Humid homes and mold treatments


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With the wet weather we’ve been experiencing in the Interior this latter summer, there is quite a bit of moisture on the ground- as well as a high ambient humidity.  Pressure tanks from wells are often weeping condensation, windows may show signs of beaded moisture in the corners (especially early in the mornings) and on grass along walkways soak shoes that go off the beaten path, even when not raining.  With such conditions, there are concerns with drywall and tile grout being growth areas for mold within homes, thus decreasing the air quality.

What can you do?  The first thing to do once you detect mold is to stop the ambient moisture from collecting -especially in corners, transition of materials used and around sweating water tanks as well as pipes.  Trays under pressure tanks or water treatment tanks can help.  Towels around metal faucet bases that run water for considerable time help to reduce condensation.  Even running a dehumidifier can help in daylight basements to assist to make the environment dryer.

Once locating the source of moisture and putting an end to it,  killing the mold by applying a solution with a wet cloth is the next step- which may require a stiff brush and follow up with a clean damp cloth wiping the area down. Drying the clean area with a fan allows you to then use a primer (best if containing a biocide) to make the area resistant to further mold growth.  The solution used to kill the mold early on depends on people’s preferences.  Governmental agencies used to suggest watered down household bleach but there were concerns over respiratory reactions to the bleach.  Some people use laundry detergent made into a slurry, while others suggest using mixtures of natural elements such as vinegar and baking soda.  Read various reputable sources before making your own cleaning solutions or buying off-the-shelf solutions.

And most of all, keep the known troublesome areas as dry as you can with fans and open sources of air movement.


Norway points the way


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Norway has long been held up as a model for how to hold common petrol resources.  It is one of the wealthiest nations, and has made investment decisions from proceeds of national revenues coming from oil extraction in the north sea for the most part.  They have been able to drill vast reserves with little spillage.  And they have been able to put together, in a smart way, a lucrative national fund that is similar to Alaska’s permanent fund.

Norway has at the same time had a keen eye on environmental protection and recently put aside a large preserve in the northern portion of the country- thus declaring near by oil fields as out of reach from current drilling. (This same part of Norway has been utilized to house a vault/bank of world seeds as well as a international data center in case of a global catastrophe.)

And with these sustainability concerns, the country still protects its oil interests and right to extract.  A case in point is the latest interception of Greenpeace’s Arctic Sunrise and 35 volunteers by the coast guard near the farthest north exploration area.  The attempt seemed to be to stop drilling by gaining ferrying access from rubber rafts and kayaks. Their reasoning was that they had the right to protest in international waters, and they proceeded within a third of a mile from one of the rigs.

Norway bases it’s right to protect such exploration under its petroleum act and at the same time has entered international agreements such as the Paris Accord to commit in reducing carbon and greenhouse gasses.  Expectations are that the exploration will continue with drilling for approximately another month. We will see shortly if there are more protesters who join in this short time frame, or whether they will find other avenues in the country short of going to drill rig venues to air their concerns.


Nuclear visit


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The big news of the day in Fairbanks is that with the Chena Hot Springs Energy Fair coming up this Sunday, there will be two presidential cabinet members speaking as well as the Alaska congressional delegation. Yet one name is missing from the fair that was originally slated- that is the secretary of energy, Rick Perry.  (A couple of weeks ago it was advertised he’d be speaking yet he won’t be making it in person. It will be interesting to see if he will be speaking at Chena Hot Springs via a stream fed welcome.)

Secretary Perry  visited a nuclear power plant today in Hanford, California.  It has been a troublesome complex  (as it was  contaminated over the years from manufacturing plutonium components).  Last year a tunnel in the roof which had  65 year old nuclear composite materials collapsed.  It still remains to be seen if the visit to Hanford may may be a platform toward announcing  a policy change toward nuclear plants being decomissioned.

Volcano power?


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As mentioned in the prior post, volcanoes are covered under emergency disaster concerns- and it is not so much the heat from lava that is a concern in Alaska but rather the results of natural combustion!  In other words, it is the ash from the intense volcanic heat that creates a problem for machinery and people’s respiratory system.

On the other hand, from a energy point of view, volcanoes can be a renewable energy source.  Or more directly, a geothermal renewable energy source.  Usually we think of hot water reservoirs or transfer of differential heat via fluids flowing through wells or underground tubing as ‘geothermal’.  Believe it or not though, hot layers of the Earth in volcanoes can be used to generate electricity in volcanic active areas. Turbines creating thermoelectric generation often do so by catching the hot vapors venting upward or in cases where there may be hot rock, introducing water to create steam can spin a generator (yet such cases are rarely exploited in the U.S.)

