Category Archives: PORTAL

Energy rebate program is still alive in Alaska

Q: I signed up for the home rebate program months ago and haven’t heard from anyone since. Has the program ended or are the energy raters just really busy?

When you signed up for the rebate program, you put your name on a waitlist.

Your name will be given to an energy rater when funding becomes available for you to participate in the program.

Then your assigned energy rater will call you to set up an appointment for your energy rating.

So the rebate program hasn’t ended, but all the funding has been set aside for other program participants. Funding becomes available for new participants when others let their deadline pass without collecting their rebate. You can check your status on the waitlist by visiting or by calling 1-877-257-3228.

Once there is funding available for your rebate, an energy rater will call you to set up an appointment. When the rater performs your rating, be sure to keep your receipt. You will need to send it, along with a copy of the rating, proof that you own your house and Alaska Housing Finance Corporation’s (AHFC) As-Is Energy Rating Reimbursement form to AHFC.

It is important to mail these documents as soon as possible to ensure that funding is set aside for your rebate.

Q: I have a lot of moisture and ice building up on my windows, especially when it is really cold. Are my windows bad?

Not necessarily. Single-pane windows are prone to icing up if with even the smallest amount of humidity inside a home.

These windows are not recommended for this climate. Double and triple pane windows with icing problems can be a sign of a broken pane or broken window seal.

Also, the home may not be getting adequate ventilation, which causes condensation on windows when indoor moisture levels increase.

This column has focused on winter indoor air quality several times over the past year. To read our past advice on this topic, visit our website at

Alaska HomeWise articles promote awareness of home-related issues. If you have a question, e-mail the Cold Climate Housing Research Center at can also call the CCHRC at (907) 457-3454

AHFC’s Home Energy Rebate Program Receives National Recognition

From Alaska Housing Finance Corporation:

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) recently announced that AHFC’s Home Energy Rebate Program is one of the exceptional state-led energy-efficiency programs in the United States. ACEEE recognized a total of just 18 top programs from 14 states. AHFC’s Home Energy Rebate Program received one of 10 honorable mentions awarded.Alaska’s Home Energy Rebate Program helps homeowners reduce energy costs by providing rebates toward the cost of energy-efficiency improvements. Energy ratings are required before and after improvements. Homeowners pay all costs upfront, and the rebate is paid out based on increased energy efficiency and eligible receipts. The maximum rebate is $10,000. Homeowners have 18 months to complete the program.

Dan Fauske, AHFC CEO/Executive, said, “Our calculations show people reduce energy use by about 30 percent and save nearly $1,600 a year on average. We are thrilled to be recognized for successfully rolling out this program in an extremely short timeframe. Although we had some bumps along the road, the response from those completing the program has been overwhelmingly positive.”

Continue reading: AHFC’s Home Energy Rebate Program Receives National Recognition

Don’t forget the proper foundation insulation

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: How do I insulate my foundation and how much is enough?

Insulating a foundation is an important step in both retaining heat during the winter and reducing heating costs. Concrete or concrete block — the material used to build most Alaska home foundations — is very conductive. If not insulated, it will transfer heat from a crawlspace or basement directly to the surrounding soils or outside air. Many Fairbanks homes, especially older homes, do not have insulated foundations. Putting insulation on the outside of the foundation will slow that heat transfer and ultimately save energy and money.

The most commonly used insulation for new homes and when retrofitting older homes is rigid foam board that is rated for below-grade application. If an insulation is rated for below grade, that means it is less susceptible to water absorption and is not damaged as easily.

Another option is to hire a professional to apply spray foam to the foundation, which has similar insulative and water resistant capabilities.

Building code requires that new homes have R-15 of insulation installed on a foundation. That amount is equivalent to about 3 inches of rigid foam board. Insulation should be applied to the outside of the foundation all the way down to the footer.

Spray or foam board can also be applied to the interior foundation or crawlspace walls. This method saves effort because the entire perimeter of the home does not need to be dug out; the down side is that this method consumes interior living space.

Be sure that any interior insulation is either fire rated or is covered with a fire rated surface.

Q: I have wastewater pipes that have recently become frozen. How should I thaw them out?

Frozen wastewater can cause backups that can lead to a messy situation.

Heat tape will slowly thaw frozen pipes, but could require months of thawing.

There are ground-thawing machines that can be rented, but they are often difficult to use. The safest option would be to hire a professional to thaw the areas that need work.

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

Hot water flooring has its advantages


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: What are the advantages of hot water infloor heat versus baseboard heating?

