Wood heat use rising in Fairbanks borough

Posted: Wednesday, July 14, 2010

FAIRBANKS - A survey of households in Fairbanks North Star Borough shows an increase in the number of people using wood for heat.

The researchers who conducted the phone survey last winter determined the number of borough households using wood heat is up about 7 percent since 2006. They also learned that wood heat is more popular in North Pole than any other ZIP code.

The increase in wood stove usage correlates with a rise in air pollution. Borough administrators are using the survey results to help decide where to steer funding for a wood stove replacement program.

Last month, the Borough Assembly approved an air pollution control plan, putting limits on chimney pipe emissions and the types of stoves that can be installed in the borough.

"What we want to see is the number of uncertified devices drop," said Jim Conner, the borough air quality specialist.

The study estimates there are more than 9,000 fireplaces and wood stoves in use in the borough's non-attainment area, a domain that stretches from the Tanana River to the Goldstream Valley and from North Pole to the Old Nenana Highway. Researchers estimate 90 outdoor wood boilers occupy the non-attainment area.

The borough is using federal grant money to help residents purchase new, cleaner-burning wood stoves. The borough will start accepting applications by the end of the month.

Conner said priority will be given to people replacing outdoor wood boilers, believed to be some of the biggest polluters.

The Alaska Department of Environmental Conversation commissioned the survey that was performed by Sierra Research Inc. of Sacramento, Calif.

In other heating matters, the study found the average amount of home heating oil burned per household has dropped since 2006 - from 1,099 gallons to 818 gallons. The survey also found that those who heat with natural gas have seen their bills more than double in the past four years.

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