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Powerful Living


Manufactured Savings How to boost effi ciency of mobile homes


By Thomas Kirk M


anufactured homes, sometimes dubbed mobile homes, often log disproportionately higher energy bills than traditional


wood-frame or modular homes. But there are steps you can take to help manage en- ergy costs and increase comfort. The ways manufactured homes are de- signed, built, installed and operated help to explain why their levels of energy perfor- mance can be much lower than those seen in site-built homes. During construction, lower quality, less effi cient materials may be used, or design specifi cations may not be met. Transporting a unit to a site and movement can disrupt the integrity of the original construc- tion. Also, homes that sit on jack stands or blocks allow air to fl ow underneath, which compromises the structure.


Manufactured homes come in several confi gu- rations: singlewide, doublewide and triplewide. Doublewides and triplewides require a crossover duct to provide airfl ow between the sections—a major culprit in air leaks that contribute signifi - cantly to wasted energy. There isn’t a magic bullet to lower the energy consumption of a manufactured home. It takes time and hard work to troubleshoot all of the pos- sible causes of energy loss. The most common culprits and ways to remedy them are:


✓ Belly board problems—In most manufactured homes, the belly board holds the insulation in place under the fl oor and serves as a vapor barrier. Plumbing that runs under the fl oor is on the warm side of the insulation to keep it from freezing in winter. However, the belly board can deteriorate over time allowing the fl oor insula- tion to become moisture laden or to simply fall out, exposing ductwork and dramatically increas- ing energy losses. Often there is also long-term water damage from leaky pipes, toilets and show- ers that has compromised fl oor, insulation and belly board integrity. These problems must be addressed prior to basic weatherization.


✓Air leakage/infi ltration—Infi ltration of exces- 6 WWW.OK-LIVING.COOP


However, adding insulation to walls will be a problem without major renovations that are often not cost justifi ed.


✓ Uninsulated ductwork—Ductwork itself may not be wrapped with insulation, allowing heating and cooling losses. Wrapping duct- work will lead to energy savings. You should be able to fi nd insulation specifi cally made for ductwork at your local hardware store.


✓ Single-glazed windows and uninsulated


sive outside air can be a major problem. Specifi c problems include deteriorated weather stripping; gaps in the “marriage wall” that joins multiple units making up the home; holes in the ends of ducts; gaps around wall registers and behind washers and dryers; and unsealed backing to the electrical panel. This is a dirty job and will re- quire you to crawl under the home and into the attic looking for gaps. Gaps can be fi lled with weather stripping and insulation. You should consult your local hardware store for the exact type of insulation needed for the specifi c area of the home.


✓ Crossover ducts—Sealing the ducts than run under the sections making up your mobile home will result in tremendous energy savings and increased comfort. Crossover ducts are often made of fl exible tubing and are therefore prone to collapse and are easy for animals to chew or claw into. Crossover ducts made of thin sheet metal can leak heated or cooled air to the great outdoors, which is what happens when ductwork connections are made with duct tape. Repairs are generally easy, using either special duct sealant or metal tape that can be found at most home improvement stores. If you can afford the upgrade, consider replacing a fl exible crossover duct with metal ductwork.


✓ Lack of insulation—Insulation levels and as- sociated R-values in walls, fl oors and ceilings in manufactured homes can be woefully inad- equate. If it is easily accessible, adding addi- tional insulation to ceiling and fl oors will help.


doors—Most manufactured homes come with single-glazed windows and uninsulated doors, which have a low R-value. That means the rate of heat transfer between fi nished interior spaces and the outdoors is higher than what’s ideal. Replacing the windows with double- or triple-glazed windows or adding storm windows will help make the home more comfortable. An insulated door will also help. However, these solutions can be very expensive. At a minimum, you should add weather stripping to doors and windows. Also, a window fi lm kit is a cheap and easy-to-install upgrade that will help to keep winter winds out of the home.


✓ Heat absorbing roof—In areas where you need to frequently run the AC unit, you can save by installing a white roof or cool roof coating. These roofs refl ect more sunlight to keep manu- factured homes cooler. Many cool roof coatings can be brushed or rolled on like paint and are easy to apply on metal roofs. The cost of roof coatings varies depending on how refl ective they are, and how long they will last. Choose a coat- ing that is appropriate for your climate. It may take a couple of weekends and a few hundred dollars, but basic repairs can yield signifi - cant savings. Savings of up to 50 percent have been reported in manufactured homes that have been properly sealed and had old electric furnaces replaced with new electric heat pumps. The key is to get out there and start hunting for the savings lurking under, over and inside your manufactured home.


Thomas Kirk is a technical research analyst specializing in energy effi ciency and renewable energy for the Cooperative Research Network (CRN), a service of the Arlington, Va.-based National Rural Electric Cooperative Association


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