Living on the Pacific Rim, along the Ring of Fire, Alaska has neighbors who are exploiting this resource.  New Zealand and the Philippines are a couple.  Our polar neighbor Iceland has been focusing on how to take the heat on what amounts to their old magma flow island!  Such energy is considered ‘renewable’ in that the earth has ever producing internal heat to draw from.  And also because it does not produce combustion pollutants such as fossil fuels; yet there are precautions due to the innocuous gasses that can also come forth.  Now, if there was a way to use the lava flows from eruptions as thermal storage….



There she blows…..


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This past week I attended a Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) meeting in Prince William Sound.  The new state LEPC gave an introduction and report of his statewide activity since recently coming onto the job (after I gave a rundown on the activities and products we’ve been putting out on our earthquake and volcano focused emergency prep grant).  Folk present were from non-profits, hospital personnel emergency services,  educational sector, and even clergy.

It turns out that there are now 21 such committees in different parts of the state; yet there are over a dozen districts which don’t have an active committee.  Often the onus of disasters falls on the local fire department in such cases.  But where committees are active coordination is conducted for simulations, community wide drills, outreach efforts, etc… I worked during this past week with the local radio station to put out several public service announcements focusing on earthquakes and volcanoes.  With the latter, lava flows are not the concern such as in Hawaii and Washington emergency plans but rather it is ash from sudden eruptions that causes problems. While there aren’t generally electrical outages from the eruption like there may be with an earthquake or flood, in remote Alaska volcanoes can take out power systems afterward as if precautions aren’t taken to keep the ash out of the air intakes on diesel generators the unsuspecting sharp edges of the fine, abrasive  dust can render the engines useless.

After giving a presentation this past week on emergency preparation, per volcanoes one attendee told me that when Mount St. Helens blew in the 1980s he and other mechanics found that doubling pantyhose over the intakes kept the dangerous ash dust out.  And for those who are in the area during an eruption, N-95 facemarks will help to prevent personal respiratory distress. Often it is the problems that come after an event such as mold from floods, ash from volcanic eruptions, and tsunamis from earthquakes which are a problem from a healthy homes perspective, and from a power generating perspective!

Battery operated…..houses?

The innovative car company, Tesla, is now offering to run your house on a battery.  The new  power wall has two sizes:  in 10kWh and 7 kWh daily cycle models, which could run 4 to 3 homes on the road system, respectively.  What is very nice about these batteries is the ability to tie additional ones together so that you can have an aggregate source of  90 kWh (for 10 kWh batteries) and 63 kWh (for 7 kWh batteries).  With plants being built for this scale of lithium-ion battery technology,  this is an answer to on demand electricity when outages occur, or if you are off grid. Take a sneak peak:
Now, if you add solar to the equation, these Tesla cells open up a whole new world for those who are not hooked to the grid.  (Tesla is now working with  SolarCity, and has attracted enough customers to equate to a sixth of Alaska’s population so that this partnership takes up almost half of the household battery storage market).  For some time in solar has been readily available from the view point of converting radiant heat into electrons, but often it has not been cost feasible due to 1) the cost of the silicon PV panels and 2) storage of the electrons.  With PV panels down to almost a dollar a watt (where at the beginning of the century they generally were over ten dollars a watt) the conversion is cheaper than ever and with the lithium ion batteries the storage is now reasonable for many residences.
 Yet even with charging the batteries off the grid, the ability  to store excess energy during the middle of the night when there is low demand and then burn up the KW during peak hours (generally a higher cost rate for KW) has helped some people to save money due to taking advantage of daily rate differentials.  One  project is using 10-killowatt-hour batteries to gather 2 days of power and have it on hand.  This is a great advantage when planning for emergency/disaster power outages.  Suppose wind and ice storms that have become more frequent in the fall the last several years take down your toyo stove and refrigerator….This may not be a big deal if it is just for a couple of hours, but depending what time of year it is you could have a real problem on your hands if you are talking two days.  Broken pipes, food going bad, cost of a motel, etc…  And though you can use a $500 generator for a couple hours of outage, does everyone in your home know how to pull start it or push button start it in cold weather?  Though more expensive, possibly a super cell battery would be of better use…


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Recently there has been concern that a tsunami similar to the magnitude of the Fukushima Japanese event in 2011 could hit Alaska’s coast (triggered by an earthquake).  With the strength of over 100 feet high, as many as a quarter of a million people perished from the Tsunami in Indonesia just over a half decade ago.  The subduction zone which Alaska is off of has similar characteristics as these deadly Pacific events as the geology has structures that are similar to the Shumagin  gap off the Alaska Peninsula on into SE Alaska.  The stressors tend to erupt every half a century (or slightly more).  An event to happen there would probably not hit Anchorage but there are over a hundred communities on the shore which could be overwhelmed.

