Manufactured homes can accommodate solar panels if the house roof is strong enough and there are permanent foundations. Harvesting solar energy can help offset the excessive energy costs of older mobile homes that aren’t built with the same energy efficiency of those today. There are different kinds of photovoltaic (PV) panels one can choose from and if your house structure is unable to accommodate the heavy load, you can have them installed on the shed/garage roof or on the ground.
Not all prefabricated homes can accommodate the weight of solar panels. This is due to the cheaper and smaller build of the roof to keep it compact and efficient. The roof also needs good joinery strength. One also needs to have a permanent foundation system. (1)
A home typically consumes 893 kilowatt hours of electricity a month (as recorded by the U.S. Energy Information Administration). A house can produce about 350 to 850 kilowatt hours a month, meaning you can save up to 90% monthly on your energy bills. More so if your community or city gives clean energy credits or incentives! (1)
With the solar technology advancing, there are several types of solar panels one can buy. There are three main panels on the market: (1)
- Monocrystalline – of pure silicon with the highest efficiency in generating electricity
- Polycrystalline – quickest to produce and cheapest on the market, but with a lower efficiency than monocrystalline panels
- Amorphous – the lightest and thinnest silicon layer panel that it’s bendable to form
One can install their photovoltaic panels on or off-grid. This will dictate whether you will still tap into the electricity main, if you need other equipment to store extra energy produced — meaning you’ll give excess power back to the grid, which will affect billing, etc. Tax credits are available from utilities and the government (whether municipality, county or state) for solar energy generated by both residential and commercial structures.
80% of energy consumption goes to heating and cooling. Therefore it helps to ensure energy efficiency has been integrated into your building envelope and considered down to your appliances. Are they energy star rated? Or inverters? This will lessen the consumption and therefore lessen how much power your PV panels need to produce.
If the home cannot structurally accommodate the panels, you can utilize the roofs of your storage shed, car garage or patio. You can also engage your community to have incentives for residents who have it, or make double use of an existing or underused communal space. One can opt to have them ground mounted in the backyard as a backup power setup.
For more details on Solar Panel costing and consumption for other prefabs and mobile homes, check out Yes, Manufactured Homes Can Have Solar Panels and They Do (buildgreennh.com)
Manufactured homes built according to the HUD code made by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development presented an affordable alternative to housing for many, resulting in 55-65% lower in cost compared to stick built homes for lower income families. However, those built before the code was implemented in 1976, (also previously known as “mobile homes”) were built cheaply and inefficiently, leading to several residents suffering a higher consumption of 70% more energy per square foot. This poses a bigger hurdle to lower income families that are already blocked from availing of loans and cannot afford the upgrades to a more energy efficient home. (2)
A solar panel setup can greatly lower energy bills and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Agencies like the Clean Energy States Alliance (CESA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Energy Savings Program help low to moderate income families fund and attain solar setups such as giving no interest loans. (2)
If you’re upgrading your manufactured home to be more energy efficient, the U.S. Department of Energy, recommends the following: (3)
● Sealing furnace ducts and air leaks
● Scheduling a furnace tuneup
● Adding insulation to the underside of the manufactured home
● Installing interior storm windows
● Improving attic insulation
● Replace old light bulbs
● Add energy-efficient window coverings (films, etc.)
● Install a smart thermostat
Improving your home’s energy efficiency will reduce your total energy consumption. This way less solar panels are needed to meet your monthly energy demand.
The benefits to solar panels are significant, but there are also some great challenges one can face when trying to apply them to a manufactured home, such as:
- The expensive initial costs and investment
- Being unfamiliar with the solar setup and how it works — therefore;
- Not achieving the desired/promised results in savings
This can lead to a longer time of getting returns financially and energy wise. Consult a professional and solar panel dealer well to understand how to maximize solar gain from your setup (4)
Is your roof structurally strong enough to support the number of panels you need? If opting for ground-mounted panels instead, do you have enough land space? Do you own the land property your home is on to be able to install the panels?
There are several hurdles one can encounter in trying to get a home photovoltaic setup, but great success can come from it. Here’s an example from a Solar Array in a community in Lebanon, New Hampshire:
“The Mascoma Meadows Cooperative Community has a 100-kW solar PV system benefitting 45 households. Mascoma Meadows residents own their own individual homes and share ownership of the land they live on through a cooperative ownership framework. The community solar array is built on a half-acre of land donated by a neighboring church. The solar array is anticipated to save each of the participating households $20-25 in housing lot rent reduction per month.”(4)
The answers to having solar panels don’t have to be all within your plot of land or on the square footage of your roof. Within your community, you can collectively set up a few PV panels on the shared pavilion or communal open space for all residents to benefit from.
- Build Green NH. (2022, February 2). Yes, manufactured homes can have solar panels and they do. Build Green NH. Retrieved June 2022, from https://buildgreennh.com/can-manufactured-homes-have-solar-panels/
- Yañez-Barnuevo, M. (2021, September 28). Improving equity by installing solar on manufactured homes. EESI. Retrieved June 2022, from https://www.eesi.org/articles/view/improving-equity-by-installing-solar-on-manufactured-homes
- Intermountain Wind & Solar. (2021, July 1). Can you use solar power for a mobile home?: IWS. Intermountain Wind & Solar. Retrieved June 2022, from https://www.intermtnwindandsolar.com/can-you-use-solar-power-for-a-mobile-home/
- Donalds, S. (2021, June 9). Solar for manufactured homes: The Next Frontier for Energy Equity. pv magazine USA. Retrieved June 2022, from https://pv-magazine-usa.com/2021/06/09/solar-for-manufactured-homes-the-next-frontier-for-energy-equity/