Mobile homes and manufactured homes utilizes many of the same features and mechanical systems when it comes to heating and cooling a traditionally built single family home. Below is a list of the most popular heating and cooling systems used in many mobile homes today and the last 40 years.
1. Split-Unit Central Air Conditioning:
Around the time I was ten years old my family upgraded our New Hampshire ranch-style house from window air conditioning units to the now common place Split-Unit Central Air conditioning units that force cooled air throughout the entire home via a series of under-floor or above-ceiling air ducts. Ducts (pronounced ducks) are closed passages running from the home’s air-handler or less commonly known “forced air furnace” to vents typically located underneath the mobile home’s floor.
The reason for the name “Split-Unit” is to signify that this air-conditioning system uses 2 separate appliances to force cooled air throughout the home. The exterior Compressor/Condenser is the component which sits outside the home and an Evaporator also known as an Air-Handler sits inside the home. Attached to the Evaporator is a fan which blows conditioned air throughout the home. Occasionally some mobile homes will have both these units in one location located inside the home, hidden inside a specially built closet typically near the kitchen or in the main hallway.
New base model units are often priced between $2,000-$4,000 however may be found on Ebay and Craigslist for as low as $1,200 and as high as $10,000 depending on the size you need for your home. This price may or may not including installation. As these units are seldom moved after installation in many areas you may likely need a city or county permit in addition to a licensed contractor to install a central air conditioning unit. As the home owner or beneficiary of your establish personal property trust (in an investor) you can likely pull permits for this yourself if you act as the general contractor.
2. Gas and Electric Furnaces:
A furnace is comprised of a heating device either gas or electric (electric typically being the least efficient) and an air circulating fan which blows heated air into the home's ducts and into the interior of the mobile home. Furnaces are typically small enough to be located inside a special closet in your mobile home, typically located near the kitchen or in the main hallway. Your home's furnace should be properly maintained yearly to avoid damages and for regular cleaning. Filters should be changed every 3 months to avoid costly problems. Used units on Ebay and Craigslist start for around $500 not including installation. Any cost associated with these needed repairs at the time of you purchasing should be factored into all purchase offers for the seller's mobile home.
3. Air-Source Heat Pump:
Heat pumps both cool and heat mobile homes. Although less well-known then central air-conditioning units above, heat pumps are generally more efficient and less expensive to own and operate. Simply put a heat pump works by exchanging warmth for cold in the summer months and cold air for warmer air in the winter. A heat pump can stand alone and looks very similar to an exterior compressor/condenser portion of a traditional central-air unit.
Heat pumps do have limitations with heating a home when the exterior air temperature drops below approximately 35 degrees Fahrenheit or 2 degrees Celsius. This is one reason heat pumps are less commonly seen in the Northern half of the United States unless they are geothermal heated.
4. Swamp Coolers:
Also known as Evaporative coolers, wet-air coolers, and desert coolers these units are self-contained and use the action of evaporating a liquid into the air being pushed into the home to lower the interior temperature of the home. Swamp coolers use ducts in the same ways furnaces and split-unit air conditioners work to distribute air evenly throughout the home. Swamp coolers are generally found in drier states and can decrease the internal temperature of a home by as much as 40 degrees. Be aware of roof mounted units as these often contribute to roof leaks over time.
5. Portable Window Units:
Most of us are familiar with this common form of cooling (and less occasionally heating) our homes. If you choose not to repair your broken central A/C unit or install a new cooling unit as listed above you may opt to install individual window air conditioning units to cool localized sections of your mobile home. You may even choose a window unit that contains a heating element to heat a room when the exterior temperatures are cool. These units work well for cooling and heating the room in which the window unit is placed. If your investment mobile home is located inside a pre-existing mobile home park be sure to check with park manager and park guidelines about installing window units in your home as some parks have rules forbidding window units as they detract from curb appeal.
Verify All Heating and Cooling Systems Work Before the Time You Purchase:
As a rule of thumb always-always-always verify all mechanical systems work or do not work before you purchase any property. If the mobile home seller states the units are working correctly, personally take the time to verify each appliance is in proper working condition. If you do not feel hot or cold air blowing when the unit is on you may assume the worst until proven otherwise. Hiring a licensed professional will satisfy most questions quickly. Once a professional has been consulted you may now correctly renegotiate a proper price for this home. If no electric power is on to the home I personally will have power turned on to the home once price and terms are negotiated. I will then renegotiate if the unit is anything other what the seller has promised. If the seller was lying and the unit does not work I would double-check other concerns the seller may have also lied about.
When discussing heating and cooling options for a used mobile home inside a park we must remember that price and performance are a big key. While your tenant-buyer, resident, tenant, and you all want the home to remain cool in the summer and warm in the winter no one wishes to add thousands of unforeseen dollars to the cost of this mobile home if unnecessary. It is with this in mind that correctly testing and fixing an existing mechanical unit may always be your first line of defense before installing a new one. Network with active investors, tradesmen, and EPA certified handymen now in your area to find great deals on new and used heating and cooling systems for your next mobile home investment.