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Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

Sunday, September 8, 2013

ENERGY SAVERS GUIDE

Change some habits and save energy By Amanda Bohman

WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT SAVING ENERGY?

FOR THE NEWS-MINER

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erry Duszynski, an expert on energy efficient building techniques, described an energy-efficient house in Fairbanks. The doors would be fiberglass. “They don’t warp as much. They don’t leak.” The walls would be thick. The house would have triple-pane or quadruple-pane windows facing the sun, capturing the passive solar heat. The boiler would be top notch and the water heater might be solar. If that doesn’t describe your house, don’t worry. A change in habits and a few inexpensive upgrades can help anyone save energy. “There are some real simple things that people can do,” said Art Nash, energy specialist with the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service. Start by analyzing your energy bills. Take a close look at your fuel oil bill and your light bill, Nash said. The goal is to reduce consumption, and periodically studying those bills will tell a person if they are succeeding. “Turn off some lights,” Nash said. “Check your hot water heater.” Most people have 60 gallons of hot water on hold 24 hours per day, seven days per week, Nash said. He recommends buying a timer so the hot water heater only fires up when needed. “The clothes dryer can be a big electricity eater,” Nash said. He recommends air drying clothes, even in the winter. Wash clothes in cold water and only wash full loads, suggests the

• Call energy specialist Art Nash of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service at 474-6366. • Contact energy auditor Terry Duszynski, owner of Duszynski and Associates, at 479-3324. • On the Web, go to www.akenergyefficiency.org for more information. The website is backed by the Alaska Energy Authority, a state corporation. • Also visit the Cold Climate Housing Research Center at www.cchrc.org.

To save on energy costs, homeowners are advised to check for air leaks. Common leaky areas are doors and windows; in the attic and basement; and around electrical outlets and dropped ceilings above tubs and cabinets. METROCREATIVECONNECTION.COM state-backed website www.akener gyefficiencies.org. Ninety percent

of the energy washing machines use is for heating water, and wash-

ing machines use the same amount of energy to wash full loads that they do to wash one item. Unplug appliances. “Many appliances have what is called a phantom load,” Nash said. That means they are pulling electricity even when they are turned off. He also recommended using low-flow shower heads and LED, light-emitting diode, lights. In the kitchen, cooking with a microwave or crockpot uses less energy than traditional ovens, according to the energy efficiency website. Homeowners also should check for air leaks. Common leaky areas are doors and windows; in the attic and basement; and around electrical outlets and dropped ceilings above tubs and cabinets. “If you are putting money into your house, I would probably have a home energy audit,” Nash said. A home energy audit is when someone like Duszynski, owner of Duszynski and Associates, evaluates a home and makes recommendations for improving energy efficiency. Audits cost about $500, and there’s a state subsidy available. A good place to start when

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spending money to increase energy efficiency is the crawl space, Duszynski said. “Many of the crawl spaces were not insulated properly when they were built in the ’70s and ’80s,” Duszynski said. “Back then when fuel oil was cheap, you didn’t need much insulation.” Duszynski said alternative energy systems, such as wind and solar, take too long to recuperate the costs. Domestic solar water heaters are an exception. The cost can be recuperated after about seven years, Duszynski said. “The windows are the last thing,” he said. “The energy payback on the window is probably 25-30 years. They are really nice to put in, but you don’t get an energy payback.” Businesses also can take easy, inexpensive steps to save energy, such as dusting light bulbs. Dust can reduce bulbs’ brightness, causing more lights to be turned on. Businesses also should replace old energy-sucking water coolers, print on double-sided paper and turn off computers after office hours, according to www.akenergy efficiencies.org.

Higher rebates available for Alaskans building energyefficient homes. Page 3

cooling efficiency. Page 6 Small ways to save on energy. Page 7

Low-flow showerheads and faucets can help you save on water and energy. Page 4

How to determine your home’s energy use. Page 8

Utilizing passive solar design can help increase heating and

Turning smokestack emissions into energy. Page 9


Sunday, September 8, 2013

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

ENERGY SAVERS GUIDE

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Greater rebates available for those building energy-efficient homes 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. This Ask a Builder column from the Cold Climate Housing Research Center was first published in the News-Miner on July 4. BY CCHRC STAFF

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hose building an energy-efficient house in Alaska could qualify for a greater rebate from the state as of July 1. Homes that meet the highest energy standards can be rewarded with a $10,000 rebate, up from $7,500. The New Home Energy Rebate Program (www.ahfc.us/efficiency/energy-programs/ new-home-rebate) is managed by the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation and provides incentives to build energy efficient homes. An infusion of $300 million in state funding took place in 2008 and included money to fund rebate programs specific to both new and existing homes. Since 2008, the rebate programs have received more than $500 million in legislative funding.

