Making Energy Affordable in Manufactured Homes
Q: I live in a mobile home with extremely high utility bills. What can I do to lower them?
A: It is overwhelming to have astronomical utility bills for a modest home. Mobile homes—now called manufactured homes—became popular in the 1950s and remain popular today. Nearly 600,000 North Carolina households live in manufactured homes, ranging from compact units to multi-level houses with high-end features.
For decades, federal regulations for manufactured homes have permitted less energy efficient technologies—insulation and windows to name a few—compared to site-built, code-compliant homes. There are, however, ENERGY STAR® certified manufactured homes that offer substantial savings on energy use.
In a typical manufactured home, heating and cooling account for approximately 40% of the utility bills. There are two ways to limit this expense:
- Reduce the heated or cooled air escaping from your home. This includes sealing HVAC ductwork with bucket mastic – goop with a peanut butter consistency. You should also seal holes that lead to the outside with caulk or foam. In double-wide or larger homes, the seam where the units are joined needs to be sealed, not just insulated. On manufactured homes with low pitched roofs, weatherization crews have found that filling the tiny attic with dense pack insulation is a good way to limit air and heat loss. Consider replacing windows if they are drafty.
- Improve the efficiency of your heating and cooling system. If you are currently using electric strip heat, installing a ductless heat pump could be a more affordable option. Consider fuel costs to help you decide between a gas furnace and an electric heat pump system.
Water heating chews up about 19% of a manufactured home’s energy bill. Taking shorter showers and installing WaterSense® showerheads that use less than two gallons per minute can save up to $10 per year. When replacing the water heater, buy the most efficient one you can afford. Use cold water to wash your clothing when possible. When replacing the clothes washer, choose an ENERGY STAR model, which will use much less water and electricity.
Another energy drain is the refrigerator. ENERGY STAR has a webpage that will calculate the energy cost of your refrigerator and how much can be saved by purchasing a new one. Alternatively, you can read the yellow Energy Guide that came with your refrigerator to compare its operating costs to other units.
Here are a few other steps you can take. Turn off lights, televisions, computers, gaming consoles, fans, stereos and other electronics when they are not being used. CFL and LED lightbulbs use about a quarter of the electricity compared to traditional incandescent light bulbs so switch out your bulbs!
Technical information for upgrading manufactured homes can be found here.
It’s difficult to save for large purchases or home improvements if you already feel like your monthly budget is tight. There are several assistance programs in North Carolina than can help you transition from overwhelming utility bills to more energy efficient technologies, such as Habitat for Humanity’s neighborhood revitalization work and the North Carolina Housing Finance Agency.
This article was originally featured in Carolina Country magazine.