Tag Archives: PORTAL

Appliance Rebates Available for Qualified Alaskans

From The Alaska Housing Fincance Corporation, Monday, June 14, 2010:

Alaskans with disabilities have ample opportunity to qualify for the special appliance rebate program being funded by a $658,000 grant from the federal Department of Energy and administered statewide by Alaska Housing Finance Corporation.

The federal program, designed to encourage Americans to use energy-efficient appliances, kicked off in Alaska this past March and is scheduled to remain in effect through February 2012, or until the money runs out -whichever occurs first.

Continue reading: Appliance Rebates Available for Qualified Alaskans

How to cope with outside 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: What are some of the risks with adding insulation to the outside of my home?

It is a complex issue, and what works in one part of the state may not necessarily work in another. The key to successful exterior insulation is to keep moisture from entering the wall from the inside and from the outside. If you cannot ensure this will not happen, then you are insulating at your own risk. If too much moisture moves into your walls or ceiling, then you could end up with mold and rot.

For years, people in Fairbanks and other parts of the state have been applying various amounts of foam insulation to the exterior of their houses. However, this method can also contribute to moisture problems if not done correctly. These problems can originate from inside or outside the house.

In local building code, cold climate construction requires a vapor retarder, placed near the interior wall surface. Most times this consists of a well-sealed layer of polyethylene under the sheetrock.

This barrier membrane is designed to prevent indoor moisture from getting inside walls where it can condense. When you have heat and humidity inside, and a leaky vapor barrier, moisture may get inside a wall. If there are not enough outside layers of foam insulation, this moisture will cool, condense and begin causing problems. Having the proper ratio of insulation on the outside of the wall to insulation on the inside of the wall will help solve this problem.

Also, if you have a good existing interior vapor retarder and add exterior foam, you are creating, what many call, a “double vapor barrier,” as the foam is also relatively impermeable. Should enough moisture find its way into a wall under these conditions, it may have a difficult time drying out.

In some environments, there is the possibility that rain water can work its way into the wall, especially in combination with wind. To minimize these problems, your home may benefit from large overhangs, gutters and proper drainage. Another option is a good draining type of house wrap installed in combination with adhesive or metal flashings, which are applied before putting on the foam. These steps will ensure that if any water gets behind the foam, it will drain down into the ground rather than soak into your framing.

If you put exterior insulation on your house, it will become much tighter. As a result, your indoor humidity levels may increase and the house may no longer receive enough fresh air, making it necessary to better ventilate your home.

An early indicator of elevated indoor humidity levels are your windows. If you are seeing a lot of condensation, especially on a good quality doublepane or triple-pane, that is a good reason to look for a cause.

Q: Are electric stoves more energy efficient than propane ranges?

Strictly, electric energy is very efficient in a range, but it depends on what the cost of propane is, and what the cost of power is in relation. You would have to figure out how much energy, in BTUs, you are getting out of your propane and what you are paying for your kilowatt hours, and compare the two.

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.

Tuck offers homeowners help with energy upgrades

From Alaska Dispatch, Sunday, January 17, 2010:

An Anchorage lawmaker says he’ll file a bill offering middle class homeowners — strapped for cash and still reeling from high energy costs — a back door into energy efficiency upgrades.

We reported recently on the lack of follow through by thousands of Alaskans who started a home energy efficiency rebate program, funded by the Legislature and managed by Alaska Housing Finance Corp. Those who start with a baseline efficiency audit have 18 months to fund repairs, schedule an audit of efficiency gains, and apply for up to $10,000 in state reimbursements. That window is running out for many folks.

Rep. Chris Tuck, an Anchorage Democrat, talked with people in his district and discovered some who have been hit pretty hard by the 2009 economic collapse. The families make too much too qualify for a low-income state weatherization program, but are dealing with high credit card debt, receding retirement accounts and investments, and, at times, negative equity in their homes.

Those circumstances can make it pretty tough to pay several thousand dollars up front for efficiency upgrades, even with a state reimbursement likely down the road, Tuck acknowledged.

Click here to read the full story.

One People, One Earth event to celebrate environmental stewardship

Event hosted by Alaska Interfaith Power & Light:

Join Alaska IPL at the Pioneer Park Civic Center on Saturday, January 30th, 2010 from 11 am to 3 pm, for an inspiring community event — One People, One Earth.

This free, family-friendly event will infuse fun, faith, education and charitable opportunities to learn about environmental stewardship and how you, your family, schools and congregations can save energy, resources and money.

Click here for more information.

PORTAL and ACHP to host consumer workshops

Learn how to do or direct your own energy efficient improvements. Attend an informative workshop FREE TO THE PUBLIC! Workshops are brought to you by Alaska Housing Finance Corporation.

The following workshops will be held from 6-8 pm at the Cold Climate Housing Research Center, 1000 Fairbanks Street, near West Valley High School and the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Call 907-457-3454 for directions.

