Your Guide to Manufactured Home Utility Systems

Your home is an investment. Understanding your manufactured home’s utility systems can help you keep it in good condition for the years to come.

 

Manufactured Home Electrical Systems

Your manufactured home’s electrical system, like all modern dwellings in the United States, must comply with applicable sections of the National Electrical Code (NFPA 70, ANSI C-1) and the electrical system requirements of the Federal Manufactured Home Construction and Safety Standards (HUD Code). These standards guarantee the safety and durability of your manufactured home.

Your electrician should know how to complete installations in accordance with these codes.

Electrical Power Supply

Before you move to a manufactured or mobile home community or intended home site, ensure the electric power supply available meets your home’s requirements. Inadequate wiring capacity can result in low voltage, poor energy efficiency, and motor burnout — causing you to pay for electricity that you do not use.

If you add electrical appliances to your home — whether they’re major or handheld appliances — be sure your wiring can provide enough electricity. The more appliances you add, the greater the wiring entering the home must be.

Grounding Systems

Grounding receptacles have been required in homes since the 1960s and play a crucial role in protecting you from electric shock — which can occur due to excess electricity or power surges. A manufactured home should be properly grounded whenever it’s connected to an electrical power source.

Take a look at the receptacle outlet in the wall. Did you notice it has a third hole instead of the conventional two slots? The third hole is a ground slot, which grounds any device that’s plugged into it. For example, the plug on your refrigerator cord has a three-terminal post instead of the two-bladed type — the rounded terminal is the grounding element. This cord has a third wire that connects 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 is directed through the wiring system to the outside of your manufactured home, preventing injury should someone touch its energized exterior.

All major appliances, electrical equipment, and metal parts of any manufactured home built by Jacobsen Homes are grounded for your and your family’s safety.

Electrical Distribution Panel

An extra conductor coming into your manufactured home provides 115/230 volts for the entire home. For that reason, four conductors (wires) enter your home’s electrical distribution panel board. They’re typically color-coded to designate their purpose. The white wire serves as the neutral or return and the green wire serves as the ground. The other two wires, typically black, red, or white with black or red tape, are the "hot" wires. Hot wires are responsible for bringing electricity from the panel where it needs to go.

The neutral and ground wires must remain isolated from each other throughout the home and out to the source or supply from the branch or utility pole. It’s extremely important that the neutral conductor (white wire) isn’t 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 manufactured home has another safety feature in its electrical distribution panel: electrical circuit breakers. These breakers eliminate the need for fuses. They have non-fuse panels that include a series of breakers, which protect the home against overloading of the wiring.

Should a circuit be overloaded or shorted, the breaker automatically breaks the current’s flow in the circuit. Without this, the wires could overheat and melt the insulation, causing a fire. After the cause of the circuit overload has been corrected, the affected breaker may simply be switched back to the "on" position to restore service. It is important that the rating of the breaker doesn’t exceed the current carrying capacity of the conductor it’s protecting. For example, No. 14 copper wire (the conductor) is rated at 15 amperes. Therefore, the breaker for this size of wire must 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

Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) receptacles are safety devices installed to protect you from electrical shock. In a manufactured home, GFCI receptacles are found in place of:

  • 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 by switching to the "off" position. The receptacles that it services will not operate until you press the reset button.

If a handheld electrical appliance were to fall into the water, for example, the GFCI circuit should trip. However, electrical devices can be extremely dangerous and caution should still be exercised. If 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 electrical devices near water, and never use electrical devices when you’re standing or sitting in water.

Periodically test the operation of each GFCI by pressing the "test" button. When you press it, the GFCI should trip to indicate proper operation. Then, press the "reset" button on the GFCI to restore electricity to the circuit.

What To Look Out for in Your Manufactured Home’s Electrical System

Whether it’s due to degraded wiring, wear and tear, an electrical surge, or other circumstance, your electrical system may eventually have issues. Keep an eye out for:

  • Warm, buzzing, sizzling, or sparking outlets 

  • Loose outlet covers or broken light switches 

  • Outlets with inconsistent or no power

  • The circuit breaker tripping repeatedly 

  • Odors coming from your breaker or an outlet 

  • Flickering lights 

  • Rodent droppings — rodents chew through electrical wiring which can cause it to spark and overheat.

These issues could be signs of loose or degraded wiring — a potential fire and shock hazard. If you experience any of these issues, turn off the fixture’s power source and contact a qualified electrician to fix the problem. Don’t use it until the issue has been resolved. 

Never attempt electrical work of any kind, under any situation, unless you are qualified. Doing so could risk the safety of you and your loved ones.

Fuel-Burning, Heat-Producing Appliances

Aside from ranges and ovens, all fuel-burning, heat-producing appliances in manufactured homes use a sealed combustion system that draws fresh combustion air from the outside of the home. This includes water heaters, fireplaces, gas refrigeration devices, gas furnaces, and gas clothes dryers.

Compared to conventional systems, sealed combustion systems are safer since combustion gasses are not released into your home. They are also an economical alternative since the inside air, which has been set to your desired temperature, is not lost through an exhaust duct or chimney.

If you need to replace a fuel-burning, heat-producing appliance, the replacement must be labeled for use specifically in manufactured homes.

