Manage Unexpected Home Costs Through Knowledge and Understanding

Over the years, home costs can seem quite unexpected. We all know things wear out and break, yet we tend to put it to the back of our mind. I read an article today about how much money someone has spent on home repairs over a certain period of time. They mentioned they bought the house new and around the 10-year mark they were hit with tens of thousands of dollars in unexpected home costs. I thought to myself, yep, homes are expensive – that’s why you should understand what you’re getting into and expect to put money back into the house.

Out Of Touch

Where the article lost my interest is the author began talking about how they made sure they had a years’ worth of living expenses on hand before buying a home, plus whatever extra thousands they had saved for repairs. They wrapped it up by proclaiming that you should be prepared with an emergency fund, and how upset they were that they’re house cost them money. Good thing they had like $60k in savings, right?

Your Home is a Solid Investment

So, a couple of things I want to talk about – first of all, the only reason you should be upset that you had to spend money on your house is if you have to repair or replace something you outright neglected. You should be upset at yourself for not maintaining it properly. Houses WILL cost you money – but you are putting YOUR money into YOUR investment. Be proud of your home and buy it what it deserves! If you ignore problems or let them get out of hand, they will cost you more money in the long run.

We’re All Just Trying to Make a Living

Next, for me, when I read these cookie-cutter, out of touch articles that tell you to have $100k on hand incase you want to take a trip to Cabo, etc… It makes me ill. According to, the median bank account balance in the U.S. in 2019 was $5,300. The mean, or average, was much higher, at $41,600. This data tells us that half of the bank accounts in the U.S. in 2019 had $5,300 or less in them.

The average is misleading because it factors in bank accounts with very high balances. Remember, the average is the sum of ALL accounts divided by the number of accounts. So no, the average American does not have 1 year-worth of savings on hand. But I can tell you this, over 65% of Americans reported themselves as homeowners in the first quarter of 2022. Don’t let articles like that one make you feel like you shouldn’t pursue homeownership because you don’t think you have enough money.

Become House Literate – It’ll Save You Money

Last but not least of unexpected home costs, get a good understanding of the ins and outs of a home. Learn about the HVAC system, how it works, and what it costs to properly maintain it. If you have an old system, find out the replacement cost early on before you get hit with a bill you can’t afford. Learn about water heaters and even the electrical and gas systems in your house.

I’m not telling you to spend every evening studying engineering theory and building codes, just brush up on the basics. Did you know that some HVAC companies send sales reps to your hose to quote the job – and these sales reps work on commission? That’s dangerous to the homeowner that doesn’t have a basic understanding of their HVAC system and requirements. In 2015, I had my 1.5-ton heat pump replaced in my old home. I had quotes anywhere between $4500 and $12000. Guess which contractor sent a sales rep?

Your Doing Great, Keep It Up!

I’m sure having a year’s worth of living expenses saved up before purchasing a house is great. Having thousands of dollars for unexpected expenses is great was well. To me though, articles like that are not speaking to the general public. You put numbers like that out there and the message becomes disparaging to many. The thing is, no matter who you are and how fancy your house is, you need to take care of it. You’ll have to spend money sooner or later, but you should always be sure that you’re doing what you can to maintain it properly in order to reduce those expenses – turning unexpected expenses into expected ones.

We’re Here for You

I created this blog with the intent to educate everyday people, home-owner or not, about maintenance, repairs, and all-around home stuff. MyHomie is committed to helping you with relevant, helpful, and most important of all, realistic solutions for your everyday problems around the house. Are you making a fence out of used pallets because that’s all you can afford? Awesome, let’s talk about it!

Photo by Jp Valery on Unsplash

Best Way to Remove a Bush

When we moved into the house we live in now, my wife and I were overwhelmed by the number of overgrown bushes in the front of the house. They blocked the front windows, crept out into the walk way, and made the house look old and forgotten. We decided early on that we had to remove the bushes! Well, making that decision is the easy part – how were we going to get rid of them was the challenge. I’m pretty handy around the house, but these big bushes had been growing here for almost 30 years – they were going to be a challenge. Based on my experience, I will outline below the best way to remove bushes and shrubs from around your property.