February 1, 2010: Building Science Basics

February 2, 2010: Air Tightness

February 3, 2010: Ice Dams

February 4, 2010: Lighting & Appliances

February 8, 2010: Heating & Hot Water

February 9, 2010: Doors & Windows

February 10, 2010: Insulation

February 11, 2010: Ventilation

Frosty rooftop vents might mean trouble in the attic


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 cold roof. The other day I noticed frost on the vents that are high up on the end walls of my house.

What should I do?

Frost on roof vents of a cold roof indicate you might have air leakage and moisture coming from somewhere inside the house, more than likely through the ceiling. So you have warm air getting into the attic, then out through the vents where it condenses and forms hoarfrost. There are a lot of places this leaking can occur. You could have a chimney or plumbing penetrations going through the ceiling that aren’t sealed properly, poorly sealed can lights, holes in your vapor barrier, or bathroom vents and fans that are broken or not properly connected to the outside.

When it warms up, crawl up into the attic and take a look. If there is so much frost that it is building up on the outside, then there could be some moisture damage inside.

Q: Are there any cautions for replacing windows in the winter?

Flanged windows, especially vinyl ones, get brittle in the extreme cold, so handling them takes a bit more care. Also, expanding spray foam, used to seal the gaps between the window and the framing, doesn’t cure well in low temperatures. The can instructions are pretty specific in this regard, and if you install a foam backer rod into the gap first, which stops the airflow from the outside, then you can spray the foam and it should work.

Q: What are some general rules on when to plug in your automobile?

The rule of thumb that the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservations provides is to plug in for at least a couple hours when it’s 20°F or colder.

I think most of us have realized that if it’s 20°F, you can get by plugging in at a lesser amount and if it’s quite a bit colder you need to plug in longer. If you find you need to leave your car plugged in substantially longer before it starts smoothly, then you car may need some maintenance.

Q: I hear the word “retrofit” being used a lot in talks about fixing up an old house.

What’s the difference between retrofitting and renovating?

Renovating simply means restoring something, making it look new again, or repairing it.

Retrofitting is modifying something old with new technology. In a home, upgrading an older energy system, using a new technique to insulate walls or replacing outof- date windows with new ones are examples of retrofitting.

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.

Get the most out of that energy-sucking kitchen device: Your refrigerator


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: Refrigerators are expensive to operate. How can I make sure mine is using less energy?

In terms of energy efficiency, refrigerators are often ignored but use a large percentage of a home electricity budget. And typically, a new refrigerator with automatic defrost and a topmounted freezer uses about half the energy of a 1990 version.

So use that as a benchmark. If your refrigerator is old and needs repairs or is close to the end of its expected life (which could be around 15 years), then it makes good sense to replace it.

In terms of maintenance, check door seals. Sometimes the seals get brittle or lose their compressive memory which can cause small gaps. As a rule of thumb, you do not want to be able to take a piece of paper and slide that between the seal and the refrigerator case. Another method is to close a flashlight inside the fridge. If you turn off the lights in the room and can still see light coming out of the fridge, then it’s probably time to replace the seals.

Also, the refrigerator compartment should be between 36F and 38F and the freezer should be between 0F and 5F. You can’t always trust the dial in the fridge to do that, so if you really want to be sure, put a thermometer in there and use the fridge dial setting as a point of reference to make sure the temperature is correct. Another important thing to look at is cleaning the condenser coils once a year. Those coils are at the back or bottom fridge. When coated with dust they make the fridge work harder and thus use more energy.

The location of your fridge is key. If the refrigerator is in the sun, next to the stove, or any other warm space, it will use more energy trying to stay cold.

A fridge in a cool space will help save energy.

When you’re preparing food to go into the fridge, let it cool down fully before storing away.

Remember, a refrigerator is a temperature-regulating appliance. Hot food will raise the temperature inside the compartment and the fridge will have to work harder to bring that temperature down to the proper level.

If you are looking into buying a new fridge, top and bottom units tend to be more efficient than side-by-side units. However, the bottom line when buying a fridge or any appliance is to look at the yellow Energy Star tag.

Energy Star information will tell you kilowatt hours per year for your model, which you can compare with other models.

Q: Why is it so important to seal around fixtures like vents, can lights and such?

If these areas are in an exterior wall and not properly sealed, air and moisture will easily move through these areas. You don’t want to be losing heat, or pushing moisture into walls or the roof. Moisture getting into a roof can cause rot, mold, ice jams and a variety of other problems.

Typically on new construction these areas are sealed. Even more convenient: many new building materials have gaskets that seal to the vapor barrier. However, older homes have electrical boxes, recess lighting, exhaust fans and other components that often were not sealed when installed. Air can easily pass into the attic space through these gaps. To seal, use spray foam or caulk which should seal these areas well.

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.

Got icy window panes? Your home might be too humid


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.

