Don’t Neglect Your Heat Pump Compressor!

It’s easy to forget about your heat pump when temps climb into the 70s, but early summer is an important time to show your heat pump’s compressor a bit of love! We suspect that your heat exchanger fins are gunking up!

You may have noticed ‘willow snow’ floating around our air recently. Willow trees across southeast are shedding their seeds, sending the tiny reproductive packets on their way with the aid of what I like to call willow snow, that bit of cottony fluff that catches any bit of wind and takes the seeds to their prospective new homes. While this is an impressive and ingenious seed dispersal method, these seeds and associated fluff are great at gumming up our outdoor heat pump compressors. And, once the willows are through, fireweed seeds will fly close behind!

As your heat pump compressor pulls air across its heat exchanging fins, willow and fireweed fluff, along with grass, flies, and any other air-transported material, will accumulate on the fins. This material works to block both air transport and the heat exchanging process, decreasing the unit’s efficiency. In short, operating costs go up and performance, i.e. the ability to heat or cool, goes down.

My heat pump compressor is fairly well removed from trees and plants, yet the middle two photos above show its condition this morning. It’s not horrible, like the internet-grabbed image on the far left, but it could be better and it will just worsen as summer progresses. It’s time for a cleaning!

Some local heat pump contractors offer an annual maintenance service, a process well worth the small fee, considering what you have invested in your heat pump. Call around to see who is available to do this important maintenance work. A few times each summer I take care of the easiest part of the cleaning process myself. If you choose to clean the fins on your own, BE CAREFUL! The heat exchanger fins are extremely fragile and can bend easily. While bent fins can be straightened, a special ‘comb’ is needed and a contractor may be best suited to take care of this detail.

I use a vacuum cleaner with a long hose and a very soft brush attachment. If you look closely at the fins, you’ll see that they run vertically, top to bottom. If you work side to side, you will bend the fins. Very slowly, I run the brush from the bottom to the top, pressing very lightly to draw up as much material as I can. Working gently may mean that a few passes are needed. The results won’t be perfect, but the fins should be much cleaner than when you started. The left side of the compressor fin array is blocked by a screen of sorts, attached with a few screws. In the images above, this is the third image from left. I take this off and work the vacuum gently up or down these fins, putting the screen back in place when done.

And that’s it! There are other parts of the compressor that should be cleaned as well, but if you just want to get rid of the bulk of the mess, carefully using a vacuum and soft brush attachment can do the trick.

100 Women Who Care to Fund New Alaska Heat Smart ‘HELP’ Program!

AHS is proud to announce that the Juneau 100 Women Who Care has chosen Alaska Heat Smart during its second philanthropic offering of 2023! The many caring women involved have raised more than $30,000 for Alaska Heat Smart and the foundation of a new, quick and nimble, Heating Emergency Lower-Income Program, or HELP

Since its first Juneau ‘giving event’ in early 2020, the Juneau 100 Women Who Care organization has raised nearly $400,000 for local nonprofit causes. The group has grown from roughly 100 women to nearly 350 members so each quarter’s offering to the chosen nonprofit can be quite substantial. Previous recipients of the generosity of Juneau’s 100 Women Who Care include the United Human Services of Alaska, Juneau Animal Rescue, The Glory Hall, and Renewable Juneau’s Carbon Offset Fund. 

Alaska Heat Smart board members and two friendly dogs join leaders from Juneau’s 100 Women Who Care to celebrate!

Current heating assistance programs offered by AHS are federally-funded and subject to income verification, home surveys, environmental reviews, historic preservation office constraints, and more. In short, while the end result of these programs is warm, dry, efficient, and economical homes, months can pass from the time of a homeowner’s application to the completion of work.

If a family’s heating system is failing or fails, especially during winter months, there is little time to act. Both the family’s health and that of the home are potentially at risk. Our HELP program will move the family in need to the top of the AHS project lists. Staff will work with the family to verify that gross household income is below 80% median area income. Pre-established arrangements with local contractors will allow for quick deployment of services. AHS and contractor staff will assess the home’s needs, form a work plan, order equipment if needed, and proceed with heating system improvements. If necessary, interim measures will be taken to provide temporary heat while parts are acquired and work performed. 

