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More work needed to realize energy efficiencies in manufactured homes

July 31, 2012 - Energy-efficient manufactured homes (a.k.a. mobile homes) can save consumers $4.6 billion in energy costs over the next 20 years, according to a new study released today by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE).


July 31, 2012
By Anthony Capkun

The study, “Mobilizing Energy Efficiency in the Manufactured Housing Sector”, highlights the economic benefits of energy savings for the 17 million people living in manufactured homes across the United States. It is the first such analysis to evaluate the national potential for energy efficiency improvements to both new and existing manufactured homes, says ACEEE.

In manufactured homes, energy efficiency not only cuts energy waste, but it can also dramatically improve residents’ economic stability. Average household incomes in manufactured homes are 36% lower than the national household average, and 22% of residents have incomes below the federal poverty line, explains ACEEE. For these families, energy efficiency can alleviate “onerous” utility bills, particularly among those living in extreme climates and aging homes.

“We found that energy costs are particularly salient for residents of manufactured homes. For example, many are retirees living on fixed incomes. For these residents, energy savings yield immediately tangible benefits by freeing up cash for other uses,” said ACEEE buildings program director Jennifer Amann.

Unfortunately, ACEEE points out, current energy codes for mobile homes are less stringent than those for site-built homes; emphasis on low first-cost has driven demand for low-efficiency homes, and loans may be “prohibitively expensive for homeowners seeking energy-efficient homes”. Mortgages for manufactured homes are often personal property loans with high interest rates and short amortization schedules, notes ACEEE, exacerbating incremental costs for high-efficiency homes.

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There are also barriers to improving energy efficiency in existing homes. Retrofits in manufactured homes are less common than in site-built homes because many homeowners lack the capital to undertake home improvements.

However, “By using conventional building techniques like higher insulation values, energy-efficient windows, and improved duct sealing, we can build manufactured homes with energy performance on par and even exceeding that of the site-built housing market,” said Jacob Talbot, lead researcher for the report. “We found that high-efficiency heating and cooling equipment, lighting and appliances can save substantial amounts of energy as well.”

Updated energy codes, traditional mortgage rates for home buyers, financial incentives for buyers and manufacturers of Energy Star-qualified homes, and low- or no-cost retrofit programs for existing homes are all recommended in ACEEE’s report as strategies to capitalize on the large potential for energy savings.

To read the report visit: www.aceee.org/research-report/a124