Winter still seems a far way off, but if you don’t prepare your mobile home for the cold weather now, you might find yourself wishing you’d thought of it sooner. In this article, we’ll take you through everything you need to know about how to winterize a mobile home.
How to properly winterize a mobile home
The first two methods we present to winterize your mobile home are quite extensive and deserve a broader explanation. The following five methods require medium effort for a medium budget. The last few suggestions are minimal jobs that don’t need much guidance.
When winterizing your mobile home, there are three main goals you should hope to achieve:
- Eliminate cold air coming in from the outside.
- Preventing hot air from escaping with proper insulation.
- Preventing plumbing and water pipes from freezing over.
How to winterize a mobile home that is vacant vs. inhabited
The instructions for how to winterize a mobile home that is vacant will differ from how you would winterize one you were going to be living in. Why is this? Well, consider for instance the fact that if you’re living in a home, you’re going to want running water. Flushing toilets is an important part of everyday life in your home. However, if the home is empty, you no longer need to be able to flush toilets or run the shower.
Similarly, if you’re home and it’s freezing outside, you’ll opt to keep the inside temperature warm, maybe even toasty. Obviously, you don’t want to be sitting around in a coat, scarf, and boots inside the house. You’ll likely keep the temperature at a level that allows you to comfortably get on with your life. Yet, if the home is vacant, you won’t have to keep it as warm as you otherwise would. In fact, you’ll be able to save money on fuel because you either won’t be using it, or you won’t be using as much.
Avoid water freezing inside
Even though no one will be living in the mobile home, there are still some steps you can take to prepare it for the cold weather.
Steer clear of leaking or bursting pipes
While you’re gone and your home is sitting unattended, one thing you don’t want is for water to freeze in your pipes. Water expands when it freezes. Thus, it makes sense that if water freezes and expands in your pipes, your pipes could rupture. Once the ice has thawed, you’re left with damaged pipes – not a situation anyone wants.
This is why you want to drain your pipes before you leave. Turn off your water at the source. Next, run all of the taps in the house so there’s no water sitting in the pipes. This could include running your:
- Kitchen sink
- Bathroom sinks
- Bathroom tubs/showers
- Laundry/utility sinks.
On top of this, drain any water tanks, like your hot water heater. Also, turn the power off to the hot water heater because leaving it empty of water but still on could damage it.
Taking care of toilets
Next up in the house – the toilets. Since you’ve already turned off the main water supply, you won’t need to turn the water off to each toilet individually. So, hold down the toilet handle until the water has drained out. If you can’t get it all out, you may want to try pouring a bucket of water down to force the water out.
Note that you can also pour antifreeze in the toilet tank as long as it’s the right kind for plumbing use. Flush after pouring it in so it gets through the toilet and pipes.
As we mentioned before, you’ll want to turn down the temperature in a mobile home that’s vacant. Depending on the outside temperature, your home’s insulation, and what you leave behind in the home, the recommended temperature will vary. However, 50 degrees Fahrenheit is usually a safe temperature.
Be sure to unplug all electronic devices and appliances. Just make sure you leave the power connected to your thermostat.
Areas to watch outside
Now let’s turn our attention to the outside of your mobile home. When thinking about how to winterize a mobile home that is vacant, you’ll want to pay attention to outside hoses. Unattach, drain, and store the hose. And leave the hose hookup open so that water can drain and doesn’t freeze.
Another area to consider is your gutters. Clean debris and leaves out of your gutters before you start getting major rain or snow. This can help you avoid ice buildup and prevent leaking in the house.
We all know that hot air travels only in one direction, up. So imagine running your heater at full blast on those cold winter days, only for most of the warm air to escape through an uninsulated roof. Seems like a waste, doesn’t it?
Most mobile home roofs are poorly insulated. Usually, there is a cavity between the roof and the ceiling that is left completely empty with only an inch of fiberglass insulation running under the roof. Seamed metal roofs are particularly vulnerable.
In general, you need to address these issues before performing a roof insulation:
- Find out how much open space there is to insulate.
- Close off any gaps in the ceiling, especially near the furnace and water heater. You can use metal shields or high-temperature caulk.
- Install insulation baffles in the roof for ventilation and to keep insulation away from the flue.
Performing a roof insulation
There are three popular methods of mobile home roof insulation:
1. Interior blow – This refers to the interior of the house itself. Holes are drilled into the ceiling at specific points in the center of the roof between rafters. The insulation materials are then pumped into the cavity from here. Lastly, caulked plugs or plastic caps seal up the holes.