Gas Supply System

Your home’s water heater, furnace, oven, and other home appliances may be gas-powered. If your manufactured home is equipped with bottled gas for cooking, heating, or both, use extreme caution 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.

If you smell gas in your home, check your household appliance’s connections. If you cannot locate the source of the escaping gas immediately, you should suspect a gas leak. Turn off the main gas valve and immediately call the gas company. While you are waiting, do not light any matches, lighters, or flames, and open all windows and doors to ventilate your home. Every household member should know where the main gas valve is located.

Never attempt to repair the gas lines in your home. In most areas, a local gas company will service the gas system. 

Heating and Cooling Systems

The heating and cooling system in your manufactured home may be gas (natural or liquid petroleum) or electric (forced air or baseboard).

Whether you use an HVAC, a central air conditioning system, or a furnace, all heating and cooling systems need a return air system to function properly. The system’s blower acts as a pump — it forces conditioned air from the appliance through the duct system and into your home while pulling air from your home back into the appliance. This balances the pressure and provides a steady flow of air throughout your home. Use the thermostat control to maintain the desired temperature. 

To keep your heating and cooling system functioning at peak performance: 

  • Do not block or seal the return air grill.

  • Keep the filters clean by washing or replacing them frequently, as the manufacturer recommends.

  • Never use the furnace in the return air compartment for storage, even if the system is not in use.

  • Hire a professional to inspect your heating and cooling system once a year and make necessary repairs.

  • Pay attention to your thermostat’s regulation and follow the instructions provided by the appliance manufacturer regarding its operation and warranty.

Refer to your appliance manual for operating and maintenance instructions. If your manual is not with your HVAC unit, contact the appliance manufacturer. You can find the model number on the appliance’s nameplate.

External Appliances

Most manufactured homes are shipped without a heating and cooling system. Heat pumps, central air conditioning, or other combinations of heating and cooling systems may be installed on-site. The appliance must be listed by a nationally recognized testing laboratory, such as:

When sizing the equipment, your installer should refer to the heating or comfort cooling certificate and information for heat gain calculations. Make sure they use equipment labeled specifically for manufactured homes and that it’s installed in accordance with the manufacturer's installation instructions. The thermostat should be installed in a manner that prevents the simultaneous operation of both the heating and the cooling systems. 

Read and follow all manufacturer instructions before turning on the system. If it fails to operate, check the breaker — if it has tripped and you cannot determine the cause, contact the HVAC system’s service representative. Do not operate it again without appropriate repairs. If the appliance has a warranty, refer to its provisions.

Water Heater

Water heaters are equipped with temperature and pressure relief valves to protect against dangerous temperatures or pressure if the thermostat fails. Fuel-burning water heaters draw fresh air to support combustion from the outside of the home. Your water heater system is equipped with a drain pan to prevent water damage should a leak occur. The drain must extend to the exterior of the skirting of your home.

If you need to install a new water heater, ensure proper pressure and temperature relief valves are installed. Check that the vent extends underneath the home, where it will discharge.

Water Supply System

Your home’s water supply enters through one 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. 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.

Check the area under the pipes occasionally for signs of leakage. If you live in an area with prolonged freezing temperatures, the water supply line should be installed below the frost line and the entire pipe riser above the frost line must be protected with insulating materials or a thermostat-controlled electric heating element (heat tape). This will turn off the electricity when heat is not required to prevent freezing. 

When heat tape is wrapped around a pipe and plugged into the heat tape receptacle, (within 24' of the freshwater inlet on your home) it will protect the pipe from freezing — even in the coldest weather (as long as the electricity is on). Electric current consumption is roughly 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 your home is listed "for use with a manufactured home" by Underwriters Laboratories (UL).

Drainage System

Your manufacturer will connect your drainage system to the sewer system on your home. Afterward, the drain system works much like that of any other building.

Clogging is the most common problem you may have with your drainage system — usually caused by large objects being placed into the sink or toilet. To avoid clogs, throw food scraps into the trash or use your garbage disposal. Avoid putting grease, fats, and oils in the sink as these can cause drainage problems — especially if your drain lines are exposed during cold weather. 

Use a commercial drain cleaner if a blockage occurs. If the clog doesn’t clear with your drain cleaner or if you have other drain problems, call your manufactured home retailer or a qualified plumber for assistance. Never use heat tape on exposed drain lines.

Utility System Maintenance

Prevent Moisture

Due to Florida’s wet, humid climate, moisture is the biggest maintenance concern of Florida homeowners. In addition to making your home uncomfortable, moisture from humid air or rain can cause water damage and stains, mold, rot, and more that can lead to costly damage.  

Keep moisture levels under control in your manufactured home by using fans and vents, air conditioners, and de-humidifiers during Florida’s humid months. Quickly fix any leaks in your home to prevent water damage. 

Keep a Regular Inspection and Maintenance Schedule

It's important to have your utility systems regularly inspected for wear and tear. Conducting regular inspections helps you spot issues early on and prevent extensive, costly damage. 

Have your utility system inspected and maintained by a professional. Keep it running in optimal condition with a regular maintenance schedule. Staying on top of your home’s maintenance will keep your home in great condition. 

Stay Safe 

Never attempt to do any home maintenance projects if you aren’t qualified. Doing so could cause injury to you or your loved ones or damage your home. 

Visit our guide to homeownership for more information and resources about manufactured home electrical and utility system maintenance.