Who would have thought it?

by Martin Hayes

Who would have thought it?

Mention spreadsheets to the average person and you will see their eyes glaze over. So imagine trying to get a room full of senior citizens to take an interest in them.

A couple of weeks ago we asked a couple of people to bring in their utility bills so that we could compare what they pay now with what they could be paying if they switched to a cheaper deal. This is easy with an electricity bill, but try working out your kilowatt-hours for gas and you will soon find out that gas meters only tell you how many cubic metres of gas you have used.

To work out your gas usage in KWh you have to multiply the meter usage by the conversion factor, which on our bill is 1.02264. Then you have to multiply the result by the calorific value e.g. 38.9. The final part of the equation is to divide by 3.6. These numbers can change slightly but shouldn’t affect the result by much.

At this point we have our learners exactly where we want them. Confused, worried, muddled and wondering how on earth they were going to repeat these steps on their own.

“Don’t worry”, we say. “If we put these figures into a spreadsheet, it will work out the result automatically.”

The spreadsheet was simple. Put the first meter reading in a cell and the last meter reading in another and the spreadsheet will subtract one from the other. A simple formula in another cell then tells you what the KWh is for your gas usage.

At the end of the demonstration our learners excitedly asked us to show them how they could make a spreadsheet like ours. Who would have thought it?

This should work on all spreadsheet software such as Microsoft Excel and Works, Google Sheets, Libre Office, Open Office etc.

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