Please help us spread the word to Juneau families who may be able to benefit from this new assistance program. Winter has just ended, but we all know that the next cold and snowy season is not all that far off. Awareness of this new and valuable program will help to ensure its success.

More information will be available soon! For questions, contact AK Heat Smart at 907-500-5050.

Community Energy Efficiency Campaign Guidebook LIVE!

Months in the works, the Thermalize Juneau ‘how-to’ guidebook, “Thermalize Your Rural Community: How to Bring Clean Energy & Energy Efficiency to Your Community’s Doorstep” is now live. This tremendous body of work, made possible by the superhuman efforts of Alaska’s Information Insights, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and Alaska Heat Smart, is THE blueprint to instruct any community on building a community-based energy efficiency campaign.

The Thermalize Juneau StoryMap guidebook has been designed to be interactive, engaging, informative, and fun! It is built to provide assistance to community leaders in small, rural locations to promote beneficial electrification through wide-scale adoption of energy-efficient technologies for homes and businesses. The guidebook details all stages of a thermalize campaign for rural cold-climate communities, from early planning to program evaluation. The tools, forms, and lessons that came out of the Thermalize Juneau 2021 campaign are linked for easy download throughout the StoryMap. A full list of resources, which includes outreach materials, heat pump specs, requests for proposals, surveys, reports, and more can be found in the Resources section.

This guide offers many best practices and recommendations from our own experience in setting up a campaign of this kind in a rural, isolated community. There is no single way to start on the path to beneficial electrification or to organize and implement a thermalize campaign. Our guidebook seeks to connect residents, leaders, organizers, and energy enthusiasts with Thermalize Juneau’s campaign resources and experiences so that they may design an approach that aligns with their opportunities and nee

Get started today with Thermalize Your Rural Community. We’d love to hear from you! Send is your thoughts, questions, takeaways, impressions. You’ll find other Thermalize Juneau resources on our Thermalize page.

Save money with incentives for home heating and efficiency!

The Juneau Empire covers Alaska Heat Smart’s most popular money-saving home heating programs!

Heat Smart heat pump program story in Juneau Empire

In short, there really has never been a better time to add a heat pump to your home. Alaska Heat Smart can connect you to low-interest traditional financing, provide a financial incentive of up to $3,000 towards your heat pump purchase, or offer up to $15,000 in funds to improve your home’s heating, air sealing, and safety. Alaska Heat Smart can guide you along your pathway to clean and affordable renewable energy heating with a free home heat pump assessment.

ADVICE: How to Buy a Heat Pump for your Home

…thanks to an unprecedented flood of rebates and incentives from local, state and federal governments, they’ve never been this affordable…

How to buy a heat pump for your home – The Washington Post

This clear and concise article from the Washington Post (you should be able to view three articles for free without a subscription) lays out a logical process for planning a home heating switch to a heat pump.

  1. Assess your home’s present heating system condition and plan ahead for replacement
  2. Explore your home’s state of efficiency, looking at insulation, air sealing, as well as electrical capacity
  3. Look into potential system costs, paying attention to numerous available incentives, credits, traditional financing options
  4. Find a contractor and how to choose one

While this list may be easy for some to explore and achieve, many of us just aren’t all that comfortable looking at our home’s in these ways. Luckily, Alaska Heat Smart offers free advisory services to help you answer these questions and gain a better understanding of the interplay of your home and its heating systems. Every home is unique and there is no true one size fits all solution. While we at Heat Smart have learned that nearly every home can benefit from the addition of a heat pump, the specifics are important and ‘getting it right’ cannot be understated. Apply for a free home heat pump assessment to start your path to savings and carbon-free heating! And, check out our assistance programs that can help slash the cost of your switch to a heat pump!