Preparing Bushes to Be Pulled

I began the process of removing the bushes by cutting them back so I could get to the main trunk of each. You’ll need a large chain to wrap around the trunk – drag the other end straight out and attach to your truck or tractor.

Sometimes, if the bush is not too big, you can pull it straight out of the ground with a vehicle and chain. Other times, you’ll need another solution.

Full disclosure – my truck is 2-wheel drive. Maybe had it been 4-wheel drive this would have gone better. So, no. The setup I had was not enough to pull the bushes from the front of my house.

A-Frame Provides Leverage to Pull Bushes

I asked my dad, who had grown up on a potato farm in the 1960s and 70s, what he thought the best way to remove bushes was. His solution was to build an A-frame out of 4×4 lumber and use it for mechanical advantage. Dang – why didn’t I think of that, I mean, I’m an engineer! This simple apparatus saved us tons of time and energy and enabled me to remove large bushes from my front yard.

Removing Bushes with a Truck

Sketch of how the A-Frame is used to pull a bush out of the ground with a truck
Sketch of how the A-frame is used.

Without getting too technical – the above is a sketch of how this apparatus works. Why is this better than pulling the stump without the A-frame you ask? That’s easy – when you’re pulling without the A-frame, you’re really only knocking the stump over – rotating it toward the ground and at best breaking the roots on the opposite side

By using the A-frame, you’re pulling the stump up and out of the ground!

In the diagram below you can see there are two elements of force acting on the stump. One in the X and one in the Y direction.


Obviously, there are limits to how well this works. The first is the size of the bush or stump. You’re not going to be able to pull a large tree out of the ground – well maybe if you have a huge truck or a tractor. But then you take the risk of breaking the A-frame. Second is the chain you’re using. A larger chain is preferred for pulling bushes and shrubs – small chains may break. And third is the vehicle you’re pulling it with. Your truck may generate 300-foot pounds of torque, but that number is reduced by the angles the chain makes with the truck and the A-Frame. If you’re lucky, the stump may get pulled with 50% of the torque produced by your truck.

Even with these limitations, this works much better than trying to pull stumps or bushes without the A-frame.

The A-Frame

Below is a picture of the A-frame we built. We strengthened the main 4X4s with cross members. We attached the cross members with lag bolts for strength andeven went a little further and strengthened the top of the A-frame with plywood on the outside. The top section will receive lots of stress from the force of the chain pushing down on it.

Picture of the A-Frame used to remove bushes in the back of a truck

Below is a picture of the bushes and shrubs that were removed.

Picture of the bushes in front of the house before they were pulled
Removing Bushes from Front of House
Picture of the front of the house after bushes were removed
Removing Bushes from Front of House 2

I wish I would have taken some action shots – or at least more before an after pictures. The pictures here really don’t do this justice. Using this saved me so much time and physical labor.

Overall, I think we spent $20 because we had the 4X4s laying around. We had to buy lag bots and the chain. If you have to buy everything, I’m willing to bet this will come in under $100 – way less than paying someone to do it for you!

Have you used something like this before? Or do you plan on building one? Let us know if you have ideas to make it better!

How Your Home Uses Energy

Chances are, if you live somewhere, you use electricity and you pay for it. I’m sure there are some exceptions – you might live off the grid (or in a van down by the river). Electricity is something that we take for granted. We pay our bill every month and that’s the end of it. If you’re interested in learning some electricity basics and how your home uses energy, take a look at this post and comment or email us if you have questions!

Photo by Leon Contreras on Unsplash

Energy vs. Power

Real quick, before we continue talking about how your home uses energy, I want to differentiate the terms energy and power. In terms of your homes usage, energy is how your usage is listed on your electricity bill. You pay for electricity by the kilowatt-hour (kW-h). Power is the amount of energy an appliance or light bulb will use in a period of time – measured in watt (W) or kilowatt (kW). This is the rate at which energy is transmitted. So think of energy as total amount (you’re paying for total energy used monthly) and think of power as the energy doing work (lighting your house, cooking your food).

