Surviving In Rural Alaska: Using Local Coal In Healy To Heat An Entire Hotel & Restaurant Complex

Healy coal truck near Denali Park

Lowering Heating Costs In Healy... 

By Using What Comes Naturally  

Totem Inn is in the coal-mining town of Healy on the northern border of Denali National Park. 

Instead of using spruce trees (as Tok does -- see the story about Tok in this blog)  Kevin Hamel at Totem 
has "gone local" to heat his place. He tapped into the nearby coal mine that's just down the road from him. 

The Totem Inn put in a 1.8 million BTU furnace that they plumbed to all their scattered buildings. It takes care of their domestic water and heat.  Coal is inexpensive. Sold directly, Usibelli coal can cost around $65 to $70 a ton. "So one ton of coal is equal to about 110 gallons of diesel," said Kevin Hamel. There's a huge difference in cost -- $65 versus $450 -- for the same heating power.

Totem Inn constructed a custom, partly-underground outdoor facility to hold
the coal, and to help feed it into the furnace. The furnace was expected to be 
paid for in about a year, Kevin estimated. He believes it'll take two or three years to pay off the building.

And, he says, the coal burns clean.  "They state it's 82% efficient, which is pretty much what diesel is," commented Kevin. Best of all, in addition to using
a product that originates a mile and a half away from the hotel, 
there's going to be a winning bottom line: "By the numbers, we'll be saving
probably about $50,000 to $60,000 a year."

Story copyright Bearfoot Travel Guides, 2015. 
(This story was written a year or so ago and has not been updated)

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