Since Log Cabin Wilderness Lodge is located off of the electrical grid, John and Jill use a combination of sources and technologies to produce enough heat and energy to maintain a comfortable year-round lifestyle in their beautiful valley.
Due to the dramatic changes in light and temperatures from season to season in Alaska, it takes a mix of approaches and some hard work, yet they are able to go green in their energy usage.
The electrical power comes from solar panels, inverters, batteries and the 5 or 6 kilowatt diesel generators.
The bulk of the heat is produced by an outdoor wood boiler. The Rusyniaks do have a wood stove in the great room that is used on occasion. Each of their five guest cabins are also heated with wood.. Only dead wood that was killed by fire, storms, or insects is burned. Dead wood is plentiful in the area and John still enjoys harvesting the 35 - 45 cords it takes to run the place per year.
It took the Rusyniaks parts of four years to complete their five-year plan to build their lodge. They started and capped the basement in 2004. The following year they raised the log walls up and got the roof on. In 2006, they put the windows and doors in , added the interior partitions, and ran the plumbing and electrical. Some finish work remained when they moved in in May 2007. Then they had to deal with the guest cabins to have them ready for the 2008 summer season.
With so much daylight, solar provides most of the power in the summer. A little bit of energy is available from the sun in the winter, but most of it comes from the diesel generators. The Rusyniaks have been unsuccessful in their attempt to generate power from wind, but keep an eye on new developing technologies.
"When we have to use it, our generator runs generally three to four hours a day," John says. "Winter or summer, we store the power we produce in our battery storage system (12 deep-cycle batteries weighing 104 pounds each, worth about $4 a pound). When the generator is off or the sun has gone down, we run off the batteries through an inverter. If you were in our house, you wouldn't know we are off the grid.
During their time in Alaska, the Rusyniaks have learned how to be very efficient with their energy consumption.
"Frankly we are very conservative and I think it's an approach what would work for all Americans: use the power you need, but don't waste it," John says. "We use LED lights, which are more expensive to buy that regular bulbs, but use about three watts of power.
"We had lived without power for ten years. While we were in Tok and on the grid, we started practicing being conservative. It worked: we cut our electric bill in half just doing simple things like putting our TV and VCR units on a power strip so that when you turn off the power to the TV there is no ghost power.
"Our desks are completely wired into power strips and when we walk away from them for the night we turn off the power strips to all those 15 little cubes for all of the little electrical devices we all love that are plugged in and are accepting watts of energy.
"We are successfully living off the grid and that is satisfying, but it's not without costs. We have made quite an investment in equipment, have monthly bills for propane and diesel, and have to maintain and monitor the system."