Turf ROI: How Long Does it Take to Earn Back My Investment?
A Guide to Sustainable Savings
One of the top questions that we hear from potential buyers at Cali Green Turf is: How long will it take before my investment in artificial turf pays off?
Emotionally, it’s easy to measure. The payoff is immediate. Our customers tell us the satisfaction they get from a perfectly green, meticulously manicured, very low maintenance lawn kicks in starting day one after the install. There’s something so peaceful about waking up in the morning and looking out at a smooth, colorful yard. Or pulling into the driveway after a long day at work, and not having to worry about yard work. Or planning a trip out of town without wondering what the lawn will look like after a week or two of abandonment.
Financially, the answer is more complicated. Truly, it depends on which turf you choose, how green you kept your previous lawn, whether or not you hired a gardener, how you mowed your lawn, the size of the install. Some of our customers can claim a break-even point at a year or two out; for others, it may take several years.
Here are some measurements to help you estimate your ROI. (For those of you who don’t follow the financial markets closely, that stands for “Return On Investment,” or the time it takes to break even on an investment and start earning a profit.)
Note: We’ll start off by explaining the who, what, where, when, why and how of financial savings when switching from sod to synthetic turf, and then we’ll break it down into a couple easy formulas toward the bottom of this post.
Savings essentially come from four places: water bill, gardener, maintenance costs and design.
Examine Your Water (and Sewer) Bill
According to the United States Environment Protection Agency (EPA), the average American family uses 100 gallons of water daily—per person. That means a family of four averages about 400 gallons of water each and every day. About half of that is used outdoors, and of the water used outdoors, somewhere around 60–70% is used to water the lawn.
What does that mean?
While your water company doesn’t break down your bill by indoor and outdoor use, you can estimate somewhere around 30–35% of your total water bill is probably being used to water the lawn.
The bigger your lawn, the bigger the percentage. The smaller the lawn, the smaller the percentage.
To figure out your water and sewer savings, you’ll need to pull out your past couple of water and sewer bills. Pay attention to how frequently you are billed. The formula at the bottom of this post assumes a monthly payment. If you pay bimonthly, reduce that number to 6. If you pay quarterly, take it down another notch to 4. (By the way, all of the various municipalities throughout Southern California have different rates and ways of billing. Check with City Hall if you have questions about where you live.)
For businesses, this figure is a bit tougher to come by. Office restrooms and industrial kitchens do use up far more water than the average residence, so the percentage of your water bill for outdoor usage could be smaller. At the same time, if you’re lucky enough to have a large outdoor space, it could be larger. We’re working hard to track down some solid estimates for you, but in the meantime, may we recommend an app?
Yep, there’s an app for that. (We think… we’re relying on some other news stories that say this app works for both homes and businesses. We reached out to the company to verify, but haven’t heard back. Leave us a comment if you try it out, and let us know how it works for you.)
Download Dropcountr, an iPhone app that tracks water usage in real time, so you don’t have to wait for the bill or try to estimate outdoor vs. indoor. When the water’s on outdoors, see the water usage spike in real time, and get a good idea of how much water you’re really using outdoors. Dropcountr is also available online at dropcountr.com.
The Expense of Hired Help
Gardener savings vary widely. We’ve worked with clients who (pre-turf) hired a gardener to come a couple times a week, others who splurge once a month or so, and still others who’ve never hired anyone. How much you will save depends on how frequently the gardener comes, and how much lawn you’re considering replacing.
Some of our clients replace the full backyard with our artificial turf, whether it’s fence-to-fence, bordering a pool or set up for recreational fun as a putting green or bocce ball court. In those cases, you’ll be able to say goodbye to the gardener and save all that dough.
Others prefer to replace the lawn and keep a few flowers and trees along the edges. Depending on the types of plants you keep—we recommend drought tolerant plants and/or those that produce food—you may be able to cut the frequency or hours you hire help. Pruning a fruit tree will require more time than caring for a cactus, but both will be easier and quicker than mowing the lawn every time. Ask your gardener to provide an estimate of cost savings by eliminating grass duties.
DIY: Gas, Fertilizer, Lawn Mowers
Even if you don’t hire a gardener, whether out of a love for DIY or practicality, chances are you’re still racking up a few maintenance expenses. What did you spend on gas for the lawn mower (super bad for the environment, by the way!) and the cost of fertilizer, weed killer and/or insecticides?
Some of these expenses tend to be seasonal, so dig through your receipts for OSH, Lowe’s and Home Depot, and see what you spend in a year.
A properly maintained lawnmower lasts an average of 8–10 years, according to the SF Gate Home Guide. A poorly maintained mower lasts about half that. So, if you were to keep a grass lawn, you could reasonably expect to buy one or two mowers in the time that our artificial turf is guaranteed.
Replacement Seed or Sod
To keep a lawn green, most families find it necessary to replace dry spots, or even an entire lawn, with seed or sod every five to ten years. Think back over the past 15 years how often you’ve done so, and look at the expense. Remember our turf comes with a 15-year guarantee, which means you will not have to reseed or resod during that time.
Since these expenses are rare, we’ll call them bonus savings.
Now for the Formulas: A DIY Calculation to Find Your ROI
To calculate how long it will take to break even, get out the calculator and maybe a pen and paper to keep track as you go through the steps, and let’s take a look. Read below, or view the images step by step just below this guide.