But wait, there’s more!

Alaska Heat Smart has ‘made the news’ recently in three related stories about heat pumps and their ability to function in cold climates. You’ll be happy to know that yes, heat pumps really do move an abundance of heat when temps drop! Yesterday it was 12 degrees on my deck and my home was a toasty 70 degrees. And, I spent $3.40 yesterday to heat 1450 square feet over two stories.

Heat Pumps Sell Like Hotcakes on America’s Oil-Rich Frontier | WIRED

An Alaska-centric heat pump update, covering the surge in interest spanning the state, from Fairbanks, to Anchorage, Juneau, and Sitka!

When she (Genevieve Gagne-Hawes, a resident of Alaska’s capital) received a bill of almost $900 last March for heating her home during the winter months, she decided to find an alternative. Gagne-Hawes decided to install an air source heat pump. “I expected it to be fine but it’s been spectacular,” says Gagne-Hawes. She says the heat pump is saving her roughly $100 a month.

Heat Pumps Sell Like Hotcakes on America’s Oil-Rich Frontier | WIRED

How the Inflation Reduction Act Can Save You Money

A Consumer’s Guide – The New York Times

Alaska Heat Smart is finding many IRA articles out there in internet land. When we stumble upon a good one, we’ll share it with you. This summary of the IRA’s diverse credits and rebates in the New York Times is easily digested and is clear and concise. There should be no paywall for this article. If you come upon one in using the link below, copy and paste the headline into a new browser window.

Many American consumers are now eligible to save thousands of dollars when they buy an electric car, heat pump, solar panels or energy-efficient appliances.

How the Inflation Reduction Act Can Save You Money: A Consumer’s Guide – The New York Times

Also, be sure to visit Alaska Heat Smart’s FAQ page on the Inflation Reduction Act where we regularly update the most pressing questions and answers that have come our way over the past month or two.

Heat Pump FOMO?

If you live on Juneau’s Starr Hill, or anywhere between Gastineau Avenue and upper 7th Street, home to some of Juneau’s oldest neighborhoods, and you call the quaint, colorful, steep hillsides near the base of Gold Ridge your home, you may be subject to a serious case of heat pump FOMO. According to the all-knowing internet, FOMO is an emotional response to the belief that other people are living better, more satisfying lives, or that important opportunities are being missed. FOMO often leads to feelings of unease, dissatisfaction, depression and stress.

Here at Alaska Heat Smart, it is our hope that ‘Starr Hill FOMO’ will lead any that find themselves afflicted to add a heat pump to their home’s heating mix. FOMO relief may just be that easy to remedy! A recent ‘Starr Hill heat pump prowl’ revealed a surprising number of heat pumps in Juneau’s 100+ year old neighborhood. If you’re willing to do the heat pump prowl, and brave Starr Hill’s legendary staircases, some pushing 200 steps, you’ll find many of these energy-saving, bill-slashing, emissions-eliminating heat pumps. They’re tucked under stairways, wedged below decks, mounted in back alleys and on the dark and mossy uphill sides of homes. A quick way to locate the more challenging and discreet units is to look for the lineset, the white channel-covered refrigerant connection between the outdoor compressor and the indoor air handler. This white link across the home, or up a wall, can easily be mistaken for a common rain gutter downspout.

Starr Hill heat pump collage

In all, Alaska Heat Smart’s Sunday heat pump prowl discovered 31 different Starr Hill heat pumps. Some were really tucked away, convincing us that there are others to be found. We’ll keep looking as we sort of like the stairs and the associated exercise that comes with the required up and down of the prowl.

Heat pump FOMO is probably not limited to residents of Starr Hill who are yet to acquire a heat pump. It really could strike anyone. If you find you need help and would like some professional assistance in understanding just how a heat pump could improve your home heating, reach out to AK Heat Smart and apply for a free home heat pump assessment. You’ll come away educated, empowered, and maybe just a little less ridden with the unease, dissatisfaction, depression and stress that the internet suggests are associated with FOMO’s dark side.

