Straight Talk Articles
6 Hot Zones for Winterizing Your Manufactured Home
Dear Pat and Brad:
The last few months have been tough, and I’m dreading my manufactured home’s high winter heating bills. What can I do to make it more efficient without spending too much money up-front? – Lance
In difficult times like these, it’s more important than ever to make sure the money we spend gets us the results we’re aiming for.
Here are a few areas, or Hot Zones, of your home where you could capture some significant energy savings. Some of the project ideas are quick, easy and cheap. Some will require more money than you may want to spend, but the savings are so significant we didn’t want to ignore them.
It doesn’t cost anything to turn down your thermostat in the winter and up in the summer. Make sure you clean or replace your furnace’s air filter as recommended. If you heat your home with an electric or propane furnace you could probably cut your heating costs dramatically by installing a heat pump. Ductless heat pumps are very efficient, and they eliminate the problem of leaky furnace ducts. If you don’t have several thousand dollars to make this investment you might be able to get a loan. It’s quite possible that your energy savings will be more than enough to cover the loan payment.
Lighting doesn’t account for a large portion of your energy bill(1), but if you still have any old-style incandescent bulbs you can save some money by replacing them with LEDs that use 75% less energy and can last almost 8 times longer than the next-best option, Compact Fluorescents (CFLs).(2) Outdoors you can install photovoltaic lights that only turn on at night, or motion-sensitive ones that only provide light when triggered.
3: WATER HEATER.
You pay a lot just to heat water. A simple way to lower that amount is to lower your water heater’s thermostat. Make sure it’s at medium, between 120° and 140° F.(3) Energy efficient showerheads can be a big energy saver.(4) Some showerheads are equipped with a button or valve that allows you to reduce or stop the flow while you lather up. Another fairly simple fix is to insulate the first several feet of the hot water pipe where it exits the tank. If there is room around your water heater you could also wrap the tank with an insulation jacket, which you can get from a home supply store for $20-$30.(5) If your water heater uses gas or propane, be careful not to restrict the air needed for combustion or install insulation too near the exhaust flue.
Leaky furnace ducts are often a major source of energy loss. A simple first step is to make sure all supply and return registers are open and are not covered up by furniture or rugs. Closed registers can tax your heating and cooling system. You might also save some energy by sealing up your ducts at the floor registers. The biggest leaks, however, are likely under your manufactured home and could require the services of a contractor to locate and seal. Check with your co-op to see if they know of any local contractors that can provide this service. See the HUD document(6) listed on the September 2020 More Resources web page for an excellent tutorial.
5: WINDOWS AND DOORS
That window AC unit that kept you cool all summer can be a nasty source of heat loss. Before the cold hits, cover it up – or better yet, take it out for winter. Another fairly easy way to cut down on energy loss is to install window insulation kits – plastic disposable sheets that are stretched over windows and held with double-sided tape. Thick curtains can also do a remarkable job at cutting drafts and adding insulation around a window.(7) The final and most involved step is to fill cracks and holes in walls and around windows and doors using caulk, filler and/or expanding foam. Then add weatherstripping to parts that move against each other (See the October 2020 article about sealing drafts on the energytips website listed below).
Cold floors can be costly and uncomfortable. The easiest step is to lay down some area rugs and put on a pair of slippers. But to really get the floor comfortable, you may have to venture into the crawlspace and insulate the floor or skirting. Be sure to find good instructions online.
Here’s to a cozier and less-costly winter!
This column was co-written by Pat Keegan and Brad Thiessen of Collaborative Efficiency. For more information on winterizing your manufactured home, go to the September 2020 More Information Page.
Set the temperature on your water heater to the lowest temperature that’s comfortable, between 120-140 degrees F. Source: Becky Lai, Flickr.com