Utility Systems Guide for Manufactured Homes

After you purchase your manufactured or modular home, it is important to understand how to properly maintain its various components, including the utility system. Below is an overview of the key information you should know for utility system maintenance in your new home from Jacobsen Homes.


Moisture Issues

What is one of the biggest maintenance concerns Florida’s homeowners face? It’s moisture. Uncontrolled moisture from humid air or precipitation can not only make your home uncomfortable, but it can also cause water damage and lead to other issues. Fortunately, there are things you can do to keep moisture levels under control in your manufactured or modular home.

Drainage System

Your home's drainage system has been carefully designed. Your retailer or installer will provide the final connections of the drainage system and the connections to your sewer system on your home. Once this drain connection has been completed, the drain system works much like that of any other building.

The most likely problem you will ever encounter with your drainage system is clogging, usually caused by large objects placed into the sink or toilet drains. We do not recommend that food scraps be washed down the sink drain unless they are processed through a garbage disposal. Grease, fats, and oils may cause drainage problems as well, especially if drain lines are exposed during cold weather.

If a stoppage occurs, which you can not clear with a commercial drain cleaner, or if you have other drain problems, call your manufactured home retailer, serviceman, or a qualified plumber for assistance.

Note: do not use a heat tape on exposed drain lines.

Electric Power Supply

Once you move to your new manufactured home, you will want to understand how your home’s electrical system works so you can keep it in good condition for years to come. Below are tips for managing your electric power supply. While reading the following, keep in mind you should never attempt electrical work of any kind, under any situation, unless you are qualified to do so. Otherwise, you could risk your safety and your family’s safety.

Like all modern dwellings in the United States, the electrical system of a mobile home must comply with applicable sections of the National Electrical Code (NFPA 70, ANSI C-1).In addition, the Federal Manufactured Home Construction and Safety Standards (HUD Code) have other requirements for the electrical system, which are intended to make your manufactured home safe and durable.

Before moving a manufactured or modular home to a community or intended home site, check to see that the electric power supply available meets the requirements of your home. Wiring of inadequate capacity can result in low voltage to the home and a drop in efficiency of lights and appliances. Motors may burn out and you may be paying for electricity that you do not use.

If you add electrical appliances (both major and hand appliances) to your home, be sure your wiring is adequate to provide the appliance with electricity. The more appliances added, the larger the wiring entering the home must be.

Grounding Systems

A manufactured home should be properly grounded whenever it is connected to any source of electrical power. Your home needs the protection of a grounding type wiring system. Notice the receptacle outlet in the wall has a third hole instead of the conventional two slots? The third hole provides a ground for any device that is plugged into it. These grounding receptacles have been required in homes since the 1960s.

Now, take a look at the plug on your refrigerator cord. It has a three-terminal post instead of the old-fashioned two-bladed type. The rounded terminal is the ground. This cord also has a third wire from the grounding (rounded) post to the outer shell of your refrigerator. With this system, if the outer shell of the refrigerator should accidentally become energized, the power would be directed outside of your manufactured home (through the wiring system), instead of hurting someone who touched the energized exterior of the refrigerator. All major appliances, electrical equipment and metal parts of any manufactured home built by Jacobsen Homes are grounded for your safety and the safety of your family.

An extra conductor coming into your manufactured home provides 115/230 volts for the entire home. For that reason, four conductors enter the electrical distribution panel board: one serves as the neutral or return (white wire), one serves as the ground (green wire), and two serve as "hot" wires. The neutrals and grounds must remain isolated from each other throughout the home and out to the source or supply from the branch or utility pole.

It is extremely important that the neutral conductor (white wire) not be grounded in or anywhere on the manufactured home or the home’s service entrance cabinet. Grounding through your home’s hitch caster or metal stabilizer is not safe. The only approved method of grounding a manufactured home is through an electrically isolated grounding bar located in the electrical distribution panel board. This bar bonds all non-current carrying metal parts of the manufactured home for grounding to a single point. Your electrical installer should know the proper method of installation to conform with the National Electrical Code (NFPA 70, ANSI C-1).