Energy standards ASSOCIATED PRESS FILE PHOTO

be $7,000. The updated BEES standard also affects anyone applying for home financing through AHFC. To qualify for a mortgage, you need to reach at least 5-star (89 points). Before, you only had to meet 4-star plus (83 points). These standards appear to be having a significant influence on new home performance. A recent analysis by the Cold Climate Housing Research Center found that about 60 percent of homes built in Alaska between 2005 and 2009 (those that had an energy rating done) met the old BEES standard. “It appears that BEES has become an industry standard here in Alaska,” said Dustin Madden, policy researcher at CCHRC. “This update means we should be seeing more energy efficient construction in the state, saving people money on fuel for years to come.”

What would a 6-star house look like? A 6-star energy rating can be achieved in a wide variety of ways. For example, a 1,900square-foot home in Fairbanks could reach this bench mark with R-50 walls, an R-54 ceiling, R-20 rigid foam insulation on the

exterior of a below grade floor, U-0.22 windows, a Heat Recovery Ventilator (HRV) and an 86 percent AFUE oil-fired boiler with an indirect fired hot water tank. Every home will have issues specific to that structure, which will affect the rating, including variables such as the exterior surface area to volume ratio, heating system type and efficiency, foundation

type and square footage of windows. Consequently, getting on board with the rating process while still in the planning stages allows for maximum flexibility in making changes and adjustments to meet the 6-star (or 5-star plus) standard. Ask a Builder articles promote awareness of home-related issues. If you have a question, contact the Cold Climate Housing Research Center at info@cchrc.org or 457-3454.

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The energy standards used in the program (called the Building Energy Efficiency Standards, or BEES) cover thermal performance, air leakage, moisture management strategies and ventilation. Typically, builders and homeowners verify they meet these standards by having an energy rating done from plans before construction begins, followed by a series of inspections during construction and finally another energy rating upon completion, which also includes an air leakage test. Energy ratings and inspections are performed by a state certified energy rater: www.ahfc.us/pros/energy-programs/energyrater. As part of the initial energy rating done from plans, the home receives a certain score based on how energy efficient the building is. Using the rating as a guide, people can then make informed decisions in selecting measures which will reduce energy use, including (but not limited to) options such as adding more insulation to different parts of the structure, increasing air tightness, upgrading windows, or installing more efficient heating devices. Previously, the highest rating possible was “5-star plus,” which came with a $7,500 rebate. This summer, a new level was introduced called “6-star.” You must achieve a higher score (95 points or higher) but you also qualify for a bigger rebate — $10,000. The 5-star plus rebate continues to be in effect, however the rebate amount will now


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Sunday, September 8, 2013

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

ENERGY SAVERS GUIDE

Save water while you save on energy 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. This Ask a Builder column from the Cold Climate Housing Research Center was first published in the News-Miner on Aug. 1. BY CCHRC STAFF

Q: Do low-flow showerheads and faucets save money? A: A saying known as the rule of threes highlights the basic necessities of life: The typical human can survive 3 minutes with no air, 3 hours in a harsh environment with no shelter, 3 days with no water and 3 weeks without food. It’s not pleasant to think about, but it does make you consider how you fulfill these needs on a daily basis. While Alaskans are fortunate to have access to an abundance of water — the Alaska Department of Fish and Game reports that Alaska contains more than 40 percent of the nation’s surface water resources in its thousands of rivers and millions of lakes — getting access to clean water every day can be no small task. In Fairbanks, many people pay for water delivery or haul water themselves, no easy chore in below freezing

