Manufactured homes have come a long way from their former reputation as mobile homes. Made with better quality products while remaining affordable, they’re attractive housing options that are increasing in popularity.
Standards for manufactured homes have improved in recent years and are now almost indistinguishable from foundation-built properties depending on the manufacturer and location.
In this article, we’ll look into specifics about what is technically a manufactured home, the history of manufactured homes over the years, and details about what to consider when thinking about solar and other energy concerns for a manufactured home.
What is a Manufactured Home?
Manufactured homes are created and assembled in a factory and delivered to the site where they will reside as one complete unit. You may have seen a manufactured home on the back of a flatbed semi truck with a wide load sign warning drivers to leave space for safety.
Manufactured homes should be differentiated from modular homes, which are constructed as several pieces of the whole in a factory. These different parts or pieces are then delivered to the site and assembled there.
A manufactured home will always be moveable because it is built on a permanent chassis and could be transported anywhere at any time. Often, a manufactured home will stay in one place during its lifetime despite this. A modular home, however, can be built on a crawlspace or a basement.
Even though manufactured homes technically have wheels and a hitch for transporting at any time, they’re often taken to the home’s site on large flatbed trucks now. This is because they used to be much smaller and more mobile, but this has changed as they have increased in size over the years.
Although they often have wheels underneath their siding, they will likely never move from location once they are in place, due partly to their increased size. However, since a manufactured home is not permanently connected to the foundation, if you own a manufactured home in a neighborhood and would like to move it out to a rural area one day, you have that option.
History of Manufactured Homes
Manufactured homes were first introduced for post-WWII soldiers and families, and then for people looking for work in the post-depression era. The job market was sparse and stable careers were hard to come by. These people needed affordable housing options that also allowed them the possibility of moving, even to another state if necessary to seek out job opportunities.1
Originally, manufactured homes were known as trailers since they could trail behind a car in a move. If you’re having a hard time picturing this, it’s because they generally used to be only 8-feet wide. They also used to be more cheaply made.
New standards for manufactured homes were introduced under the National Mobile Home Construction and Safety Act2 which Congress implemented in 1976. The Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Code regulations were enacted. This increased the safety of materials, assembly standards, durability, and affordability for manufactured homes.
These federal safety and construction standards supersede any state or local laws and apply to any manufactured homes built after June 15, 1976. HUD regulates the standards by inspecting manufactured home factories or by visiting constructed homes on retailer lots to ensure they meet the regulatory guidelines.
If a home manufacturer does not meet these standards, they must correct any issues and inform the homeowners.
Manufactured Homes: Solar and Energy Efficiency
Some manufactured homes are built well enough now that they can support lightweight rooftop solar panels.3
Although the Housing and Urban Development Code also required many improvements in energy conservation, here are some energy efficiency steps for manufactured homes. These are especially necessary if a manufactured home was built before 1976 but can be useful even in newer homes.
- Install energy efficient windows and doors to prevent heat leakage.
- Caulk, weatherstrip, or even cover windows with plastic where cold air gets in during the winter.
- Add storm windows (a thicker, removable pane of glass) during winter months.
- Install or add more insulation underneath the home. This area is also known as the belly.
- Apply solar window films to block UV rays and excess heat in summer months, without blocking the view.4
- Simply adding curtains, drapes, blinds inside, or awnings or an overhang on the outside can reduce excess summer sun and heat as well.
- Find any areas where leaks cause heat or cooling loss and caulk to seal.
- Repair any broken air ducts.
- Add insulation to the walls of the home.
- Replace original skirting (the paneling that covers the base or belly of the home) with insulated skirting.
- Add more insulation to your roof.
- Add a belly board underneath your floor. This acts as a barrier for moisture and protects your home from rot and mold issues.
Updating a pre-1976 manufactured home with these energy efficient recommendations can result in a 31% reduction in heating fuel usage.5
Tips for Maintaining a Manufactured Home in Winter
When it comes to heating a manufactured home, pipes freezing in the winter is a concern in regions with cold winters. Water pipes in manufactured homes are above ground and more exposed to cold air.
Here are steps to prevent freezing pipes and major repairs.
- Check the skirting for any cracks or holes, and replace any damaged sections.
- Wrap the pipes in electrical tape to provide a thin layer of insulation.
- Install insulation sleeves for pipes to protect them from extreme cold.
- Never lower the thermostat beneath 55 degrees F, even if you’re away on vacation.
- If temperatures drop into the teens or lower, let your faucets drip just slightly overnight.6 Keeping the water moving will decrease the likelihood of freezing. In the morning when the sun rises and temperatures warm up a bit, you can turn the faucets back off.
With these energy and maintenance tips in mind, you could live quite comfortably in an affordable manufactured home, and you could even take advantage of the benefits of solar.