Electrical Distribution

Your Jacobsen Home has another safety feature in its electrical distribution panel. It contains electrical circuit breakers rather than a fuse-type electrical panel. The non-fuse panel has a series of breakers, which eliminate the need for fuses. The breakers protect the home against overloading of the wiring.

Should a circuit be overloaded or shorted, the breaker automatically breaks the flow of current in the circuit. The affected breaker may simply be switched back to the "on" position to restore service after the cause of the short or overload has been corrected. It is important that the rating of the breaker not exceed the current carrying capacity of the conductor it is protecting.

For example, No. 14 copper wire (the conductor) is rated at 15 amperes. The breaker for this size of wire must therefore not be rated greater than 15 amperes. If a circuit continually trips breakers in short periods of time, consult a qualified electrician. It’s likely you have problems with a short or an overloading circuit.

GFCI Receptacles

A GFCI receptacle is a safety device installed to protect people from electrical shock. In a manufactured home, GFCI receptacles are found in place for:

  • All exterior receptacles (excluding the heat tape receptacle)
  • All bathroom receptacles
  • Any receptacle within six feet of any sink or lavatory (excluding receptacles designated for specific appliances)

If a short or an overload condition occurs on a circuit protected by a GFCI, the GFCI "trips" and disrupts the flow of current through that circuit. Once the GFCI trips to the "off" position due to a fault in the circuit, the receptacles that it services will not operate. The reset button on the GFCI will reactivate it. You should periodically test the operation of each GFCI by pressing the "test" button. When you press the button, the GFCI should trip to indicate proper operation. You may press the "reset" button on the GFCI to restore electricity to the circuit.

If a handheld electrical appliance were to fall into the water, these types of circuits should trip. However, electrical devices can be extremely dangerous and caution should still be exercised. In the event that an electrical device falls into water, do not reach into the water to retrieve it, even if it is connected to a GFCI receptacle. Always unplug the device before retrieving it from the water. Always use caution when using any type of electrical device near any water.

Never use any type of electrical device when you are standing or sitting in water.

Fuel Burning, Heat Producing Appliances

All fuel-burning, heat producing appliances, except ranges and ovens, used in manufactured homes draw fresh combustion air from the outside of the home. This includes such appliances as water heaters, fireplaces, gas refrigeration devices, gas furnaces, and gas clothes dryers. The manufactured home's sealed combustion system has two advantages over conventional systems:

  1. It is safer: combustion gasses are not released into the interior of your home.
  2. It is more economical: inside air, which has been heated or cooled to the desired temperature, is not lost through the exhaust duct or chimney.

CAUTION: If replacement of a fuel burning (gas or oil) heat producing appliance becomes necessary, the replacement must be listed or labeled for use in manufactured homes.

Gas Supply System

Gas may supply power for a number of home appliances: water heater, furnace, oven, range, heaters, etc. As the homeowner, you should never attempt to repair the gas lines in your manufactured or modular home. In most areas, a local gas company will service the gas system. If a gas leak is suspected, call the gas company at once.

If you smell gas, check the connections of various appliances in the house. If you cannot locate the source of the escaping gas immediately, then you should suspect a gas leak. Turn off the main gas valve and call the gas company immediately. While you are waiting, do not light any matches, lighters, or any flames. Open all windows and doors to ventilate your home. Every member of the household should know where the main gas shut-off valve is located before an emergency arises.

If your manufactured home is equipped with bottled gas for cooking, heating, or both, extreme caution should be used before turning on the gas at the cylinder. All appliance valves must be closed. If the home has been in transit, all fuel lines, connections, and appliance valves must be checked before and after opening the cylinder valve.

Heating and Cooling Systems

As in any modern home, there are many possible types of heat installations in a manufactured home. Yours may be on one of these:

  1. Gas (either Natural or Liquid Petroleum Gas)
  2. Electric (either Forced Air or Baseboard)

A manual covering maintenance and operating instructions for the heating and cooling system should be found with your HVAC unit. If not, you can request one from the appliance manufacturer. Be sure to provide the appliance model number, which can be found on the nameplate on the appliance.

The thermostat control of the heating and cooling system can be set to maintain the desired temperature. Special attention should be given to its regulation, and the instructions provided by the appliance manufacturer should be followed regarding the operation and warranty.