temperatures. Additionally, many people heat water for laundry, showers and dishes, which adds to household energy costs. To save both water and energy, many people turn to low-flow showerheads and faucets in their homes. Low-flow devices reduce the water coming from a faucet but add pressure to the remaining flow, so people don’t notice the overall loss in water volume. These devices save money in two ways. First, they reduce water usage. If you pay for city water, water delivery or for gas to haul your own water, using less water means saving money. Secondly, the majority of homes have a water heater to provide hot water for showers, dishes and laundry. A low-flow device saves you money because you heat less water overall, which translates into lower energy bills. If you aren’t sure whether you already have a low-flow device, you can measure the gallons per minute (gpm) that a faucet or showerhead delivers. A lower gpm rating means the faucet uses less water. The easiest way to do this is with a stopwatch and a gallon-sized jug (for a faucet) or bucket (for a showerhead). Turn the faucet on all the way, then use the stopwatch to determine how many seconds it takes to fill up the gallon jug or bucket. Then divide 60 seconds by that

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time to get the gallons per minute the faucet produces. For example, if your showerhead filled up a gallon bucket in 18 seconds then it has a flow rate of 3.33 gpm (60 divided by 18 gpm). Q: What’s the difference between regular and low-flow devices? A: With a flow rate of 3.33 gpm, a 10minute shower will use 33 gallons of water. If you pay 9 cents per gallon for delivered

water, the shower cost $2.97. Now let’s say you have a low-flow showerhead, which is 2 gpm or lower. A 10-minute shower would use 20 gallons of water and cost $1.80. While $1 in savings doesn’t seem like much, if you take five showers per week it adds up to $20 per month or $240 per year. That’s not counting other occupants in the house. LOW-FLOW » 7


Sunday, September 8, 2013

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Sunday, September 8, 2013

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

ENERGY SAVERS GUIDE

Passive solar design helps heating, cooling efficiency 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. This Ask a Builder column from the Cold Climate Housing Research Center was first published in the News-Miner on May 9. BY CCHRC STAFF

Q: How can I use passive solar design to reduce my fuel use? A: Passive solar design is one of the most

cost-effective ways to improve the energy efficiency and comfort of your home — without fans, pumps or other gadgetry. Passive solar design uses a combination of building features to increase heating and cooling efficiency while improving the feel of your home’s indoor space. Best of all, these features require minimal maintenance, can bolster resale value and are relatively easy to implement, especially in new construction. It’s all about letting the sun shine in. A home’s solar potential is determined by

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A home’s solar potential is determined by its orientation to the sun, site conditions and window technology. Every building site can be optimized to receive the most sunlight possible, but you certainly have an advantage if you’re on a south slope or flat ground. its orientation to the sun, site conditions and window technology. Every building site can be optimized to receive the most sunlight possible, but you certainly have an advantage if you’re on a south slope or flat ground. Trimming or cutting trees might help ensure you’re getting as much radiant heat as possible. Deciduous trees like birch allow more sunlight to pass into the home in the winter than conifers. Also try to build away from structures that might block the sun. Once you have a bright site selected, orient your home’s widest section to within 30 degrees of south and along an east-west axis to give the sun as much face time as possible. In an energy efficient house, south-facing windows can provide 30 percent or more of the heating load. When placing windows, always consider the angles at which the sun strikes your house. This will affect not only

how you shape and position your windows, but at what height. Now that you’re in the right spot, it’s time to consider the three ways you can harvest the sun’s heat: • when you’re in its direct path (direct gain); • when it radiates from objects that are heated by the sun (indirect gain); and • when you selectively open up or close certain rooms based on their exposure to the sun (isolated gain). Placing the largest and greatest number of windows along the south side of your house will increase heat gain from all three sources. Direct sunlight is great when it’s available, but you can bank sunlight for later use by using special heat-absorbent flooring and

long haul.

We’re here for the Fairbanks Natural Gas turned the gas on for our first customer more than 15 years ago. Since then, we’ve grown to serve over 1,100 homes and businesses in the Interior. FNG’s vision and investment proved that trucking natural gas to Fairbanks saves residents millions of dollars. And we are laying pipe in new areas and working with the State to be able to bring a greater supply of reliable, affordable natural gas to even more of our neighbors. At Fairbanks Natural Gas, we’re proud of our history. But the future is where we’re focusing our attention.

