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Procrastination Pays

Kristine Hayes

I CONSIDER MYSELF to be a reasonably skilled do-it-yourselfer. I’ve tackled painting, plumbing and even small electrical projects with the help of YouTube. I figure I’ve saved thousands of dollars over the years by completing various projects myself rather than hiring a professional.

A couple of months ago, our utility provider offered my husband and me a deal on a new “smart” thermostat. The utility would give us the thermostat for free if we agreed to sign up for one of its energy saving programs. After reading the details of the program, we enrolled and awaited the arrival of our new thermostat.

Once it was delivered, I did some research on how to install it. The manufacturer provided a variety of videos and tips. But I became concerned when the manufacturer’s guidelines mentioned that the age and wiring configuration of our existing thermostat could hinder the process of installing the new one. Given that the daytime temperatures in our Arizona community were already approaching 100 degrees, I didn’t like the idea of disabling our air conditioner and then finding out the new thermostat wouldn’t work.

I called a local heating and air conditioning service company and scheduled an appointment. It would be a couple of weeks before a technician could come out, but we were willing to wait. In the meantime, our utility offered us assistance in installing the unit ourselves. At first, the utility sent us a link to a variety of helpful videos. After a few days, the utility upped its offer and agreed to provide phone support during the process. We declined.

Finally, just a few days before we were going to pay to have the thermostat put in, the utility company contacted us again. It would send someone out to install the thermostat for us, free of charge. We went ahead and scheduled the appointment. The technician arrived three days later. Just minutes into the project, he declared there was a complication and that he’d need to get up on our roof to look at our air conditioner. As it turned out, the wiring on our system needed to be slightly modified to get the new thermostat to work.

It took the technician about an hour to complete the work. I was thankful my husband and I hadn’t attempted the project ourselves since it was far more complicated than we expected. In the end, between getting the free thermostat and free installation, we saved about $250. More important, we avoided the aggravation—and lengthy loss of air conditioning—that would have ensued if we’d attempted the process ourselves.

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parkslope
parkslope
4 months ago

It is always good to know your limits. However, while your outdated wiring (presumably no unused common wire) made it necessary to hire an electrician, simply reconnecting your old thermostat would kept your HVAC operational.

Jerry Pinkard
Jerry Pinkard
4 months ago

Thanks for sharing. As your story illustrates, the key to DIY is knowing when and when not to DIY. You were wise in not DIY your thermostat. What is simple for one person may not be so for another person. I wish I could say the same for all of my projects.

Kristine Hayes
Kristine Hayes
4 months ago
Reply to  Jerry Pinkard

I will say that all the videos and websites put out by the manufacturer of the “smart” thermostat we received made it sound like installation would be a breeze. They were full of remarks like, “takes just a few minutes to install” and “easy enough to do it yourself”. Not once did they mention I might need to get a ladder, go up on the roof, open up the control panel on a 4-ton heat pump and figure out which wire was the ‘correct’ one to use.

Rick Connor
Rick Connor
4 months ago

Kristine, if you can get professional installation for free it’s clearly the way to go. I’ve installed a number of smart thermostats and it is not too bad. You have to see if the wiring has a “C” or common wire that is unused. You need it to supply electric power to the smart thermostat. I found that looking on the circuit board on the HVAC equipment where the thermostat wire attached showed if you had the additional wire available. We have loved our smart thermostats. Good luck with yours.

Kristine Hayes
Kristine Hayes
4 months ago
Reply to  Rick Connor

Rick: You lost me at, “looking on the circuit board on the HVAC equipment…” 😉

Our HVAC equipment is up on our roof and the day we had the thermostat installed it was over 100 degrees. I was so glad we hadn’t tried to install it ourselves.

We do love our new thermostat. It has so many more features than our other one did.

wtfwjtd
wtfwjtd
4 months ago

But Christine–I thought in AZ it’s not too bad because, it’s a “dry” heat, lol. Seriously, it would really bite to be be without A/C in the hottest part of the year, good on you for making a wise decision. I had to replace a board in our heat pump a few years back, a trip to Amazon and YouTube saved me a $500+ tech call. OTOH, we had a gas water heater failure soon after and I called a pro, and 2 hours and 1,600 bucks later the job was done, and I’ve never given it a second thought. I definitely agree, there are times when calling a pro is obviously the right move. And part of successful DIYing is figuring out when that time is, and acting accordingly.

corrupt
corrupt
4 months ago
Reply to  wtfwjtd

The oven is a “dry heat”, but no one wants to spend any time there…. LOL… just kidding.

Kristine Hayes
Kristine Hayes
4 months ago
Reply to  wtfwjtd

Most days are a dry heat–although now that we’re in monsoon season, the humidity can be higher.

I don’t envy people who work here in the summer. Yesterday we saw two houses in our neighborhood getting new AC units installed. It was 112 degrees and the installation folks were up on the roofs of those homes for hours. I honestly don’t know how they do it.

I agree that one needs to pick and choose which jobs they do themselves and which ones they hire out. I’m willing to do quite a few things, but there are some jobs (roof repair, most plumbing) I am happy to pay to have done.

OldITGuy
OldITGuy
4 months ago

Good call. I also am an occasional DIYer, and the sweet spot seems to be figuring out (ahead of time) which jobs really are easy and which jobs actually require significant skill, experience or specialized tools to successfully complete. Unfortunately, early on I was way too ambitious and tackled some jobs that I shouldn’t have attempted. These days youtube is often my first stop, even if I think I know what I’m doing. But I must admit, as I get older I’m deciding more and more jobs are best left to professionals (if you can find someone you trust). Occasionally, I still find there is some job that I can easily and safety save some money on by doing myself. But they seem to be getting fewer and fewer as the years go by.

Kristine Hayes
Kristine Hayes
4 months ago
Reply to  OldITGuy

We are on the same page for sure. I did almost all of the repairs/upgrades myself at the house we owned in Oregon. The sole reason for owning that home was to sell it for a profit so I was happy to do most things myself.

Most of the projects at that house were just simple updates. I painted every interior and exterior surface over the course of four years. When we purchased it, every wall was green–and not a pretty green. When we sold it, all the interior walls were a nice neutral off-white and the exterior (which was also ugly green when we purchased it) was a dark chocolate brown with bright white trim.

It took me many hours to do all the painting, but the total cost of all the materials couldn’t have been more than $500 or $600.

These days, I’m more interested in spending my time doing things I really enjoy. I’m in the very early stages of starting my own business, and I’ll happily spend more time doing that rather than fixing things.

R Quinn
R Quinn
4 months ago

Good for you. I admire anyone who tackles DIY projects.

Your story is why I gave up on DIY decades ago. I could never get anything to work and the aggravation was out of control although my patience with DIY stuff has always been low I admit.

After a misstep replacing an electric outlet my family banned me from such projects. I got a new iPhone yesterday and I can’t even get that to work.

Kristine Hayes
Kristine Hayes
4 months ago
Reply to  R Quinn

I generally enjoy DIY projects, but I always forget they almost always take 2-3 times the amount of time I think they will.

The other day I decided to replace our front porch light. I knew it would be a fairly straightforward project. I picked up a light fixture at Home Depot and read the installation instructions. I estimated the total time to install it would be 30 minutes.

Of course, it took longer to remove the old fixture than I expected. And then there was the fact that some of the hardware provided with the new fixtures wasn’t compatible with the electrical box we had. That meant a trip to the local hardware store to get some new screws.

So, in the end, a 30 minute project was really a two hour project.

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