Mobile homes, despite being a cost-effective housing option, are often at a serious disadvantage when it comes to energy efficiency. This can stem from a number of issues latent in the design of these manufactured homes, and the resulting high utility costs are not unfamiliar to many homeowners.
According to statistics from the U.S. Department of Energy, utilities can cost up to 50 percent more in a mobile home as compared to a site-built home of similar age and size — but fear not. There are many steps mobile homeowners can take to start reducing this number.
Let’s begin with the single, largest problem area commonly found in mobile homes: insulation. Most mobile homes do not have sufficient insulation in their walls, ceiling, or crawl space. Some do not have any insulation at all. This is a serious issue for many homeowners, as the interior air you are heating simply cannot stay warm for long without proper insulation. It also is important in the summer, for the purpose of absorbing and storing the outside heat. Another consideration would be the underpinning around the home, if it is not already in place. This is an effective way to retain heat, while also shielding the underside of the home from frosty winds.
In addition to insulation, it is a good idea to check for any areas that may need air-sealed. These may include doorways, around windows, ductwork, and the plumbing found underneath kitchen and bathroom sinks. All of these are relatively simple fixes for the aspiring home handyman. Foam weatherstripping can seal most doorway gaps, cracks in the frame and trim of a window can be fixed with a little caulk, spray foam will fill most under sink bypasses, and ducts can be sealed with heat-resistant aluminum duct tape. Adding plastic sheeting to your windows, also known as a window kit, is another good way to add a layer of insulation in the cold winter months.
Now let’s move on to your home’s summer needs. Besides insulating, two of the most widely used cooling options are to add solar-rejecting window films, and installing a reflective or cool roof coating. Window films offer UV protection, added privacy, light reflection, and are a nice complement to the average sunscreen. The advantages of reflective or coated roof are too plentiful to list in full, but here are a couple of the most pertinent: energy efficient roofing can reflect up to 85 percent of sunlight, while reducing annual electricity costs up to 40 percent. Besides the personal gain, an efficient roof is beneficial for your community and environment — to learn research the White Roof Project.
Although the focus of this column was meant for mobile homeowners, many of these practices can also be applied to site-built homes. Also, there are still many other efficient, higher impact (and higher priced) options that are not covered in this article. Some of these alternatives include geothermal heat pumps, installing central-air conditioning, or solar powered air and water heating.
Remember, taking these steps to see a positive influence on your utility costs also is a positive influence on our environment.
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l Danny Parrish is the marketing coordinator for Green Iowa AmeriCorps, which is coordinated by University of Northern Iowa’s Center for Energy & Environmental Education. Its goal is to help make Iowans more energy efficient through low-impact home weatherization, energy education and community outreach. Find out more at www.greeniowaamericorps.org.