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SOLAR » 7


Sunday, September 8, 2013

ENERGY SAVERS GUIDE

SOLAR Continued from 6 walls that act as thermal masses. Long after the sun has set, these objects will continue to radiate heat into your home. Carpet may keep your feet more comfortable on a poorly insulated floor, but it will inhibit solar heat absorption. To cut down on heating costs, use select rooms during the time of day when the sun shines the most and then close them off from your heated living area when not in use. In the summer, when the sun shines nearly all the time, use carefully measured eves to cut down on glare and help keep your house cool. The overhangs should be wide enough to block the higher-angle sunlight in summer, but allow the lower-

Kristinn Leonhart, spokeswoman for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program, said the average home has about 30 light fixtures, together consuming more electricity than a home’s washer and dryer, refrigerator and dishwasher combined. METRO CREATIVE CONNECTION

Small habits can add up to big savings By Margaret Ely THE WASHINGTON POST

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HABITS » 8

Continued from 4 Q: What qualifies as low-flow? A: Bathroom faucets must use a maximum of 1.5 gpm and showerheads 2 gpm to receive EPA’s label for lowflow appliances. The certification program, WaterSense, aims to help people use less water to preserve America’s water supply. Products must use at least

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angle sunlight through your windows in winter. Landscaping, such as shrubs, also can help manage your house’s seasonal exposure to the sun. Passive solar heating goes hand in hand with thermal efficiency. A well-insulated house can retain solar energy and will require less fuel over the heating system, while a leaky house will not be able to hold onto the heat. That said, in a well-insulated home, heat from the sun can provide a significant portion of a home’s heating needs at little to no cost for new construction. See the Solar Design Manual for Alaska for more information: www.uaf.edu/ces/ pubs/catalog/detail/index.xml?id=12. Ask a Builder articles promote home awareness for the Cold Climate Housing Research Center. If you have a question, contact us at info@cchrc.org or 457-3454.

20 percent less water with no drop in performance compared to standard options. Look for products with WaterSense labels in stores. As many of these products cost less than $100 and don’t take long to install, it can be an easy way to save energy in a single afternoon. Ask a Builder articles promote home awareness for the Cold Climate Housing Research Center. If you have a question, contact us at info@cchrc.org or 457-3454.

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hether replacing light bulbs or unplugging your unused cellphone charger, small changes can make a big impact on your electricity bill this summer and beyond. Kristinn Leonhart, spokeswoman for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program, said the average home has about 30 light fixtures, together consuming more electricity than a home’s washer and dryer, refrigerator and dishwasher combined. Because regular incandescent light bulbs emit heat, she said, using more-energyefficient bulbs in your home’s most-used fixtures makes a significant difference. “Replace them with more-energy-efficient bulbs, which use less energy and produce about 75 percent less heat,” Leonhart said. “They’re good for cooling bills.” The two kinds of energy-efficient bulbs Energy Star certifies are compact fluorescent (CFL) and light-emitting diode (LED), both of which have longer life spans than conventional incandescent bulbs. Another small change with major impact? Resetting the thermostat. Cindy Olson, vice president of the green energy consulting firm Eco-Coach, said air conditioners are often left on when no one is home and set to temperatures lower

than is necessary for comfort. “It is something that is very personal,” Olson said. “A lot of times, simply air movement is enough to be comfortable, even with just a ceiling fan.” Test how you and your family feel by adjusting the temperature up by one or two degrees at a time. Every degree of change, she said, can make a 2 percent difference on your utility bill. An air-conditioning system can account for 30 percent of an energy bill in the summer, according to power company data. Updates in technology have made new central air systems, often with programmable thermostats, at least 15 percent more efficient than older models. If you aren’t ready to replace your central airconditioning unit altogether — the EPA suggests doing so if it is more than 10 years old — regular maintenance will ensure your unit is running as efficiently as it can. A dirty air filter, for example, can damage equipment and cause early breakdown. “Dirt and neglect are bad,” Leonhart said. “Check and clean your air filters every month, and change them, at a minimum, every three months.” Other big energy hogs are unused appliances. Whether you’re going on a summer vacation or not, unplug coffeemakers, toasters and hair dryers, or invest in power strips with energy-saving features.

