June 21, 2018

If you think making energy improvements to your home is hard, try making them in rural Alaska where the closest hardware store is hundreds of miles away! Extreme weather, transportation challenges, and other factors make weatherizing homes in rural Alaska even harder.

The Alaska Weatherization program, administered by the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation (AHFC), is up to the challenge. The program has 62 weatherization workers directly employed across the state.

Program providers must balance the needs and habits of rural Alaskans with the weatherization work. Is it hunting and fishing season? Many rural Alaskans live a subsistence lifestyle, hunting and fishing for their food supply, which limits when program providers can do the work on their homes. Another factor that limits work is spring break-up, the annual time every spring when the ice on rivers and lakes begin to break-up and flow down river to the ocean. This allows shipping barges the opportunity to navigate up river with food and other supplies, like weatherization materials. If materials didn’t make it on the shipping barge, they will have to be flown in by an Alaskan bush pilot.

It is all worth it though. Mike Carlson, a BPI Healthy Home Evaluator and Quality Control Inspector, and weatherization specialist, spends most of his time traveling to rural Alaska making sure weatherization improvements are done right. He hears all the time from program participants about how the improvements have made their lives better. Mike says his favorite comment to hear from participants is, “I don’t have to wear my shoes in the house anymore.” He’s heard it so many times that he’s lost count.

Weatherization improvements provide many benefits, especially in Alaska where winter temperatures can dip below minus 50 degrees. One of the biggest benefits is reduced energy bills. Most homes in rural Alaska are heated by expensive fuel oil. Reducing energy costs by 30% or more has a big impact. Another benefit is the improvement to indoor air quality. Alaskans spend most of their time indoors during winter, so it is important to have healthy indoor air.

The most common measures in the Alaska Weatherization program are:

  1. Blower door assisted air sealing
  2. Attic insulation and baffles
  3. Floor insulation/ Rim joist insulation

So, the next time you think about making energy improvements, know that if program providers in Alaska can overcome their extreme logistics, you can too.

For more information about Alaska and its Weatherization program, visit www.ahfc.us.

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