Keeping your hot water tank toasty can save you money


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: Is it really necessary to insulate my hot water tank? A: It is. The newer tanks have a high-density polyurethane foam insulation around them, but a lot of older tanks have a thin layer of fiberglass around the them, which results in lost heat called standby loss. The idea behind standby


loss is that it takes energy to keep water warm. Even if you aren’t using water, you still use energy to keep it heated. If your tank is not insulated, you are losing heat and using more energy to keep it at temperature.

Insulating the tank helps keep it warm, and you useless energy and therefore pay less as well.

You also can look up specific information about your tank online by going to the manufacturer’s Web site.

There you can find out how the tank was made and if it already is insulated.

Q: What are the advantages and disadvantages of a pellet stove?

A: There are a couple of big advantages. Pellet stoves provide a regulated and controlled burning environment with high quality, uniform, combustible material. Pellet stoves also can regulate the rate at which pellets are fed into the firebox and control how much oxygen goes into the firebox. The stoves create an optimum burning environment for the pellets.

The pellets themselves are evenly sized and look like goose food except they are made from compressed wood rather than grain. They get fed in by an auger and are sized to run through the system for optimum burn efficiency. Pellet stoves generally are easy to install. Often, they can be direct vented through a wall, which is a lot easier than trying to place a chimney from a typical wood stove. With older wood stoves, you lose heat from the chimney, but you lose a lot less with pellet stoves.

In terms of disadvantages, you have to buy pellets. That makes you dependent on the market and who is importing pellets. You also need electricity to run the auger that feeds the pellets and the fan.

If you don’t have power or suffer from an outage, your stove won’t function.

Q: I am interested in building a “green” home.

Are there any “green” contractors out there?

A: Yes there are. When we say “green,” we are talking about building a home that uses sustainable materials, is energy efficient and uses local materials. There are contractors in town who build to green standards.

The Interior Alaska Building Association would be a good place to start. If you’re looking to build using green concepts, a couple places you could go to learn, before you get started, are the National Association of Homebuilders and the U.S. Green Building Council. Both groups have Web sites that clearly break down the process into different categories.

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