LOW-FLOW

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner


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Sunday, September 8, 2013

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

ENERGY SAVERS GUIDE

HABITS Continued from 7 “My computer charger was pulling a huge amount of energy,” Olson said. “Unused appliances make up anywhere from 10 to 15 percent of your bill. It’s not doing you any good to leave anything plugged in if you aren’t using it.” Both Leonhart and Olson also stressed weatherizing your home. If it’s drafty in the winter, Olson said, it’s still going to be drafty in the summer, letting cool air escape unless cracks or doors are sealed properly. Be sure to seal up heating and cooling ducts where air tends to leak, Leonhart said. Olson suggested having a professional inspect your home’s heating and cooling system and make the repairs. Exposed ducts in crawl spaces, basements and attics are often fixed with duct sealants or metal tapes. “People don’t understand their energy bills,” Olson said. “A few simple tips can make an incredible amount of difference.”

Steps to a smaller bill Cost-saving suggestions from the EPA and the Potomac Electric Power Co. (Pepco): • Plant shade trees strategically around your home. Properly selected

and planted shade trees can save up to $80 annually on the average electric bill. • Reduce the temperature of your water heater. Setting it too high (140 degrees or higher, according to Energy Star) can waste anywhere from $36 to $61 annually. • If you raise your thermostat setting by only two degrees and use your ceiling fan, you can lower your cooling costs by up to 14 percent. • As much as 20 percent of the air moving through your home’s duct system is lost through leaks, holes and poor connections. A professional contractor can identify leaks and fix them.

More Resources • The U.S. Department of Energy provides a comprehensive list of state, local, federal and utility incentives for homeowners to promote renewable energy and energy efficiency. Visit www.dsireusa.org for more information. • Energy Star’s Home Yardstick is a tool that gives you a basic assessment of your home’s energy use, compared with other homes in your neighborhood. Just plug in your Zip code, home’s square footage and more to get your score. Visit www.energystar.gov for more information.

Determining your home’s energy use THE WASHINGTON POST

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he U.S. Department of Energy provides the following information on how consumers can estimate the energy consumption of household appliances: Estimate the energy consumption and cost to operate an appliance when making a purchase. Investing in an energyefficient product may save you money in the long run. If you’re trying to decide whether to invest in a more energy-efficient appliance or you’d like to determine your electricity loads, you may want to estimate appliance energy consumption. • Use this formula to estimate an appliance’s energy use: (Wattage x hours used per day) ÷ 1000 = daily kilowatt-hour (kWh) consumption 1 kilowatt (kW) = 1,000 watts Multiply this by the number of days you use the appliance during the year for the annual consumption in kWh per year. Multiply the annual consumption in kWh per year (that you calculated above) by your local utility’s rate per kWh consumed to calculate the annual cost to run an appliance. Note: To estimate the number of hours that a refrigerator actually operates at its maximum wattage, divide the total time the refrigerator is plugged in by three. Refrigerators, although turned “on” all the time, actually cycle on and off as needed to maintain interior temperatures. • You usually can find the wattage of most appliances stamped on the bot-

Refrigerators, although turned “on” all the time, actually cycle on and off as needed to maintain interior temperatures. METROCREATIVECONNECTION.COM tom or back of the appliance, or on its nameplate. The wattage listed is the maximum power drawn by the appliance. Since many appliances have a range of settings (for example, the volume on a radio), the actual amount of power consumed depends on the setting used at any one time. If the wattage is not listed on the appliance, you can estimate it by finding the current draw (in amperes) and multiplying that by the voltage used by the appliance. Most appliances in the United States use 120 volts. Larger appliances, such as clothes dryers and electric cooktops, use 240 volts. The amperes might

be stamped on the unit in place of the wattage. If not, find a clamp-on ammeter — an electrician’s tool that clamps around one of the two wires on the appliance — to measure the current flowing through it. You can obtain this type of ammeter in stores that sell electrical and electronic equipment. Take a reading while the device is running; this is the actual amount of current being used at that instant. When measuring the current drawn by a motor, note that the meter will show about three times more current in the first second that the motor USE » 9


Sunday, September 8, 2013

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

ENERGY SAVERS GUIDE

9

Working to turn smokestack emissions into sources of energy By Brian Palmer SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON POST

