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Air exchangers work but study up on them

September 30th, 2010 · No Comments

ASK A BUILDER

By CCHRC Staff

The “Ask a Builder” series is dedicated to answering some of the many questions Fairbanks residents have about building, energy and the many other parts of home life.

Q: I understand it is important to get fresh air into my house, but exchanging air in my home means the warm air is going out and cold air is coming in. I pay quite a bit to heat my home and reheat all that air coming in. Can air exchangers help to solve this problem?

There are several types of air exchangers on the market, but not all of them capture heat from the outgoing stale air.

Commercially available exterior wall vents combined with a fan designed to operated all the time will provide fresh air for a home.

These devices are the least expensive, but provide no heat recovery feature.

A heat recovery ventilator (HRV) is a more expensive device that has a heat exchanger inside, where the air flowing out of the home passes by the air flowing into the home, without mixing the two. As the warm air moves out, it transfers some of its heat to the cold air moving in.

The heat recovered by this process is in the 60 to 75 percent range, which is significant because any amount of heat that is recovered represents air that the homeowner does not have to pay to reheat.

As the cost of fuel increases, this savings will be more significant.

An energy recovery ventilator recovers heat and moisture as well. Unfortunately, these systems cannot be used in the Fairbanks area because extremely cold air will freeze the device.

Many Interior Alaska residents are retrofitting their homes now.

Adding insulation and tightening a house makes ensuring you have good indoor air quality more important than ever. Insulating a home will conserve heat and adding an air-exchanging device will clean the air.

But only an air exchanger with a heat recovery option will do both.

Be sure to consult with a licensed professional to help design and or install any ventilation system.

Q: When should I start plugging in my vehicle?

Many of us will start plugging in our vehicle right away when it gets cold but plugging in will have an unfortunate affect on our electric bill.

The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation provides the rule of thumb: plug in for at least a couple hours before starting the vehicle when it is 20°F or colder.

At that temperature, you can get by plugging in for less time, and as it gets colder you need to plug in for progressively longer.

If you find you need to leave your car plugged in substantially longer than these guidelines before it starts smoothly, then you car may need maintenance.

Alaska HomeWise articles promote home awareness for the Cold Climate Housing Research Center (CCHRC). If you have a question, e-mail us at akhomewise@cchrc.org.You can also call the CCHRC at (907) 457-3454.

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Flint Hills offers water filters to homes with sulfolane-tainted wells

September 30th, 2010 · No Comments

From The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Thursday, September 30, 2010:

Flint Hills Resources unveiled in-home water treatment systems as a longer-term way to provide clean water to North Pole residents at a community meeting Tuesday night.

The filtration system is comprised of standard parts assembled specially to remove sulfolane. They are being tested during the next few months at five volunteer homes in North Pole with sulfolane readings between 50 parts per billion and 250 parts per billion, the full range found in private wells. After about two months, the system has proven to reduce sulfolane to non-detectable levels, said Flint Hills spokesman Jeff Cook.

“We’re hopeful that will be the final option we can offer people,” Cook said.

Flint Hills is continuing to clean up contamination that was discovered last year but happened years before the company bought the refinery in 2004. Sulfolane, a chemical used in refining oil, reportedly seeped into groundwater and private wells from gasoline spills last decade. Some water contains levels above those recommended by federal standards but much too low to make laboratory animals sick. Most of the tainted wells are outside North Pole city limits.

Continue reading: Flint Hills offers water filters to homes with sulfolane tainted wells

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99 Skills for an Eco-Friendly DIY Lifestyle

September 29th, 2010 · No Comments

From planetgreen.com:

Honing your green skills is part of growing and learning to walk softly on the earth. How many things do you really know how to do in order to increase your green and decrease your carbon footprint?

Here is a list of 100 essential skills for the green do-it-yourself-er.

