Burning wood? Don’t go green then


By CCHRC Staff

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

Q: Does it matter what type of wood I burn in my woodstove?

Most species of local wood are suitable for burning in a stove but do not burn wood that has been treated or painted. Regardless of the species, the best wood to use has been properly seasoned and stored. Wood that is fresh, or “green,” contains higher amounts of moisture, which will bring down a stove’s efficiency and cause excessive particulates and creosote buildup inside a chimney.

On a related point, only burn paper in your stove when starting a fire. Too much paper has the potential to produce a fire that is more than a stove or chimney can handle. Burning coal in a wood stove will have the same effect; so do not burn coal unless the stove is rated for it. Overall, avoid burning large amounts of paper or other combustibles that can significantly raise the stack temperature or cause the stove to burn hotter than it is designed to.

Q: I am thinking of installing solar panels on my home or property. What things do I need to think about before I begin?

There are a number of things to take into consideration when looking into a solar power system. First are the cost of electricity and financial incentives. A solar photovoltaic system has a large upfront cost but will provide savings over many years and will eventually pay itself off. Installing a large solar power system and selling the home a few years later will not provide enough time to pay back the investment. However, even pinning down exact numbers for payback can be a challenge since the cost of fuel and electricity both fluctuate. The federal government also provides tax incentives for solar panels and solar thermal systems.

More information can be found at www.energystar.gov. Golden Valley Electric Association’s SNAP program provides incentives as well.

More information on SNAP is available at www.gvea.com/ energyprograms/snap/.

Another challenge is location. Property on the north side of a hill will not collect as much light as a south-facing exposure. Also look at the amount of direct sunlight on a solar panel throughout the day. Shade from trees and other objects will lower the amount of power you make.

Consider the amount of maintenance that goes into a solar power system. Snow and leaves fall on solar arrays and should be cleaned off.

The amount debris can be limited by tilting panels to 49 degrees in the non-snowy months and 90 degrees in other months, which will also help capture more light from the sun’s low angle.

Contact a professional for further information and tips before getting started with an 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.