Top Four Energy Thieves in Mobile Homes
By Bob Geswein
In recent years we've seen an increase in the number of manufactured homes in our area. While the construction of these homes has improved immensely over the years, there are still some key issues to address when trying to achieve maximum comfort and efficiency levels.
Leaky heating and air conditioning ducts are often the cause of high energy bills in mobile homes. Annual losses from faulty ductwork can amount to 25% or more especially if the ducts become detached completely. In double-wide homes the crossover duct from one half of the home to the other is notorious for leaks or separation. Clues of leaking or faulty ducts include uneven air distribution in different parts of the house, no air flowing from some of the registers, excessive temperature differences from room to room, and abnormal temperatures under the home depending on the season of the year.
Finding leaky ducts can be a challenge, but usually checking airflow at the registers will give you a hint where to start looking. Crawling under the home is always a good idea because this is where the majority of the ductwork is located. Look for any ducts that may have pulled loose and are bulging out of the underbelly covering or are hanging down, especially the crossover duct on double-wide homes. Feel around for drafts coming from the underbelly covering near register connections. Once loose, separated, or faulty ducts are found it's important to repair and seal the leaks as soon as possible to reduce the energy loss. Do not attempt to repair the ducts with duct tape as it tends to come loose quickly under fluctuating temperature and moisture conditions. Use flexible mastic sealant for a permanent fix.
If you consider all the cracks and crevices where air can infiltrate the average home you'd be amazed to know the total area affected could be equal to leaving a door standing wide open. Poor fitting doors and windows are real culprits for letting cold drafts into the home during the winter. Floor penetrations from water and sewer pipes along with other holes punched through the underbelly covering all add to energy robbing air infiltration if not properly sealed. On double-wide homes it's very important that the marriage seal where the two halves come together is tightly sealed to eliminate drafts from entering the home.
To eliminate this unwanted air infiltration, make sure all doors and windows fit snugly and that all weather stripping is in place. Seal all air leaks and penetraÂ¬tions with caulk or foam. If the underÂ¬belly covering is cut or torn, use a type of sealing tape designed especially for underbelly material. If the two halves of a double-wide are not connected tightly, ask your dealer to fix it and make sure it is sealed properly.
Properly installed insulation and the right amounts have a huge bearing on the energy efficiency of the home. Make sure you have a home designed for the climate zone you live in. Manufactured homes made for the Southern United States will not be energy efficient in the cold northern climates. Many manufactures offer optional levels of insulation in the floors, walls, and ceilings. If your home has deficient insulation levels, it may be a good idea to have a qualified contractor add extra insulation in order to curb rising energy bills.
It's also a good idea to make sure the insulation is properly placed to insure adequate coverage and insulating qualities. One should especially check attic insulation on double-wide homes to make sure it was not blown out of place during delivery. The entire ceiling should be covered with a level layer of insulaÂ¬tion and no voids. Once again the underbelly covering warrants inspection to make sure all insulation is held in place with no voids or tears.
I'm choosing to leave this topic for the end of this article, since it doesn't matter what kind of heating system you have, it won't keep you comfortable or be energy efficient if you don't correct the three issues previously mentioned. On the other hand, if you correct these issues and continue to use an inefficient heating system, you could still be seeing unnecessarily high energy bills.
Most mobile homes come equipped with an electric furnace. By replacing the electric furnace with a heat pump, mobile home owners have seen savings as much as 48% on their heating and cooling bill.
If you have questions about how you can improve the comfort and performance of your home, give me a call 738-4115 or 951-2323.
Bob Geswein is the energy efficiency specialist for Harrison REMC.