Air Circulation

Central heating and cooling systems require a return air system to function properly. When the blower is operating, it forces conditioned air from the appliance through the duct system and into your manufactured home. To balance and compensate for that pressure, the heating and cooling system must pull or draw return air from you home back into the appliance, thus, providing a balanced flow of air throughout your home, with the systems blower acting as a pump.

Do not try to block or seal the main return air grill as this will cause your heating and cooling appliance not to work properly, and your home will not be heated or cooled. Replace the return air filter regularly to prevent it from becoming clogged, as this will also restrict the amount of return air provided to your heating and cooling system.

Never use the furnace of the return air compartment for storage, even if the system is not in use. The return air system is just as important to an electric forced air heating and cooling system as it is to the gas or oil furnaces. Therefore, this return air system must be kept free of obstructions at all times for your system to perform at its peak.

External Appliances

In most cases your manufactured home has been shipped without the heating and cooling system. This equipment may be installed on site by your retailer or installer. Heat pumps, central air conditioning, or other combinations of heating and cooling systems may be used. When sizing the equipment, your installer should refer to the heating or comfort cooling certificate and information for heat gain calculations. Make sure that your retailer or installer uses equipment which is listed or labeled for manufactured homes, and is installed in accordance with the manufacturer's installation instructions.

The appliance must be listed by a nationally recognized testing laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratory (UL), Pittsburgh Testing Laboratories, or the American Gas Association. Be sure to read all instructions provided by the manufacturer before turning on the system (including those for the care of the filter). The filter must be replaced periodically as the manufacturer recommends. Follow all recommended maintenance tips.

The thermostat should be installed in a manner which prevents the simultaneous operation of both the heating and the cooling systems. If ever the unit should fail to operate, check the breaker box first. If the breaker has tripped, and you cannot determine the reason for that, contact the representative who provides service for the HVAC system. Do not attempt to operate the unit again without appropriate repairs. If there is a warranty, refer to its provisions.

Furnace Maintenance

If your home has a gas, electric, or oil central forced air furnace, the following general maintenance applies:

  1. Filters must be kept clean by washing or replacing them frequently.
  2. A competent heating service representative should check the furnace one a year and make necessary repairs.

Gas Furnace Maintenance

A qualified service representative should inspect the gas furnace each fall for leaks and other possible problems.

Water Heater

All types of water heaters are equipped with temperature and pressure relief valves to prevent the build-up of dangerous temperatures or pressure if the thermostat should fail. If it becomes necessary to install a new water heater in your manufactured home, be sure that a proper pressure and temperature relief valve is installed on your new water heater, and that the vent extends undiminished in size to a point where it will discharge underneath the home. Fuel burning water heaters, fired by gas or oil, draw fresh air to support combustion from the outside of the home. Your manufactured home is equipped with a water heater pan. The drain from the pan must extend to the exterior of the skirting of your home.

Water Supply System

All water for use in your manufactured home enters through one basic piping system. The supply line entering your home must be a minimum of 3/4" in diameter. The pipe riser from the underground water line is connected directly to this system that has been installed in accordance with the specification of the HUD standards. If the local water pressure exceeds 80 PSI, a pressure regulator should be installed on your waterline. Under no conditions should the water pressure entering your home exceed 80 PSI.

The area under the pipes should be checked occasionally for signs of leakage. If your home is located in an area where prolonged periods of freezing temperatures occur, the water supply line to your manufactured home should be installed below the frost line and the entire pipe riser above the frost line must be insulated. There are a number of insulating materials available with which to accomplish this. A thermostat controlled electric heating element, generally referred to as a "heat tape," may also be used. This will turn off the electricity when heat is not required to prevent freezing. Be sure that any heat tape installed on your home is listed "for use with a manufactured home" by Underwriters Laboratories, Inc.

When the heat tape is wrapped around the pipe and plugged into the "heat tape receptacle," provided within 24' of the fresh water inlet on your home, protection against freezing will be provided to the pipe even in the coldest weather (as long as the electricity is on). Electric current consumption is about equal to that of a 25 watt light bulb, if the exposed water line is not too long. Be sure that any heat tape installed on the water line is listed for use with manufactured homes.

For more information about manufactured home maintenance, please visit our guide to homeownership for links to additional resources.