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Vermont’s Mobile Home Replacement Effort

 
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An average VerMod with solar uses 1/10th of the oil needed per year for a traditionally manufactured mobile home
Photo credit: VerMod

Source: Katie Chamberlain, Middlebury College

Peter Schneider, a senior energy consultant at Efficiency Vermont (EVT), is helping Vermont lead the way on energy efficient mobile homes. After gaining experience building homes and volunteering at Building for Social Responsibility, he became interested in zero-net energy homes, specifically for low-income Vermonters living in mobile homes.

Traditional mobile home construction = money down the drain

Mobile homes are plagued by energy inefficiency. Unsealed windows and non-insulated walls sap energy from these homes, forcing homeowners to spend half or more of their income on energy bills. Many of these homes are also safety hazards to their inhabitants, with leaking roofs, damaged floors, and poor indoor air quality.

These homes are also more vulnerable to storms. After Hurricane Irene, 438 mobile homeowners were eligible for FEMA assistance and 129 mobile homes had to be demolished. Further, 23% of the manufactured homes in Vermont were made before 1976. These pre-1976 modular homes are considered the worst housing stock in the U.S. because they were built before HUD, the federal building code, went into effect. Federal weatherization programs won’t even consider weatherizing these homes because they are beyond repair.

VerMod, the zero-net energy modular home = signficant savings.

Peter is working to solve these problems through a pilot project of the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board and Efficiency Vermont, in partnership with VERMOD, CVOEO, UVM, High Meadows Fund, and Vermont Community Foundation. This project allows Vermonters to purchase zero-net energy modular homes. These high performance homes are designed to use significantly less energy (and therefore, money) than traditional mobile homes, withstand severe weather, and provide a comfortable and healthy living environment to inhabitants.

After starting the project two years ago, Peter, along with developers, architects and other organizations, has overseen the construction of 30 homes in Vermont. VerMod is becoming more well known thanks to newspaper articles, model homes, factory tours, presentations to energy committees, and door to door marketing.

How to shift to a VerMod

The point of the mobile home replacement effort is to make better housing available and affordable for low-income Vermonters. Many mobile homeowners struggle to get rid of their current homes that have no equity in them and are unsellable. There are some innovative financing options that help people make the transition. One includes a cash-for-clunkers type package where a mobile home is recycled using a $5000 grant.

Feedback from high performance mobile home owners is overwhelmingly positive. Homeowners have been impressed with the durability, low maintenance, and low operating cost of their new homes. Efficiency Vermont conducts home visits to orient the homeowners to the new systems and answer any questions. EVT has even set up remote monitoring systems in the mobile homes that allow them to monitor how the various systems are functioning. For example, EVT will get an alert when a filter needs to be changed on the air filtration system.

As Peter pointed out, the mobile home replacement effort proves that we can build zero net energy homes in the lowest income sector. If we can do this, it is surely possible to use zero net energy design for other types of houses and buildings.

Costs

  • Higher upfront cost of home

Benefits

  • Lower monthly operating cost
  • Lower maintenance of home
  • More durable and weather resistant
  • More comfortable home
  • Healthier living environment

Weblinks for more information: