we didn’t have a massive fire. This wasn’t particularly surprising to us based on the amount of smoke and the condition of the wall. When we bought our house we knew that the furnace was very old, but we were told (by our home inspector) that there was nothing wrong with it so we may as well “use it until it dies.” Unfortunately, I never thought, “dies” would involve a raging inferno that would burn our unit to the ground (yes I’m still exaggerating, but I’m very afraid of fire).
What caused the smoldering and the charred wall? We don’t really know. Our smoke detector went off about two weeks ago, so we called our handyman and he replaced it with a Nest Protect smoke detector (he said the old one was old and dirty). The bf also bought a Nest thermostat two weeks prior to the smoke detector going off. The Nest thermostat lets you adjust your heat from your iPhone from anywhere in the world. I have to admit, I was a little bit worried/nervous that the new “Nest” thermostat might have overheated the furnace or maybe there’s something about the way it’s wired that caused the old furnace to malfunction. Eric doesn’t think that’s the case (nor does the furnace man). They actually belief that the Nest thermostat and Nest smoke detector may have saved our house because the detector “talks” to the thermostat and would have “told” the furnace to shut down the the smoke detector went off.
Being a homeowner is so expensive!
- Cost of new furnace and hot water heater $1825 (we had to buy both because the wall unit furnaces aren’t made anymore and the old hot water heater wouldn’t fit in the closet with the new furnace-it’s a very small room.
- Cost to install the furnace (labor) $1950
- Cost of materials $500
- Total Cost of replacing the “dead furnace” $4,275
- Coming home and still having a house-Priceless!
Yes I’m annoyed and angry and frustrated, but I’m incredibly thankful that no one was hurt and my house didn’t burn down.
Here are a few of the things I’ve taken from this whole situation:
- Having an emergency fund is a real blessing. I realize that many people (well many people not reading this blog-wink) probably don’t have an emergency fund. I can’t even imagine how stressed out I’d be right now if I had a $4,275 bill and no money to pay it. When you’re a homeowner there are a lot of “hidden costs” that you don’t have when you’re a renter.
- Writing a big check and seeing your savings drop really stinks, but money is just money. Money is meant to be spent, and if spending our savings makes our home safer (so we don’t have a bad fire), I’m more than happy (well as happy as you can be when you write a check that big) to spend the money in this way.
- Sometimes when it rains it pours. My mom has always said that bad things happen in 3’s, so I’m hoping that this is our number three (ice storm, broken furnace, smokey house). The last couple of weeks have really has been a test for us mentally and emotionally. We’ve found ourselves being a little more snappy and on edge because we’ve been under a lot of stress and pressure. Hopefully now that the new furnace is installed (they finished Thursday night at 10:30pm) and everything is “safe” we’ll be able to relax a little bit.
- Even when you have a “system”, the system doesn’t always work. After our smoke detector malfunctioned (well we think it malfunctioned), we bought a new Nest smoke detector that communicates with our thermostat and our phones. At 5:50pm on the 27th, Eric received a message on his phone that there was smoke in the house and the detector was going off. The only problem? His phone was still on “airplane” mode because we get no cell reception in Maine and he didn’t want to run down his battery looking for a signal.
- Smoke is no joke. I used to really like the smell of a wood fire. The smell of a wood fire in my home, on my clothing and furniture, not so much. The smell has lessened with time (and a lot of cleaning) but is still noticeable. I’m hoping once it warms up a little I’ll be able to open the windows and get some fresh air in here (of course it’s been bitterly cold here since we got back from my parents’ house).