We recently received an e-mail from a reader asking about solar power for mobile and manufactured homes. That sent us scurrying through all the closest here at SolarLove looking for information we could share with our readers, but we found all the cupboards were bare. So we turned to Google for help and came up with some ideas.
In general, rooftop solar is not a viable option for people living in mobile or manufactured homes primarily because their roofs are not capable of supporting the weight of a solar panel array. That’s the bad news. The good news is that there are lots of ways people can improve the energy efficiency of such homes and there are options for ground mounted solar systems or portable solar panels to shoulder at least part of the load.
According to the US Energy Department, a mobile or manufactured home starts off with significant energy efficiency disadvantage compared to a traditional house. But a combination of remedial strategies can lower heating or cooling costs by nearly one third. They include:
- Install energy-efficient windows and doors
- Add insulation to the belly
- Make general repairs (caulking, ducts, etc.)
- Add insulation to your walls
- Install insulated skirting
- Install a belly wrap
- Add insulation to your roof or install a roof cap.
If you have a south facing wall, Mother Earth News has detailed instructions for how to build a solar collector that will use the heat from the sun to help heat your home. All of these suggestions work best for a home that is permanently installed and not subject to being moved.
If there is room on the lot the mobile or manufactured home sits on, a ground mount solar system is a possibility. It will need to be set up in an area that faces south and is free of obstructions that will cause shadows during the day. There are also solar water heaters that can be set up outside on the ground to help reduce the cost of making domestic hot water.
Just because the roof of your home won’t allow you to put a full solar panel array up there, solar power is still an option. In fact, according to some sources, only 8% of the roofs in America are suited to solar installations. Either they face the wrong way or don’t have the proper slope to take maximum advantage of the sun’s rays. Also, lots of people live in apartment buildings or condos that have no roof space at all.
Community solar is designed to bring clean, renewable power to those who can’t benefit from rooftop solar. Here’s how it works. A solar entrepreneur constructs a solar farm out in the countryside somewhere but sells the individual panels to those with no access to rooftop solar. A person can buy one or more panels. Each month, a portion of the electricity generated by each panel becomes a credit on the subscribers utility bill. It is a simple, easy way to “go solar” without having any solar panels on your property at all. Check Google for community solar projects in your area.
Here’s an idea. If enough owners are interested, a community solar installation could be constructed on land surrounding a mobile or manufactured home park and benefit all t he residents. That would require getting enough people in the park to participate but if you can get over that hurdle, everyone who joins the group would get the benefit of solar power. That would be a far more efficient solution than everyone having their own ground mounted solar system.
Here’s another alternative. SolPad, a Silicon Valley start up, will soon be selling individual portable solar panels that you can set up on the ground or on the deck. The panels include a built in battery storage unit and inverter. All you need to do is plug it in to a regular household electrical outlet. Two or more can be interconnected for more power generation.
So the answer is, if you own a mobile or manufactured home, you are not excluded from enjoying the benefits of solar power. There are things you can do to reduce your energy consumption and there are avenues available like community solar and portable solar. Local codes and regulations will apply, so check with your local building official first. But with a little initiative and a dollop of good old fashioned stick-to-it-iveness, a mobile or manufactured home owner should be able to participate in the green power revolution.
Photo: US Department of Energy