Radiant hot water (hydronic) floor heating systems’ costs are usually higher than baseboards, however they offer significant performance advantages.

The typical hydronic floor heating system consists of tubing installed in a looping pattern in the floor. This arrangement is specifically sized and spaced to release a given amount of heat from the hot water flowing through the tubes.

There are two primary types of installations, “wet” and “dry.” A “wet” system also is known as “slab heating” and involves embedding the tubing in a poured concrete or gypsum floor. “Dry” systems route the tubing either under or on top of an existing wood subfloor.

Depending on the insulative properties of the floor covering (such as carpet), dry systems may need to operate at higher temperatures to perform comparably to wet systems.

With both types of systems, insulation is often added under the tubing to insure that most of the floor heat travels in the desired direction, rather than into the soils around the foundation.

One of the biggest arguments in favor of in-floor heat is the comfort level. With such a large surface area emitting radiant heat very evenly, most occupants with warm floors tend to feel more comfortable even if the air temperatures are slightly cooler, which in turn may lead to lower thermostat settings.

From the energy savings perspective, hydronic floor heating runs significantly cooler than hot water baseboards.

For instance, the water temperatures in the tubing running through a concrete slab usually range between 80 and 130 degrees F while baseboards operate between 130 and 165 degrees F. Usually, the lower water temperatures needed for slab heating allow the boiler to run cooler.

A cooler running boiler has several advantages, such as less heat loss up the chimney when the boiler is in an off cycle. Similarly, the boiler has less “jacket loss,” where heat is lost from the boiler to the room Cooler water heating can also make the best use of a condensing boiler, which can operate at lower temperatures and generate efficiencies of up to 94 percent.

Conventional boilers top at around 87 percent. When it comes to conventional boilers, cooler operating temperatures produce less system stress, which can extend the service life of certain boilers.

Although the initial costs are higher, the longterm benefits of hydronic floor heating are worthy of consideration, and can also contribute to the value of the home.

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

Energy Funds Went Unspent, U.S. Auditor Says

From The New York Times, Friday, August 13, 2010:

The recession is lingering, and so is the unspent stimulus money that was meant to help end it.

The latest example is the $3.2 billion that Congress voted in February 2009 as part of an economic stimulus package to simultaneously provide jobs and improve energy efficiency through block grants to states and cities.

Only about 8.4 percent of the money had been spent by the beginning of this month, according to an audit released on Friday by the inspector general of the Energy Department, and it has produced or saved only about 2,300 jobs as of the second quarter of this year.

The program was to provide money for the purchase of better lighting or heating and cooling equipment for buildings like city halls and schools. But it is off to the same slow start as a bigger program that was initiated at the same time to weatherize the homes of low-income people around the country. An audit of that program in February, also by the  inspector general, found that only $368.2 million of $4.73 billion, or less than 8 percent, had been spent.

Continue reading: Energy Funds Went Unspent, U.S. Auditor Says

Know your home rebates



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: Many people are fixing their old home and getting a rebate from the state. Is there still rebate money available for building a new home?

The statesponsored Energy Rebate Program for new construction is still active, although continuous longterm funding is uncertain. Any homeowner who builds a home that meets the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation (AHFC) 5Star Plus energy standards is eligible for a $7,500 rebate, however there are some important details that determine who qualifies and a specific process that must be followed.

The program operates from a statewide waiting list on a firstcome, firstserved basis. So the sooner you sign up, the better your chances are for benefiting from the program. The first step is to get on the waiting list. Locally, the staff of CCHRC’s Portal on Retrofits Training and Loans (PORTAL) can guide you every step of the way.

Call 455HEAT (4-328) or contact the AK Rebate Call Center tollfree at1-877AKREBATE (1-877-257-3-228). Once your name reaches the top of the list, AHFC sends out two forms: “5 Star Plus New Construction Energy Rebate Encumbrance Request” and the “5 Star Plus New Construction Energy Rebate Form.” As an ownerbuilder, when you submit the completed forms, you must also include a copy of an energy rating taken from the building plans that validates that the home will meet 5 Star Plus standards, which can be found on the AHFC website: www. ahfc. state.

ak. us. Once AHFC receives and approves the forms, $7,500 is set aside for one year during which the house must be completed.

There are several criteria to meet to be eligible for the program.

Only the original owner qualifies for the rebate, and the home must serve as the primary residence.

If the home is purchased from a builder, it cannot be more than one year old at the time of the first sale. Ownerbuilders can qualify too, however the home cannot be occupied for more than one year from the date of completion.