- Pros: Can work inside in bad weather. Doesn’t affect roof.
- Cons: Disturbance and rubble inside the home.
2. Edge blow – It’s also called “lifting the lid.” This is a bit more extreme approach. It involves loosening the roof from the home and lifting it up side by side to pump in the insulation. It’s done one truss bay at a time. The process includes removing the gutters at each section.
- Pros: Doesn’t affect the interior of your ceiling. No need to clean your home afterward.
- Cons: Could affect the roof’s condition. Will need to inspect the roof on whether it can handle the strain.
3. Ridge blow – For this method, you will be working on top of the roof. The insulation process is tackled truss by truss as usual. Holes are cut in the center of the roof at every truss bay for insulation to be pumped in. Take up a wood panel to avoid stepping on truss’ and damaging them or stick to the sides of the roof.
- Pros: Doesn’t affect the ceiling interior. No need to clean the house. Fix other leaks or damage while you are at it.
- Cons: Potentially cause new leaks. Work outside in the elements and on the roof.
While you’re at it, it’s a good idea to use spray foam to seal off all the seams in your roof, especially a metal roof. You should also caulk around any gutters or plumbing that go through it. Regular roof maintenance can help your roof last longer. Be sure to read our article on Mobile Home Maintenance for more information.
When setting out to winterize a mobile home, this should be one of the biggest areas of concern for any mobile home owner. Mobile home plumbing is notoriously apt to freeze over during the cold winter months, especially if no one is at home to run the water. Freezing pipes not only interrupt your water supply and lead to a colder home but can also be permanently damaged, forcing you to do an expensive plumbing system repair and replacement.
The first thing you should do is come up with a checklist of things to do based on the following information provided and your own research. Since there are a lot of tasks, and you don’t want to miss any when prepping your plumbing.
Drain water from the plumbing
These steps are a must-do if your home is standing empty or you are leaving it for a while in winter. Any leftover moisture can freeze, especially if you’re not using the plumbing. Of course, it’s also a good way to prepare pipes in case you want to work on the plumbing.
- Shut off the main water valve, the water heater, and water pump.
- Systematically open every single tap and faucet in the home. This serves the dual purpose of draining water and preventing air bubbles and vacuums that keep water in the system.
- Blow water out of pipes using an air compressor.
- Check whether your hot water tank has a floor drain, if not you will need to connect a hose to the valve. Open it and let it run empty.
- Go to your holding tank and drain all the water. For safety, you can use some anti-freeze on the jet pump casing.
- Flush all your toilets until the bowls are empty. Again, you can apply anti-freeze as a precaution.
Prevent freezing pipes
These are longer-term solutions and are fit for when you or someone else is occupying the home throughout winter. Get your tool kit and flashlight ready! This is also a good time to give the underbelly of your home some much-needed attention.
Plastic or rubber pipes are much more resistant towards freezing water and cheaper to replace if they do get damaged. If you are brave enough, you can start a plumbing overhaul and replace your copper or metal pipes.
Insulating pipes might be easier than you expect. First, buy rubber or fiberglass insulation pipe wraps. Simply put these around your pipes and tie them down using cable ties, acrylic, duct tape, or aluminum foil wrap.
Repair your skirting and insulate your crawl space
If you do not have skirting installed, it’s about time you invest in it. Check the skirting, skirting vents, and entry places around your home and make sure it’s secure and undamaged. Next, replace individual panels or fix them using vinyl or metal sheets, depending on your skirting material. You can also insulate this area with an insulating material or block open spaces with wood or cardboard.
Run water regularly
Running water goes a long way to prevent freezing pipes as still water has the biggest chance of freezing over. While permanently running a faucet is wasteful, try to run a faucet in every part of the house for a short while regularly.
These are often left unattended but can literally end up bursting. Make sure to run them dry and insulate them by covering them with something.
When in doubt, heat tape!
Heat tapes are another effective way to insulate pipes. However, they might cause a fire hazard. Read the CPSC guidelines for your safety.
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Medium effort/budget techniques
Service your mobile home furnace
Not only do you want a properly functioning furnace during wintertime, but you also do not want one that combusts from overuse. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, a routine maintenance job where you clean or replace the filters and exhaust vents should do the trick.
Most modern furnaces have a system to indicate if something is wrong and where the error might be. Open your furnace’s top panel and look for a light, many models show “no issues” with a solid light and problems with a sequence of flashes that corresponds to an error code in the manual.