Q: I have double-pane windows. Every year I get large amounts of frost buildup on the pane facing the interior of the house. I thought these were fairly nice windows since the house is only five years old. I’ve tried the shrink wrap window plastic, but that only works if I use it around the frame — in which case I can’t close my blinds. Can you explain to me what is wrong and the steps to fix it?

A: There are a couple of things that could be going on here. You might have high humidity levels in the house, especially if you don’t have an adequate ventilation system in your home. Target indoor humidity levels for human comfort and health are between 30 and 50 percent. You should be able to buy a digital hygrometer that will help you monitor your indoor conditions.

The windows are one of the first places you will see condensation forming because they are one of the coldest surfaces in the house. Here’s the bottom line: the higher the humidity and the colder the surface, the greater the condensation potential.

Several factors that will contribute to excess humidity in the home are: a crawlspace that doesn’t have a good ground vapor barrier; appliances that aren’t properly vented to the outside, particularly dryers and range hoods; aquariums; inadequate bathroom ventilation; firewood stored indoors; and high occupant loads to name a few. As an example, a family of four will produce roughly 10 pounds of water per day through respiration and transpiration.

The reality is that in a properly ventilated house in Fairbanks, levels of 30-50 percent humidity are difficult to achieve because the climate is so dry here.

In terms of condensation potential, this works to our advantage. With a tight under-ventilated house, however, it is quite possible to attain high humidity.

In periods of extreme cold, the indoor humidity levels should be lower to reduce condensation problems.

As you noticed, the shrink wrap plastic is effective as it essentially turns your window into a “triple pane,” improving performance. The other option is to insulate the exterior of the window. Rigid foam board is crude but effective, but that also has its obvious disadvantages. The easiest approach is to target the indoor humidity and identify potential problems in this area first.

Q: What types of boilers are out there, and what do I look at? How do I know which type of boiler is the right one to get and what size? A: Alaska is a cold and faraway place, but even in Fairbanks, we have a wide variety of boilers. Some common brands include Weil-Mclain, Burnham, Slantfin, Monitor FCX Condensing Boilers, Triangle Tube, Viessman, Buderus, Energy Kenetics, Low Mass Boilers, Quietside and even direct vent hydronic hot water heaters are pressed into service as radiant heaters for the home. Look for the AFUE efficiency and get recommendations from mechanical contractor and homeowners.

The best way to find out what size boiler you need for your home is to look at a heat/loss calculation for your specific house. You can have this calculation done by a plumber or through a home energy rating among other places.

The calculation takes into account the R-values of walls, windows and roofs, and the exposed surface areas of each, then estimates how much heat will leave the building at a specific temperature.

For Fairbanks, -40 F is often used. The right size boiler will offset the heat that is expected to leave the building. There’s an old rule of thumb that uses the square footage of your home to calculate the right boiler size.

Unfortunately, this will often call for too large a boiler. A boiler that is too large for your home will operate inefficiently.

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.

When is it time to replace your boiler?


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: Oftentimes, if you get an energy rating done, replacing the boiler is the top recommendation. Is it worth the money and effort?

Boilers need to be examined on a case-by-case basis, so before you do anything, speak with a heating professional.

Often, there are little things you can do to a boiler that will make them more efficient. A lot of these little fixes depend on where your boiler exhausts, if you can add an outdoor reset, how much baseboard you have and if it’s time to have your system tuned. Sometimes small changes or additions in controls can help increase the efficiency of the boiler, and sometimes it just needs to be replaced with new technology.

However, fixing your old boiler won’t help if you are trying to gain points on your energy rating. Consult your energy rating paperwork to determine if the payback from replacing your boiler is worth the effort.

Q: Since we are in an Arctic climate, are there any challenges to having a wind system way up here?

There are not a lot of problems with most homesized wind turbines and their materials caused by the cold, dry Interior climate. That being said, wetter parts of Alaska have problems with ice collecting on towers and blades. When that happens, it throws the blades out of balance.

One way to gauge the effectiveness of a wind system is to check where it is made or where this type of system is installed. If a system is successfully installed in the cold regions of Canada, it’s probably OK for Alaska. Some systems are designed for areas that do not have cold temperatures, and they may not supply the right parts or materials, such as cold-weather grease, to function well in our climate.

Q: Most double- and triple-pane windows have gas between the panes. If a pane breaks, the gas will leak out. Is this any type of hazard?

Today, most window gases are Krypton or Argon. These gases are inert, so they pose no threat to human health. Still, multiple- paned windows are more energy efficient with the gas inside. As gas leaks out, air will leak in along with a little moisture. The moisture will cause frost or fog inside your window.

On that note, a window pane doesn’t have to be broken to let the gas escape. If the seal around the edge of the window fails, the gas can leak out. You can tell when a seal is broken because condensation will build up inside the window between the panes even if no glass is broken. Again, any frost or foggy windows are a sign that you could have a broken seal. Seals break down over time due to age, building settling, hot or cold exposure and a variety of other factors. Fortunately, windows can be refilled with gas and resealed by a professional.

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