If pollution had a mascot, it would be the smokestack. Do a Google image search for “pollution.” What do you see? A bunch of smokestacks with ominous gray clouds billowing out the top. It’s a reasonable association to make: Smokestack emissions contain nasty chemicals, including mercury, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, not to mention carbon dioxide, the biggest threat to our environment over the long term. But there have been some interesting breakthroughs in the past couple of years in the management of power plant emissions. One strategy is to capture the energy that remains embedded in smokestack gas. Even after combustion of fossil fuels, there’s a significant amount of energy bound up in the carbon dioxide

You usually can find the wattage of most appliances stamped on the bottom or back of the appliance, or on its nameplate. The wattage listed is the maximum power drawn by the appliance. Since many appliances have a range of settings, the actual amount of power consumed depends on the setting used at any one time. METROCREATIVECONNECTION.COM

USE Continued from 8 starts than when it is running smoothly. Many appliances continue to draw a small amount of stand-by power when they are switched “off.” These “phantom loads” occur in most appliances that use electricity, such as VCRs, televisions, stereos, computers and kitchen appliances. Most phantom loads will increase the appliance’s energy consumption a few watt-hours. These loads can be avoided by unplugging the appliance or using a power strip and using the switch on the power strip to cut all power to the appliance. Here are some examples of the range of nameplate wattages for various household appliances: • Aquarium: 50 to 1,210 watts • Clock radio: 10 • Coffee maker: 900 to 1,200 • Clothes washer: 350 to 500 • Clothes dryer: 1,800 to 5,000 • Dishwasher: 1,200 to 2,400 (using the drying feature greatly increases energy consumption) • Dehumidifier: 785

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Many appliances continue to draw a small amount of stand-by power when they are switched “off.” These “phantom loads” occur in most appliances that use electricity, such as VCRs, televisions, stereos, computers and kitchen appliances.

itself. Pumping that energy into the atmosphere is a missed opportunity. If we can recapture it instead, the amount of fossil fuel we’d have to burn — and smokestack gas we’d need to release — would drop noticeably. The idea behind smokestack gas extraction grew out of a technology called blue energy, which is based on the principle of osmosis: Particles move spontaneously from areas of high concentration to areas of low concentration. “If you take a lump of sugar and put in tea, the sugar dissolves and spreads through the tea in a spontaneous process,” said Bert Hamelers of Wetsus, a sustainable-water technology company. “That’s the energy we’re using.” Experimental blue energy facilities are built where saltwater and freshwater meet. SMOKESTACKS » 10

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Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

SMOKESTACKS Continued from 9 A membrane that allows water — but not salt — to pass through is placed between the two types of water. Nature wants to eliminate the difference in salt concentration, so freshwater floods across the membrane to dilute the salt. That movement can power a turbine and generate electricity. The smokestack technology applies this principle to a carbon dioxide concentration gradient. Hamelers said smokestack emissions are between 5 and 20 percent carbon dioxide. Ordinary air is less than 0.04 percent carbon dioxide. As with blue energy, water would still be involved. The system would be based around two containers of water — one that is mixed with dissolved air and the other with dissolved smokestack gas — separated by a membrane that allows only particles with a

The idea of feeding power plant emissions to algae has been around for years. Like other plant life, algae breathe in carbon dioxide. The challenge, however, has been the high levels of nitric oxide in smokestack gas. certain electrical charge to pass through. Ions from the dissolved air would cross the barrier to dilute the carbon dioxide molecules on one side of the membrane. Just as the movement of water would power the turbine in a blue energy system, this movement of ions would power an electrical cell in the smokestack gas system. So how far off is real-world use of this technology? “Our development of blue energy technology has taken about 10 years, and the first pilot plant will open in October or November in the Netherlands,”

