Wednesday, May 14, 2008

How do you heat your water?


Energy Woes: A Personal Action Plan

This morning I was talking with a colleague of mine in Anchorage who told me that, in general, people in Anchorage aren’t aware of an energy crisis; the prices just don’t seem to be causing problems for them. And on an Anchorage Daily News blog from May 11 about the blessings of $4 gas, the readers seemed to be overwhelmingly clamoring for $10 gas. But here in the interior, and for most of rural Alaska, its not news to anyone that there’s an economic crunch in most people’s pocketbooks lately, and fuel prices have a lot to do with it. But Anchorage pays the same prices at the pump that we in Fairbanks do- so what the heck is going on here? Are all those big business dollars keeping them safe? I think the difference is all in the buildings.

Anchorage uses primarily natural gas for space and water heating, and their price for natural gas is $ 8.73 per MCF, which is about one million BTU’s. That equals an equivalent #2 diesel price of $1.13. Natural gas customers in Fairbanks are doing better (in theory) than those on oil, but home heating is more expensive in the north, period. So since the home is what’s killing us, and heating is the major use of home energy in the interior, here are some tips on how to save on your home heating bill this summer.

Since its warm outside, you’re probably not spending a lot on space heating. Instead, there’s another energy gremlin that might take many of you by surprise this summer-that’s water heating for domestic hot water, or DHW. DHW can account for up to 50% of the annual heating load on well-insulated houses that have already been well air-sealed. One of the major culprits to this are so-called tankless coil heat exchangers on boilers. During the summer, these boilers have to stay hot in case hot water is needed, and this wastes a lot of fuel. Other culprits are poorly insulated hot water storage tanks, and electric water heaters. Electricity costs the equivalent of $6.67 for a gallon of #2 heating fuel right now, but its more efficient than a boiler or furnace-still, it’s cheaper to use oil or natural gas for any kind of heating.

Some options for reducing your water heating costs are: get a well-insulated water storage tank; have a solar hot water heater installed; use less hot water (80% of the water used by the average American comes from the hot faucet) or go to a heat-pump water heater, though these are untested here in the far north. Use the chart given here to guide your decision--and remember that the values given here are for a basic amount of water usage: a family of four will use more, so the annual energy cost will matter more. In general, solar thermal is the cheapest way to heat water, but we’re waiting on the Cold Climate Housing Research Center for hard numbers to back that assertion for our climate.

Improving water heater performance may be eligible for the energy rebate program from AHFC, so remember to ask your energy rater about them. You can hear more about the rebate and other programs from the AHFC energy programs hotline at 1-877-325-2508. We at the Alaska Cooperative Extension have loads of information about saving money on energy, and we’re here to serve you. And if you own a diesel and those pump prices are getting you down, try the Fairbanks Biodiesel Collective at Biodiesel-l@lists.uaf.edu.

Garrison Collette is an energy and Housing Consultant with the Alaska Cooperative Extension. He can be reached at 474-2402 or GS.Collette@uaf.edu

45 comments:

Walter said...

You said: "Natural gas customers in Fairbanks are doing better (in theory) than those on oil, but home heating is more expensive in the north, period."

Well, maybe, the oil users should check out some bioheat. Same thing as regular oil, but blended with biodiesel. Just imagine, if all users where to switch to a B5 blend, we would be able to conserve 400 MILLION gallons of regular heating oil. Now, that would definitely make a difference wouldn't it?

While working at NORA I came upon that information. I would have never known if it weren't for this site: http://oilheatamerica.com/index.mv?screen=bioheat

Check it out. It has all the info there. I'm not a genius I just took info from the site.

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