Your Electric Bank Account!

The Inflation Reduction Act is live!

Tax credits available under the August 2022 Inflation Reduction Act are now yours! There are no income limits to block the availability of these credits. If you incur tax liability in 2023, you may be eligible for some of these fantastic financial catalysts for energy efficiency action. And, these credits are not limited to just 2023! Unless something changes at a congressional level, these credits reset every year until 2032. This means that a bit of project planning will be to your benefit. By organizing your energy efficiency home improvement projects, you may be able to take $1,200 in tax credits for a number of years. You cannot carry over any unused credit but you can stagger your expenditures to enable the credits over multiple years.

The Inflation Reduction Act tax credits are like having your own ‘electric bank account’!

Rewiring America

For example, you could upgrade your electrical panel this year to allow for the addition of a heat pump, grabbing the $600 panel credit and the 30% of cost (up to $2,000) heat pump credit. (Note: the 30 percent tax credit up to $600 for an electrical panel upgrade is only an option if the panel upgraded in conjunction with another upgrade, like a heat pump.) Next year, a bit of air sealing and insulation work will allow another $1,200 in tax credit. Maybe the following year you upgrade a door and a couple of windows, netting yet another $1,200 in credit. By working with the annual cap of $1,200, this credit can be applied to numerous cost-saving improvements, saving you thousands of dollars and lowering annual energy costs

Here are some great resources to get you thinking about your home improvements, energy efficiency, and IRA tax credits:


Alaska Heat Smart’s IRA FAQ page

DOE: Making Our Homes More Efficient: Clean Energy Tax Credits for Consumers

Upfront Discounts and Energy Efficiency Rebates

These very generous financial incentives will not be available until later into 2023 or even sometime in 2024. These upfront cost discounts differ from tax credits in that your gross household may not exceed designated income caps. While we have not yet seen these final income caps, we assume that they will be similar to those that apply to the Alaska Heat Smart Clean Heat Incentive Program, though the upper limit of the IRA rebates will be a bit more generous.

Alaska Heat Smart is increasingly asked whether or not a homeowner should hold off on a heat pump installation or weatherization upgrades, and choose to hold out for the IRA rebates. This is a personal decision and there are many factors that come into play. How long do you want to wait to start your savings? How imminent is your boiler or furnace failure? Can you go another winter with the systems you currently have? Should you act now and combine existing benefit programs, taking advantage of the rebates one they become available?

If in doubt, be sure to take a look at our existing programs. It is possible to mix and match some of these, allowing you to act now. The combination of a heat pump incentive, a tax credit, and even a low interest heat pump loan can you have you saving in no time.

Stay Warm by Cleaning Your Filter

A clogged air source heat pump filter will cost you in more ways than one!

Gross! This very dirty and neglected indoor unit air filter is crying out for help. If air cannot easily pass through the filter on its way to the heat exchanger, the unit has to work harder and will be far less efficient than you want it to be. Reduced air flow means less heat exchanging, or very simply, less heat. As the unit works harder to pull air through this mess, more energy is used and if we do the math our equation looks like:

dirty grimy filter + more work = higher cost + less heat. A lose-lose situation.

Luckily, a dirty filter is very easy to remedy! We encourage you to read this great post by Building Energy Vermont as it covers all the cleaning details needed to bring your sorry filters back to top notch condition. If you live in a home with pets or carpet you should check your filters at least every two weeks. If your indoor unit is close to your cooking stove, especially if you have an unvented stove, we suggest a weekly check. Dust, combined with greasy stove fumes, can really make a mess of your filter, again, costing your both heat and money. If this reality continues too long, grease and grime will find their way behind your filter and make a more invasive maintenance project necessary.

Consider a deep clean once a year! Some local contractors offer an annual maintenance program that we believe easily pays for itself with improved heat exchanger performance. Ask the contractors listed on our Find an Installer page about their annual service agreements!