Cutting edge techniques keep Fairbanks home toasty with almost no fuel 

From the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner: Karl Kassel fell in love with the site while ptarmigan hunting in 1975. At the top of Murphy Dome, his octagonal wood house overlooks Denali and Murphy Dome Valley. It was 2 below zero outside and 70 degrees inside when he woke up Wednesday. He hadn’t heated the home for three days.

Energy from his windows, solar photovoltaic panels, wind turbine and solar thermal panels was being stashed for next winter.

“If it stays sunny for the next several days, we’ll probably not have to light the fire again until October,” he said.

Kassel, his wife Billie and their 15-year-old son moved into the off-the-grid house last January.

“It’s crazy the amount of energy that’s available here in Fairbanks, that we waste,” said Kassel, who had been dreaming up the house since the 1970s. “I finally said, ‘I’m going to do this. It makes sense, the energy’s available, the efficient designs are here. We know how to do this. Why aren’t we?’”

So Kassel hired Thorsten Chlupp, general contractor and owner of Reina LLC, to build a highly efficient home that made the most of the area’s resources. They designed a house that combines passive solar design, renewable technologies and energy storage to make the variable sunlight in Fairbanks last almost the whole year. They are studying its performance to make the design more efficient, less expensive and less dependent on fossil fuels.

Passive design

The southern side of Kassel’s 1,800-square-foot house is mostly windows, letting in every drop of available sunlight.

The octagon is 20 percent more efficient than a square design because it has a lower surface-to-volume ratio and softer corners, which is where you lose the most heat, Chlupp said.

It was just as warm in the shadowed arctic entryway as by the sunny window.

“You don’t have any loss, you don’t have any drafts,” Chlupp said. “You can feel very comfortable in a house like this at 64, 66 degrees.” Read more

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