Sunday, September 8, 2013

ENERGY SAVERS GUIDE

Hamelers said. “We have similar technological development issues to work out in the carbon dioxide system, but once that’s done, it could happen quickly.” If it works, the results could be significant. Depending on how efficient the extraction process becomes, installing such systems on power plants as well as the world’s home and industrial heaters could produce 400 times the energy generated by the Hoover Dam, according to Hamelers’ estimates. Scientists are developing a more biologically based strategy closer to home. Kathryn Coyne

and Jennifer Stewart of the University of Delaware are researching the capacity of algae to process smokestack gas. The idea of feeding power plant emissions to algae has been around for years. Like other plant life, algae breathe in carbon dioxide. The challenge, however, has been the high levels of nitric oxide in smokestack gas. Most algal species can’t process the compound, and they die in the presence of high concentrations. Coyne and Stewart recently stumbled upon a special species. “The algal species H. akashiwo has the unique capability to convert nitric oxide into nitrate,” Coyne said. “It then converts nitrate into nitrite and then into ammonium. Ammonium is a building block for amino acids the algae needs.” The algae process would also happen in water. The smokestack emissions would be bubbled through a pond next to the power plant. The algae in the pond

would use the nitrate and carbon dioxide to multiply. At the end, the power plant would have an enormous algal bloom. In a bay or estuary, an algal bloom is a terrible problem. In a power plant, however, an algal bloom can be a beautiful thing. Algae contain lipids, a kind of fat packed with useful energy. Engineers can extract the lipids and use them as biodiesel, thereby squeezing extra energy out of the power plant’s fossil fuels. When will we see little ponds of algae next to our power plants? “It’s hard to say,” Coyne said. “We’re currently experimenting on small samples, and algae can be difficult to scale up. On the other hand, this species is capable of living in high densities in marine environments, so it may be easier than usual.”

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Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

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ENERGY SAVERS GUIDE Paid Advertising Content

Better Efficiency, Better Health! Did you know? Excessive levels of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) are produced through the inefficient combustion of fuels, such as wood, coal, home heating fuel, gas, and diesel. A large portion of the Fairbanks North Star Borough (FNSB) was designated a “nonattainment” area for PM2.5 by the EPA because on several days each year there is more PM2.5 in the air than is healthy to breathe. By improving energy efficiency you reduce the amount of energy needed to stay warm, meaning you save money and help improve air quality in our community, too. Here are a few simple tips to improve energy efficiency: • Plug in your vehicle when its 20° above or colder for at least one hour before starting the engine. This can reduce emissions, including fine particulates and carbon monoxide, by up to 70% and minimizes vehicle wear and tear. Electric timers are inexpensive and can be

set to turn on automatically an hour or two before the time you usually leave the house to further minimize the amount of energy used. • Limit the idling of vehicles to 10 minutes or less to avoid wasting gas and polluting the air. A vehicle in motion warms up faster and more completely. • Ride the bus or carpool to reduce the amount of gas you use and to save money on vehicle maintenance costs. There are currently 9 bus routes offered by MACS Transit, including one route to the Eielson and Salcha areas and another around Van Horn Road. Check the website for upcoming proposed route changes and information on a new route to Ft. Wainwright. • Weatherize your home to reduce heating costs and emissions by using less fuel. • Perform regular maintenance on your heating appliance for maximum efficiency and safest use.

• Split, Stack, Store and Save! If heating with wood, split it at least once, stack to allow for good air flow, and store for at least six warm months to let your wood dry so that it has moisture content of 20% or less. Burning dry wood saves you money because you need less of it to heat your home. • Upgrade older heating appliances. The Borough Air Quality Division is still offering a reimbursement incentive for replacing or repairing SOLID fuel burning devices (i.e. wood or coal stoves, wood- or coalfired furnaces, wood- or coal-fired hydronic heaters, or fireplace inserts). There is also an incentive for removing wood- or coal-fired hydronic heaters. Contact FNSB Air Quality for more information. By taking simple steps to save energy, you save money and you help keep our air clean and healthy to breathe!!

FOR MORE INFORMATION AIR QUALITY Fairbanks North Star Borough www.AQFairbanks.com or 459-1005 Alaska Department of Conservation dec.alaska.gov/air Environmental Protection Agency airnow.gov

TRANSPORTATION www.fnsb.us/transportation MACS Transit – 459-1011 Van Tran – 459-1010

OTHER ENERGY SAVING TIPS UAF Cooperative Extension www.uaf.edu/ces/energy AHFC Home Energy Rebate www.ahfc.us/energy/ home_rebate.cfm

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Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

Sunday, September 8, 2013

ENERGY SAVERS GUIDE

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