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Home Improvements and Spreadsheets

March 22nd, 2013 at 02:06 am

I'm a spreadsheet nerd. When I make an important financial decision, the first thing I do is break out Excel and start to do comparisons and "what-if" checks.

My house in the US is up another $20K in value in the last two months by the online estimators and my own research into the neighborhood sales online confirms these figures. Also, its apparent rental value is up $200 per month. I already had a spreadsheet for the "sell or rent, which is better" scenario, and put the new numbers in it. As usual, when all factors are considered, there is only a $50 per month differential between renting out the place and selling it and investing the profits. I use a conservative 7% for my investment return calculations.

I opened a new sheet in the workbook and listed my electric, gas, and water usage from figures I could find online in my accounts. I've been making energy efficiency improvements to the house nearly every year since purchasing it. Honestly, I have pretty much run out of improvements to make. The house is in Houston, TX. I've added ridge and soffit vents. I've added a radiant barrier. I've upped the ceiling insulation to absurd depths. I've put in wall insulation as the bungalow was built around 1950 and no one used insulation back then. I have high efficiency everything including washer, refrigerator, air conditioner. I have double-pane, e-squared, argon-filled windows. I have one sliding glass door left to replace with some French doors, and my upgrades will be complete.

As I said, this was all done over a course of years. I finally got around to working out my total energy and utility usage for the place. I had paid as much as $400 for only the electric bill one month, though usually the electricity ran closer to $300 or slightly below during the summer months.

My spreadsheet did not disappoint me. My maximum TOTAL utility bill for the last two years was right at $170. That was only one month during the drought where my water usage was over $100. I told DW while we were doing the watering that "it's cheaper to water than it is to put in a new lawn."

My electricity provider went out of business, so I lost previous billing data, and cannot go back any further. The house is costing about $110 per month for total utilities: gas, electric and water. That's $200 per month right into my pocket when I move back. Right now, DD2 is enjoying this bounty with her husband as they house-sit while I'm overseas.

Since I started doing the upgrades, I have probably invested just about $30K in the changes. That means it is a 9 year payback at 7% per annum. I'm a good five years into the payback period.

Those improvements are as good as money in the bank, in a few more years.

3 Responses to “Home Improvements and Spreadsheets”

  1. SecretarySaving Says:

    Wow you do alot of analysis!

  2. Joan.of.the.Arch Says:

    Do you have awnings on south and west facing windows? You can see some nice looking awning / shade systems on Australian websites. Maybe you see them in Dubai, too....Is your roof a reflective color?

    In summer I imagine putting an oscillating sprinkler on the roof for water cooling. Is that lush, or what? And can you tell we do not have metered water?

  3. Wino Says:

    All of the windows are "double e squared" which means that radiant energy does not come in through them. Also, I keep black-out draperies on the windows. We typically leave most of the back window draperies (south-facing) closed. On two of these windows, I've placed removable stained-glass panels. They're very decorative and give another boundary of light-diffusion. I will not put in awnings because I want to keep my curb appeal to a maximum.

    The roof is a lighter-than-it-was shade, but the reflective coating is under the roof on the radiant barrier. Basically, I have a layer of aluminum under the roof that reflects the radiant heat. This, along with the ridge and soffit vents, keeps my attic very cool compared to the pre-barrier/vent days. Add the insane amount of insulation, and this heat does not penetrate to my living spaces. Winter heating is accomplished by cooking, the TV, and living. In all honesty, I think the heater only comes on during truly frigid nights. TV's put out an insane amount of heat.

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