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 my home more efficient without spending too much money? – Lance
Dear Lance: In difficult times like these, it’s more important than ever to ensure the money we spend yields the results we need.
Here are five tips for winterizing your manufactured home, which can help you capture some significant energy savings. It’s worth noting that some of these suggestions are quick, easy, and cheap, but some will require more money than you may want to spend. Choose the approach that works best for your home and budget.
It doesn’t cost anything to lower your thermostat in the winter. Make sure you clean or replace your furnace air filter as often as recommended. If you heat your home with an electric or propane furnace, you can likely cut your heating costs dramatically by installing a heat pump. Ductless heat pumps are efficient, and they eliminate the problem of leaky furnace ducts. If you don’t have the budget to make this investment now out of pocket, you may qualify for a loan. It’s quite possible that your energy savings would cover the loan payment.
2. Water Heater
You pay a lot to heat water. One simple way to lower that amount is to lower your water heater’s thermostat. Make sure it’s set to medium, between 120F and 140F. Energy-efficient showerheads can also save energy. 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 purchase from a home supply store for about $20. If your water heater uses gas or propane, be careful not to restrict the air needed for combustion or install insulation too close to 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 by furniture or rugs. Closed registers can really take a toll on your heating and cooling system. You might also be able to save energy by sealing 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 local electric co-op to see if they can recommend local contractors who can provide this service.
4. Windows and Doors
That window air conditioning unit that kept you cool all summer can be a major source of heat loss in the winter. Before the cold hits, cover it up — or better yet, remove it during winter months. Another fairly easy way to cut down on energy loss is to install window insulation kits — these are plastic, disposable sheets that are stretched over the window and held in place with double-sided tape. Thick curtains can also do a remarkable job at cutting drafts and adding insulation around a window. The final and most involved step is to fill cracks and holes in walls and around windows and doors with caulk, filler, and/or expanding foam.
Cold floors can be costly and uncomfortable. The easiest solution is to lay down area rugs for additional warmth. But to really get the floor comfortable, you may have to venture into the crawlspace and insulate the floor or skirting. If you’re not sure how to do this, there are several video tutorials available online (mobilehomeliving.org).
These simple steps can result in a cozier and less-costly winter.
This column was co-written by Pat Keegan and Brad Thiessen of Collaborative Efficiency. For more information on surprise energy hogs, please visit: www.collaborativeefficiency.com/energytips.