If a tsunami hits, there is the home damage of flooding, immediate loss of electricity, and often smashed out windows and force exacted against load bearing walls.  How can you prepare so that when you evacuate there is less damage to deal with when you come home? If you have time after a warning or an actual earthquake that can trigger a tsunami, quickly empty the fridge and freezer into large containers you can hug off to avoid rotting.  Put plywood up on the windows facing the coast.  Take items off your deck that could roll or be pushed into windows.  Take what fuel containers you can from lawnmowers, snowblowers, snow machines, etc… for generation of power at relocation quarters and to keep it from washing up into the home through a sprung door or broken window.

Always remember that you want to throw your main breaker off and try to relocate cars behind the home with windows cracked.  All of this depends on how much time it takes you to relocate to higher ground or have to drive away.  And remember to always take a crank, solar or battery powered weather radio with you.  Be prepared, and evacuate smartly.




Ag Appreciation Day

Tomorrow will be the annual noon-5pm Ag Day at the farm in Palmer.  There are a variety of items see and things to do  For Energy, we’ll show some  biomass related test/research equipment. Several faculty will talk about their work/funding after supper at the Mess Hall.

Several facultly will be there who are working on  biochar; one working on heat, one on water reclamation, one on water filtration, and one on soil amendment properties.  We’ve been prepping items up over there today, items such as:

  • All Powers lab downdraft gasifier
  • Pyrolysis unit for creating biochar (will be making it on the spot)
  • Grinders for feedstock dust
  • Gasification Experimental Kit Power Pallet (30kw)
  • Explosion proof and vented lab
  • Heavy water unit for heat extraction from liquid biomass
Come on over and you will see some simple yet workable research as well as full animal activities.   Appreciated,  Art Nash

Earth heat



Geothermal energy is getting heat (thermal) from the ground (geo).  Many people are familiar from heat being harvested from surface hot springs (Chena Hot Springs outside of Fairbanks uses direct hot water pools for tourism/baths- but also utilizing a system with various chemical fluids to create electricity). Yet heat from the ground can also be harvested sub surface.  Hot reservoirs of pooled water along faults can be tapped and the water used directly, or the water can be drawn to turbines.  Areas under the ground where there are hot dry rocks can be utilized.   Even volcanic areas can yield heated fluids.

These types of extractions are fairly capital intensive and may be operated by state/nationally owned enterprises, or possibly private corporations (such as in the SW U.S. where major oil companies had divisions to extract heat).  But for the local home owner or resident who does not have a surface spring of water bubbling up on their property, there are a couple ways to access heat from the ground.

Ground source heat pumps can be operated at a single home dwelling, or large industrial/commercial buildings.  And there are a couple of ways.   One is to dig a very large, wide trench to drop horizontal and flexible tubing and then bury it.  Or to drop a well casing down and put a pump in.  In these systems, hot water is not drawn up, but rather a fluid is circulated IN the piping….The key then- the next post’s subject- is how to transfer the heat from the ground!

Changes in European energy alliances


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Hungary has been occasionally in the news the last couple years with its protectionist immigration policies as refugees from the Middle East disperse across Europe.   Historically, Hungary is probably most remembered for its short lived fight as one of Eastern Europe’s first Soviet Block countries to rebel against the Soviet Union/Russia (1956).

Russia has caused fright the last decade with its actions against Georgia and the Ukraine, which involved cutting of citizens from it’s piped in oil.  Poland for one, has watched such actions with a weary eye (and NATO has been seen as a protection from other Russian incursions).  Yet Hungary has recently voiced full solidarity with Poland, while aligning itself with Russia- for its energy.  Russia has been assisting Hungary with its only nuclear power plant in constructing reactors.   Trying to stay independent from the major powers in and out of the EU, Hungary has been grappling with a future shrinking national labor force (as the number  of children born has been dropping).

As geopolitics shift, energy suppliers (and demand) will be an interesting factor in the mix of considerations that countries make when addressing each other.