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Electric Thermal Storage Heating Field Study

Researchers at the University of Alaska Fairbanks are recruiting participants for a 36-month field study on whether the use of Electric Thermal Storage Heaters (ETSH) can help reduce outdoor fine particulate matter (PM2.5) levels and reduce home heating costs in the Fairbanks North Star Borough (FNSB).


What is an ETSH?

An ETSH is a supplementary heating appliance. It consists of an electric resistance heating element used to heat ceramic bricks enclosed in an insulated box. As the bricks heat up, they serve as thermal storage. Fans blow air across the hot bricks heating the air, which is then blown into the home.

 

ETSH 1
 A cutaway of an ETSH

ETSH are already in use in Alaska. Several communities are diverting excess electricity from their wind installations to ETSH at a discounted price. This provides cost savings to customers.

Why is an Electric Thermal Storage Heater (ETSH) study needed?

In Alaska, space heating is a necessity. However, burning fuel to heat living spaces has costs. In the FNSB, most households use heating fuel oil as their primary source of space heating and firewood as a secondary heating source.

The FNSB is not in compliance with air quality standards for PM2.5, which is associated with negative health impacts. Wood-burning heating devices are the largest source of PM2.5 in the borough. However, wood is a relatively low-cost fuel compared to heating fuel oil. This forces many FNSB households to choose between healthy air quality and more affordable home heating.

ETSH could help solve the problem by providing residents with an additional low-cost home heating option that does not generate local PM2.5 emissions.

The main goals of the field study are:

  1. Determine whether using ETSH can help improve outdoor air quality.
  2. Learn about home heating costs.
  3. Identify low-cost home heating options.

How will the ETSH study be conducted?

The field study will be conducted over the next three years in North Pole, Alaska. Data on outdoor PM2.5 levels, weather, ETSH use, and fuel use will be collected. This data will allow researchers to determine whether using ETSH helps reduce outdoor PM2.5 levels and heating costs.

The timeline of the field study is described below.

Year 1

  • Up to 100 outdoor air quality sensors will be installed to gather baseline data on levels of PM2.5 before any ETSH are installed.
  • Up to 20 weather stations will be installed to gather weather data.
  • A survey will be conducted to gather baseline information on transportation and heating fuel use in the study area. A $25 Amazon gift card will be given to those who complete the survey.

Year 2

  • Up to 50 ETSH will be installed in homes that currently use fuel oil and wood for space heating.
    • All study participants will keep all their current heating appliances.
    • The electricity used by the ETSH will be subsidized to reduce the cost of heating with electricity.
    • Participants will receive a monthly credit on their electric bill. 
  • A follow-up survey will be conducted to gather information on transportation or heating fuel use changes. Another $25 Amazon gift card will be given.
  • Data on PM2.5 will continue to be collected.
  • Weather data will continue to be collected.

Year 3

  • A second follow-up fuel use survey will be conducted to gather information on transportation or heating fuel use changes. Another $25 Amazon gift card will be given.
  • Data on PM2.5 will continue to be collected.
  • Weather data will continue to be collected.

At the end of the field study

  • Those who install an outdoor air quality sensor will be given the sensor, their data, and $50 for their participation.
  • Those who install a weather station will be given the weather station.
  • Those who install an ETSH will be given the option to keep the heater or have it removed from their home. 

How do I take part in the ETSH study?

There are multiple ways to take part in the study, including:

  • Taking the annual fuel use survey.
  • Installing an outdoor air quality sensor on your property.
  • Installing an outdoor weather station on your property.
  • Installing an ETSH in your home.

Please note: We are no longer recruiting study participants.