Regularly cleaning the roof vent can stop it from clogging up with snow.
For a comprehensive guide on servicing a mobile home furnace, read Mobile Home Furnace Maintenance & Troubleshooting.
Make your Mobile Home Doors and Windows more Energy Efficient
You will also be surprised at how many ways there are to make your doors or windows more energy efficient. Most of these methods will not only keep cold air out and hot air inside in winter but will do the exact opposite during summer.
- Storm windows – You can replace your windows with storm windows that have increased durability and heat efficiency.
- Double-glazed windows – These are effectively two windows with some air in the middle. It’s possible to add a second glass, but this can be difficult to get right.
- Energy efficient window frames – Look for windows with the WERS label. These window frames are made to keep air from escaping or entering your home.
- Window film – This is a very cheap and easy solution and will do wonders for your home in summer too.
- Look for gaps – As with any part of your home that has seams, over time leaks naturally develop. Look for visible leaks or use smoke held close to the frame to find minute ones. It’s relatively easy to seal off with caulk or some weather strips.
- Energy efficient doors – Most of these doors are half or fully glazed using glass and argon. On top of that, they have warm edge spacers to keep heat from escaping between the door and the frame.
- Storm doors – These come in a variety of materials and sizes, just keep in mind that wood doors require a bit more maintenance than aluminum, fiberglass, or steel types.
Add Insulation under the Floor
We could have discussed this under plumbing, but we decided to give this technique its own section. Adding insulation under the floor is a relatively straightforward process and will help keep the home’s interior warm, as well as prevent pipes under the home from freezing.
All you will need is:
- Some silicon sealant,
- the usual set of tools for working with pipes,
- some insulation material with a decent R-value,
- staple gun, and
- duct tape.
Here is a step-by-step-guide. However, the long and short of it is:
- Buy enough insulation,
- Remove pipes to the home (if necessary),
- Fix the insulation to the floor with the staple gun,
- Put back the pipes, and
- Finish off with silicone sealant.
Additionally, wrap the water heater in insulation while you are at it.
Block any other holes
By this time, you’ve taken care of the roof, doors, and windows. These aren’t the only areas where air can come in and out of your house. Whether you want to blame shoddy workmanship or the natural thermal expanding, contracting, or bending that homes go through over time, there are sometimes tiny gaps all over.
Your best bet is to buy a can of insulating spray foam and some caulk and have a good look around. Remember that any seam or corner is a likely culprit. Look for visual signs of a leak or be sneaky and hold some incense close to the seams and see if the smoke gets pulled out anywhere.
Places to keep an eye on are:
- Entry places for plumbing.
- Electrical outlets.
- Windows and doors.
- Corners with the floor or roof.
- Seams or wall strips.
Small budget/effort ways to winterize a mobile home:
Relax tie downs
As the ground freezes in winter, it does contract somewhat. If you have ever installed a foundation on your mobile home, you should know that contractors also take this effect into account.
If there is absolutely no slack in the tie downs to your home, it could cause a problem when the ground starts to contract. Homes are rigid structures and are not meant to take the extra strain. Just relax the tie downs in the slightest to give your home that little bit of breathing room. We promise it won’t fly away.
Chimneys and Fireplaces
If you are lucky enough to have a chimney or fireplace in your home, you can purchase and install a rubber-sealed damper or a glass door/cover that keeps cold air from coming back into your home. Just remember fire safety!
Now we are really shaving off those last few degrees. We have mentioned that air travels upwards. An overlooked trick is to ensure that your fans rotate clockwise to push the hot air back down.
Clean the home gutters
Dirty gutters can become completely overburdened if trapped water, snow, or ice are in the mix. Clean your gutters before winter starts to make sure the snowball effect never kicks off.
Clear water from hose and sprinkler
As a bonus tip, drain these items too to keep them from getting damaged or spreading the freezing water to your internal plumbing.
Get ready for winter!
Now that you’ve learned how to winterize a mobile home that is vacant, you may want to turn your attention to other home projects you’ve been wanting to get to. Before you close up the home for the cold season, why not work on some of those waiting projects? Check out our mobile home repair guide to get started or our winterize on a budget article for those looking to save some money this season.
Keep the chills at bay this winter by following our advice
We hope this guide gives you all the information you need to winterize your mobile home this fall. Most of these issues get exaggerated over time, and it’s best to prevent them from building momentum in the first place.