To qualify if you are an ownerbuilder , you will have to submit the right forms to the state once the home has been completed. These forms include the “Building Energy Efficiency Standard Certification (BEES),” which certifies that the home was built to meet the 5 star Plus thermal and ventilation standards. The form can be signed by a certified home inspector , engineer , energy rater , architect, or the builder if he/ she is approved to certify and has met the current BEES training and testing requirements.

A “Summary of Building Inspection” form must also be submitted, which validates that the home was built in compliance with local building codes. This form must be signed by a statecertified building inspector who has conducted all the inspections during the construction process, starting with the building’s footings. For this reason, it is important to begin the rebate process and hire an inspector before breaking ground on the home. Finally , the finished home must also have an energy audit.

These three forms must be completed, signed by the appropriate authorities, and submitted to AHFC with the reimbursement form. Although this process may sound complicated, the new home construction rebate is a great opportunity for an ownerbuilder or new homebuyer to offset a significant portion of the construction costs, and ultimately enjoy the long term financial and environmental benefits of building an energy efficient home.

Alaska HomeWise articles promote home awareness for the Cold Climate Housing Research Center (CCHRC). If you have a question, email us at can also call the CCHRC at (9-07) 457-3-454.

Fairbanks borough begins its wood stove trade-in program

From The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Monday, August 2, 2010:

The borough began taking applications last week for its wood stove repair and replacement program.

“The program is up and operational,” air quality director Glenn Miller said.

Applications are available at the borough air quality office on Peger Road.

The program is still evolving, and applications won’t be available on the borough website until final modifications are made, Miller said.

Qualifying residents will receive government assistance replacing outdoor wood boilers and old wood stoves for cleaner-burning models approved by the Environmental Protection Agency. Cash payouts and tax credits are available to those who switch to gas or oil heat.

The program is part of a larger endeavor to improve the air in Fairbanks.

Energy rating program still available for Alaska homeowners

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: A lot of people are participating in the rebate program to make their home more energy efficient. I was under the impression that program had ended but it seems there are still people doing it. What is the case?

At this point, the rebate program is being sustained by money that was “set aside” for homeowners, but never collected — perhaps they decided not to continue with the program, did not make their 18-month deadlines or only collected $5,000 of the $10,000 the program set aside for them. In these cases, the money goes back into the “pot” and new participants are allowed in.

You can still get on the waiting list for an energy rating and participate in the program. When you sign up, Alaska housing will confirm there is funding available for your rebate. If there is, you will be assigned an energy rater. That person will come to your home and perform a blower door test to determine the efficiency of your home. Once you have the report and required documents, submit that to AHFC (Alaska Housing Finance Corp.) and the money will be set aside in your name.

As soon as you have your energy rating done you can start making improvements.

Those building or buying new homes can also still apply for the 5 Star Plus new construction rebate.

This part of the program gives homeowners a flat $7,500. These folks must call the PORTAL to get on the wait list for an application.

If there is money available, it will be encumbered for you after AHFC receives your application and a preliminary rating from your building plans, along with other required documents.

After you have completed your new home, or home improvements, you will submit a copy of your second energy rating along with the required documents and paperwork in order for AHFC to take that available money and release it to you within 60 business days.

If you want to sign up for the program, or have any questions, the PORTAL is available locally to answer questions about the rebate program. Its office is open at the Cold Climate Housing Research Center, Monday through Friday (call 455-HEAT for an appointment). You can also sign up by visiting

Q: I’m building a new home. Can I strategically orient my home in a way that will save me money?

The money-saving benefits from orienting a home center around passive heat gain. “Passive” means no mechanical system is producing the heat. Passive solar is a viable method of heating, as the sun just comes in through the windows and heats the home. Many south-facing lots in the Fairbanks North Star Borough see a decrease in oil usage when the sun comes back in late February and March. The same benefit takes place in the fall, but there is a more noticeable difference in spring because a homeowner can turn down the thermostat rather that up.

Facing a home towards the south and strategically placing windows on the south face of the home will maximize light intake and support passive heating.

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

Insulating your foundation with ease


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 have a concrete foundation. I heard insulating your foundation can save heat. How can I do that?

Concrete is very conductive, and heat always goes to cold, so a foundation without insulation is basically a bottomless heat sink. If the foundation is un-insulated, there are definitely opportunities to save some heat.

Current code requires an R-value of 15, which is about 3 inches of blue foam.

