The other morning as I was finishing up my run, I noticed someone a few blocks away from our house had gotten new windows. Though I didn’t check the windows on the back of the house, I was able to see all 3 sides and would guess that they replaced every window on the upper level of the house. It was at least 6 windows, with 2 of them being rather large. The windows still had the brand sticker on them, and I recognized the brand as a pretty energy efficient window. I immediately thought back to the time that H and I had someone come out and give us an estimate on new windows in our house.
If you dont recall, we got a quote for a window in the bathroom, and it was about 10x more than the window that we ended up installing. The product, however, was impressive. Far more energy efficient than our current windows and still better than the new one. At the time though, we were just tired of tossing money into the bathroom and opted for the not as good (but still far better) cheaper window.
The next thing I wondered was what it would take me to take out a loan to replace the windows in our house. I’d guess it’d cost somewhere around $8,000 to replace all 21 windows upstairs. Clearly, that’s no small number. However, our most recent heating bill came for december (we were gone for 9 days) and it was almost $200 dollars! We knew that we had a terribly inefficient house, but were not sure how much it would cost us on a monthly basis to heat and keep sorta warm (H and my parents say that the 65 degrees we keep the house at is ‘freezing’). Using the december numbers as a barometer, we are on track to spend around $1,000 on energy costs this winter. That is a lot of money – clearly more than we’d like to pay. Even more so because we know the house has 0 insulation (except in the bathroom, which we put in) and most of what we pay to heat is flowing right out the door and window gaps.
Even though I’m against debt in the majority of situations, interest rates are low right now. I’d guess that we can get a loan for this sort of thing for around 5%, if not less. We would obviously be on the hook for the interest and be chained to the debt, but once we got the windows installed, we’d start seeing immediate savings in the form of lower energy bills. If the rate and the terms were right, this could turn out to be a cash flow positive deal (at least in the winter time).
Not only could we save money on our energy bill immediately as opposed to waiting until we saved up the cash to replace the windows, we’d also make this house a lot more sustainable. Right now, we are wasting an obscene amount energy because our house is so inefficient – a loan for new windows would curtail that amount heavily. Of course, it wouldnt get rid of the waste all together, but it would go a long way. The one question is, what sort of price are we willing to put on the amount of good that we are doing for the earth? This is something that we talked about with the washing machines, and our bill has gone down by about $10/month since we put the new ones in. This though, isn’t an almost $8,000 purchase, those cost just over $1,100 for both.
Of course, I’d need to run some actual numbers and see how much we’d save over the year and what sort of interest rate we’d get (I think there’s a federal program that gives loans for energy efficient home upgrades, but I dont remember). Once I knew the exact numbers, it would be a lot easier to make a decision. Until then though, there’s always speculation.
If we’d save money overall for the year (though we may not save money every month) I’d be for it. Obviously, this would require a rather large energy savings and a small interest rate, but it could be done. At the break even point or even if it cost us $100 or less for the year overall, I’d probably still consider it. However, I think if we ended up paying more than $250 per year (over and above energy savings) for our impatience, I wouldnt do it. Obviously, savings rates are impossibly low and aren’t going to help us at all.
Readers: Have you ever thought about this? At what price point would you upgrade whatever it is, and at what point would you just wait and save your money? This will only work for huge wins like new windows, and wouldnt even matter for many smaller energy efficiency upgrades.