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Extend the Alaska summer: How to put up your veggies for winter

September 28th, 2010 · No Comments

From Alaska Dispatch, Friday, September 24, 2010:

Jenny Vanderweele’s house looks out over Vanderweele Farm fields, so she has a front row seat to the bloom-and-bust summer season. As fall approaches, she spends hours in her kitchen putting up fall vegetables for the winter. Though she also pickles and cans produce from the farm, Vanderweele says freezing is a simple and effective way to preserve broccoli and cauliflower. “The longest parts of this process are getting the water to boil and waiting for the stuff to freeze,” she says. Properly prepared, cauliflower and broccoli should keep for up to a year — or even longer if vacuum packed. “Put it in your freezer and you have a beautiful way to open up some summer in the middle of the winter.”

Continue reading: Extend the Alaska summer: How to put up your veggies for winter

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Developer hopes to capitalize on wind power near Delta Junction

September 27th, 2010 · No Comments

From The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Sunday, September 26, 2010:

A Fairbanks developer said Tuesday he hopes he can build a 25-megawatt wind farm near Delta Junction despite limited avenues for public aid.

Mike Craft said his firm, Alaska Environmental Power, is working with Golden Valley Electric Association to study how to best feed wind power into Interior Alaska’s transmission grid.

The work parallels planning by Golden Valley for a separate wind farm near Healy.

Craft told a chamber of commerce audience Tuesday he hopes the integration studies will lead to power-sale agreements between his firm and the utility. He said Golden Valley previously agreed to a smaller, pilot sale agreement following construction of two smaller turbines at the Delta site.

“(It) made it possible for us to come on line with these two turbines. That helped us a lot,” Craft said. He said the turbines, the largest built with state aid, have produced 134,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity.

Craft, a builder and residential developer, started looking to enter the wind power business roughly three years ago. He approached public officials last winter for help with his project and received lukewarm responses but said Tuesday he chose to continue and hopes to install 16 GE turbines near Delta.

Continue reading: Developer hopes to capitalize on wind power near Delta Junction

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A Troubling Decline in the Caribou Herds of the Arctic

September 24th, 2010 · No Comments

From Yale Environment 360, Thursday, September 23, 2010:

In late July, a group of Inuit hunters set off by boat along the west coast of Banks Island to search for Peary caribou, which inhabit the Arctic archipelago of Canada. Roger Kuptana, a 62-year-old Inuit who had grown up on the island, didn’t give his fellow hunters much chance of success in their hunt for the animals, the smallest caribou sub-species in North America.

“I think it’s a waste of gas,” Kuptana told me when I visited his modest home in Sachs Harbour, a traditional community of roughly 100 people on the island, not far from the Yukon-Alaska border. “There used to be a lot of caribou around here when I grew up. But now you have to travel pretty far north to find them on the island. It’s not just here. It seems like this happening everywhere.”

As it turned out, Kuptana was right; the Inuit hunters found no Peary caribou, despite three days of searching. The hunters’ predicament is familiar to the Eskimos of Alaska, other Inuit of Canada and Greenland, and the Nenets, Komi, Evenks, Chukotkans, and indigenous groups of northern Russia and Scandinavia. Throughout the Arctic, many of the great caribou and reindeer herds that once roamed the treeless tundra, providing an indispensible source of meat and clothing for aboriginal groups, are in free-fall.

Continue reading: A Troubling Decline in the Caribou Herds of the Arctic

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The Battle of the Bulbs

September 24th, 2010 · No Comments

From The New York Times, Thursday, September 23, 2010:

Three House Republicans, Joe Barton and Michael Burgess of Texas and Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, have introduced the Better Use of Light Bulbs Act, which would repeal the section of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 that sets minimum energy efficiency standards for light bulbs and would effectively phase out most ordinary incandescents.

While the new standards won’t take effect until 2012, the authors argue that they are having a negative impact. Specifically, they say the standards have led lighting companies to close several incandescent light bulb factories in the United States and send jobs overseas — particularly to China, where most compact fluorescent light bulbs, which are more efficient than incandescents, are manufactured.

Compact fluorescents are likely to be the cheapest bulbs on store shelves after retailers stop selling ordinary incandescents.

“The unanticipated consequences of the ’07 act — Washington-mandated layoffs in the middle of a desperate recession — is one of the many examples of what happens when politicians and activists think they know better than consumers and workers,” Mr. Barton, the ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said in a statement. “Washington is making too many decisions that are better left to people who work for their own paychecks and earn their own living.”