Ideally, digging out the outside of the foundation and insulating the outside will keep the foundation warmer but doing this type of work on the outside of a home is not always practical. In such a situation, put foam on the interior of the home’s outside walls and tape the joints.

On a similar point, the rim joist area is prone to air leakage where the joists meet the outside wall.

Often, fiberglass insulation is put into joist bays, but that is not enough to stop air leakage. A better choice is to install sheets of foam fitted to each joist bay, then spray foam around the edges.

Another option is to hire a spray foam contractor to spray between the joists.

These techniques will help stop air flow and heat loss through that part of the foundation.

Q: Is there a way to limit the amount of offgassing in my home or ventilate it in some way?

For those who do not know the term, offgassing, or outgassing, is the release of gas from materials over time. Often these materials are plastics or other petroleum-based substances that release chemicals that can be hazardous to health.

For starters, try to use “green” materials that do not offgas hazardous substances like formaldehyde and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Low VOC and non-VOC paints, carpets, caulks and glues are available. Furniture and fabrics also offgas, so look for healthy alternatives such as solid wood furniture and other non­VOC products. In new construction, despite the best attempts to use entirely healthy products, there will probably be some type of VOC. Before moving in to a new home, ventilate the home as much as possible. One method is to turn the thermostat up very high, to promote outgassing, and run the ventilation system at high speed for a day or two. This tactic will help “bake out” and vent VOCs.

In older homes, particleboard countertops, shelving and cabinets can be coated with a non-VOC sealant to prevent further outgassing.

Also, use greener cleaning products and store chemicals outside rather than indoors. Try to purchase only as much as needed so unused chemicals do not sit around.

The best way to get rid of offgassed substances is to regularly make sure the home is properly ventilated by opening windows and using mechanical ventilation.

A well-ventilated home will exchange air more frequently, exhaust pollutants and bring in fresh air.

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

Metal-framed windows in Alaska; problems with heat pumps; woodworking with birch

Alaska HomeWise: Ask a Builder

By Cold Climate Housing Research Center 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.

I heard that metal-framed windows are a bad choice for Alaska. Why and what should I do about it?

Most metal-framed windows are made from aluminum which is a highly conductive material. The laws of physics dictate that heat will always move in the direction of cold. When the temperatures drop outside, the aluminum acts as a pipeline, moving heat from inside to outside. Also, a colder window is more sensitive to moisture and will gather condensation.

Replacing metal frames is the preferable thing to do, however, not always practical. Fortunately, there are some other easy solutions. Covering the inside face of a window with a shrink wrap will create dead air space that will help keep the window warmer. Curtains and shutters will help as well.

I am thinking of putting in a heat pump system for my home. What types of problems are associated with heat pumps?

While they are a proven technology in the lower 48 states, heat pumps are still a relatively new technology in the state of Alaska. Heat pump performance can vary significantly with different soil conditions and site exposures. As a result, installations need to be evaluated on an individual basis.

When installing a heat pump system, caution must be taken around foundations. Installing a system too close to a foundation can increase the risk of potential permafrost problems, such as frost jacking. There is some question as to how a heat pump will work over time if it removes more heat from an area than can be replaced by surrounding soils and seasonal conditions, especially in Alaska where ground temperatures are cooler to begin with. On the positive side, there are methods to curb excessive cooling, such as adding a solar thermal collector to recharge the ground during the warmer seasons. This is also a proven technique, though, again, it has yet to be proven in Alaska.

Installation cost is another consideration, as the systems themselves can cost between $10,000 and $20,000. For the time being, heat pumps are showing good potential but we still need more trials in Alaska’s cold climate to give a definitive answer.

Do you have any advice for woodworking with local birch?

Birch is not used for framing and structural applications the way spruce is, but it does lend itself well to finish work. Birch has a lot of color. The heartwood can be very dark while the sapwood can be very light. In addition, the grain is rarely straight which gives the wood a ‘figure.’ After varnishing, the combination of colors and grain can be quite eye-catching. Each tree is unique and especially with birch, there can be big variations in wood appearance from one tree to the next. As examples, birch can add wonderful highlights to kitchen cabinets, and floors.

Birch is denser than cottonwood or spruce, making it better suited for stairways and tabletops. When working with birch, make sure there is plenty extra so any undesirable defects or twisting can be milled out or replaced. When it comes to panels and drawer fronts it is a good rule to varnish both sides and the edges, to keep the wood stable. As humidity changes over the seasons, moisture will penetrate an unvarnished side to a greater degree, which can cause warping.

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