How Power is Supplied to your Home

Most residential power in the United States is supplied by either 120-volt or 240-volt, alternating current (AC) electricity. Your power company monitors the amount of energy you use in terms of kilowatt hours (kW-h). They generally have a set, or variable rate that they bill you per kW-h. So, what does all of this mean? How do you know how much power your TV or fan use? If you don’t already have a good understanding of what I’m talking about, or how all of this works, read on. I’m going to try explain all of this in a way that is helpful to the average home-owner.

Basics of Electricity

To kick off this conversation about electricity basics and how your home uses energy, I could start in many places – I mean, we could begin at the electron! But let’s assume that we all understand electricity is the movement of electrons between atoms. This is more likely to happen in the atoms of some materials (conductors) than other materials (insulators). Copper is an example of a great conductor, hence why it is used for residential wiring.

Voltage, Amperage, and Ohms

Voltage is the measure of how much force is behind the electrical current (those moving electrons) moving through your conductor. It’s analogous to pressure in a water pipe. Amperage is the amount of electrical current available in the conductor, or in terms of the water pipe, how much water is in there. Electrical resistance is the measure of opposition of amperage – this is measured in ohms. Anything appliance or device that uses electricity provides resistance.

Energy and Time

Electrical energy can be measured by joules. One joule is equal to the energy dissipated when 1 ampere of electrical current passes through a 1-ohm resistor for 1 second. Now, if you look at how many joules are supplied to a source, you can measure that over time – or say joules per second – this gives you a watt. The watt is a measure of power. One watt is also equal to 1 ampere being “pushed” by 1 volt. So, the watt is your base unit of power. We’ll take it one step further to equate this to your power bill – multiply the power used by time again, and we get the watt-hour. Measure the watts in thousands and you have your kilowatt-hour.

If you broke all of these terms down by their units, you would see that watts (power) is energy divided by time (J/S). Then we multiply the watts by time again, so we actually land back on energy (J/S X hr. = J).  

More specifically (1000 joules / seconds) X 3600 seconds = 3600000 Joules = 1 kW-h

I didn’t get that; can you try again?

Sure! An appliance draws an electrical current over time (kW-h). The kW is the power being supplied – the kW-h is how much of that power was used by the appliance (how much power = energy).

Why are different voltages supplied to my home?

For some larger appliances around your house, like your clothes dryer or air conditioner, 240V electricity is more efficient. These larger appliances usually have large electric motors or heating coils and require more power over time to operate. Watt’s law shows that Power = Voltage X Amperage – so, with higher voltage (that push), you can get more power our of the same Amperage. Your normal appliances, light bulbs, ceiling fans and such are all powered by 110 volts. The outlets for 240V is much different than 110V so you can’t mix them up.

Let’s put our new found knowledge into practice!

Grab a lightbulb from your laundry room, or wherever you keep the extras, and look to see how much power it is rated for. If its an incandescent, it’ll probably say 40 or 60 watts. An LED, much less, probably 8 or 10 watts. This means that when the light is ON, it’s using that amount of power. So, if you have one LED light bulb that uses 8 watts of power and it’s on for 1 hour, you have used 8 W-h of energy. If you leave that same light on for 1,000 hours, you have used 8 kW-h of energy.

The same goes for toaster ovens, your TV, computer, and any other electronic device you own. Now go check everything you own! Multiply the power rating (watts) by usage time and figure out how many kW-h you’re using! Well, that sounds like a lot of work – maybe just let the power company keep track of that.

Saving money with your home’s energy use in mind

This does come in handy when trying to decide if adding that garage refrigerator is worth it. You can do a quick cost analysis of how much it will cost to operate and discuss with your significant other if it’s worth it in order to keep a larger selection of beer on hand. Once you have the kW-h energy usage determined for the refrigerator, multiply it by the rate that your power company charges you for electricity. You can usually find this on their website or on your bill. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average kW-h cost Americans $0.145 in March of 2022!

How does your region compare? Are power prices rising like gas prices in your neck of the woods? Did this article help you understand how your home uses energy?

Let us know, we like to complain as well!