Continue reading: The Battle of the Bulbs

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In-ground heat pumps require some expertise

September 23rd, 2010 · No Comments

ASK A BUILDER

By CCHRC Staff

The “Ask a Builder” series is dedicated to answering some of the many questions Fairbanks residents have about building, energy and the many other parts of home life.

Q: Recently I read the News-Miner story about the heat pump being installed at Weller Elementary School. Are there different ways to install this type of system and is this something I can do myself?

Ground source heat pumps operate in a way similar to how a refrigerator transfers heat out of an insulated box to the surrounding air of your kitchen. In this case, the heat pump absorbs heat from the ground and transfers it to a home. The heat exchange mechanism between the ground and the heat pump is typically a series of liquid-filled tubes.

There are different methods to get the heat out of the ground each of which require different installation needs.

One system is the shallow horizontal trench, which is being used at Weller Elementary.

In this configuration, the tubes are made into overlapping loops and placed approximately 10 feet in the ground. For people who live in areas of shallow ground water, it is beneficial to get the loop below the ground water table. This requires a large area, so this type of system is probably not feasible in a downtown lot, but would work well on a southsloping hillside with a lot of land available.

Another option to consider is drilling multiple wells.

These would be similar to drilling a drinking water well for a home, except that only the heat in the water is being extracted, not the groundwater itself. It is likely that more than one well would be needed to heat a house.

The third option is to sink the ground loops deep into a body of water such as a pond or lake, provided that the water body is sufficiently large to accommodate the heat demand. Contact the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation before beginning this type of project.

All of these options are for a “closed-loop” system, where freeze-protected fluid is circulated in a closed system of piping. There are also “open-loop” systems that draw ground water directly and then inject the water back into the ground.

In most cases these are not appropriate for use in Interior Alaska.

In terms of a do-it-yourself project (and Alaskans are pretty handy) a heat pump involves digging a deep well or large trench, which will probably require hiring a driller or excavator. The equipment that makes up a heat pump is technical. Hiring someone who has been certified by the manufacturer or by the International Ground Source Heat Pump Association to install these systems is recommended.

Contact local heat pump distributors to get more information on installation.

Alaska HomeWise articles promote home awareness for the Cold Climate Housing Research Center (CCHRC). If you have a question, e-mail us at akhomewise@cchrc.org.You can also call the CCHRC at (907) 457-3454.

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Tableware Grown from “Food,” Saving the Planet One Cup at a Time

September 22nd, 2010 · No Comments

From National Geographic’s Green Guide, Thursday, July 29, 2010:

In the near future, maybe everything we need will be assembled on the spot in machines like Star Trek‘s replicators, but for now, we’ll have to settle for growing cups, plates, and packing material from food.

A few inventors are working on products that use mushrooms, rice husks, and even agar to create new versions of single-use disposable items. They’re less harmful to the environment and break down into nothing.

Ecovative’s rice-and-mushroom packaging, for example, is intended to replace Styrofoam and uses an eighth of the energy required to make a similar amount of the petroleum-based stuff. And product design consultancy The Way We See The World is working to bring edible drinking glasses made of flavored agar–similar to gelatin–to the consumer market.

Continue reading: Tableware Grown from “Food,” Saving the Planet One Cup at a Time

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Alaska agency pulls clean coal permit for Healy

September 22nd, 2010 · No Comments

From The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Wednesday, September 22, 2010:

The state’s environmental agency has delayed a request to the federal government for permits for the Healy Clean Coal project.

The decision came Tuesday, the next-to-last day of federal regulators’ 45-day review of the plan. Golden Valley Electric Association needs the permit to restart and operate the dormant experimental coal plant.

The state will resubmit the proposal, which would cover operations of the 50-megawatt coal plant, within a couple of months, state Division of Air Quality manager Jim Baumgartner wrote to federal regulators.

The state Division of Air Quality withdrew the proposed permit Tuesday from the Environmental Protection Agency’s review list. EPA managers had suggested last winter they might call for a rigorous redo of permit reviews, given the plant’s lack of action during the past 10 years. That, given the tightening of emissions standards since the plant’s construction, could doom the project.

Continue reading: Alaska agency pulls clean coal permit for Healy

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