Is your manufactured home ready for the rigors of winter? The maintenance steps you take now can eliminate expensive repairs, and make your home safer and more energy efficient when cold weather sets in. With the right information, you can do the work yourself instead of paying someone else to do it. It takes a little planning and effort to winterize your manufactured home, but it’s not as difficult as you may think. Take action now to protect your manufactured home from leaks, heat loss, drafts and the danger of a winter fire.
Preparing your home for cold weather
A simple tube of silicone caulk may be your best investment this heating season. Polyurethane caulking is a good all-around choice for sealing your manufactured home from drafts and leaks. Places to be caulked outside the home include: gutter and downspout seams, plumbing and furnace vent pipes, around flashing seams between roof and siding, around door and window frames, along siding joints, around the dryer vent, at the TV antenna wire entrance and at pipe feed-throughs.
Weather stripping exterior doors and windows is an inexpensive heat-saver. To detect heat loss, just hold your hand at the edge of a window or door frame on a windy day. If you feel a draft, weather-strip the area.
A well-maintained roof lowers your energy bills and prevents costly water damage. The edges and seams or expansion joints of a metal roof should be sealed every year. Use a roof coating suggested by a local dealer or service center, and apply to a dry, properly prepped surface. Make sure you apply the recommended thickness. Put a good seal around vent caps for the furnace, water heater and exhaust fans. Repair any punctures, cracks or breaks in your roof. Remember to tighten or replace any loose fasteners.
The blocks or jacks that support your manufactured home should be in good condition. If they’re not, have them repaired immediately to prevent sagging, which can cause damage to windows, doors, joints and walls.
Slightly loosen your home’s tie-downs if you live in an area where the ground freezes solid. Ground can “heave” as much as three inches during the winter, and tie-downs leave no place for the manufactured home to move. That can result in serious structural damage. Remember to tighten tie-downs again in spring.
Check your home’s skirting. It should be secure, but not so tight that it stops ventilation or vertical movement. Once winter sets in, be sure to shovel snow and ice away from the skirting to avoid denting and cutting off the air supply required by the furnace.
Frozen pipes can mean big trouble. One of the simplest methods to prevent water pipes from freezing is with heat tapes. These contain a heating element encased in a tape that is wrapped around water pipes. The heating element warms the pipes and prevents freezing. If you install the heat tape, follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully. If you have a heat tape already installed, make certain it’s still operative. If it is worn or loose, replace it. Make sure you never overlap heat tape – it can cause a fire.
Be sure your storm windows and doors are in place and in good repair; they keep your energy costs down. Even if your window frames and doors are caulked and weather stripped properly, heat can still escape. Properly installed storm windows and doors can cut your home’s heat loss by 50 percent.
Check exterior doors for wear, tear, cracking or fading. Look for signs of leaking around the sill and threshold. Make sure weather stripping and seals are okay. Inspect under your manufactured home for sagging, torn or water spotted insulation. Carefully examine your exterior siding and replace any missing or damaged fasteners or screws.
To avoid winter water damage, be sure to clean out and inspect rain gutters for leaks or holes. They should be slanted so water runs away from your manufactured home. Don’t forget to check and repair downspouts and extensions.
It’s very important to make sure your manufactured home furnace operates safely and efficiently during winter weather. You can perform many routine furnace maintenance jobs, while other procedures are best handled by a qualified repair person. Most furnace manufacturers recommend a professional inspection of fuel lines, safety controls, burner and flue pipe every year. Your utility company may provide a free inspection.
You should replace disposable furnace filters regularly. Remove and wash, brush or vacuum permanent filters. Remove the cover of the thermostat and vacuum away dust and dirt. Check the exhaust vent from furnace. Clear obstructions like leaves or animal nests from the vent pipe. Keep roof exhaust vents clear of excess snow build-up.
Inspect blower motor. Vacuum any accumulated dirt. Inspect V-belt and pulleys for wear. If the belt moves more than an inch when you push it, tighten it. Check air intake. Most manufactured home furnaces draw combustion air from beneath the home, so keep four to six vents in the skirting to allow free air passage.
Check flue assembly for alignment and rigidity. It should run in a straight line from the top of furnace through the ceiling. Be sure the flue is attached to the furnace collar. Check to make sure there is no loose wiring near the flue. If there is wiring in the flue area, move and secure it well away from the flue pipe.
Carpeting in furnace compartment should be removed and replaced with fireproof material. Some manufactured home furnaces have wire mesh in front of the stack to prevent storage on top of the furnace. If this mesh is missing, replace it.
Clean out debris in furnace area, and don’t allow even small amounts to accumulate. Never use your furnace closet for storage or drying clothes. This is a fire hazard.
CAUTION!: Never attempt to repair gas lines in your manufactured home. If you smell gas, call a repair person or your gas company immediately.
In addition to your furnace check you should also properly maintain your space heater, fireplace or wood stove. Both electric and liquid fuel-powered space heaters must be placed at least 36 inches away from anything combustible. If you have a liquid fuel-powered space heater, use only the fuel recommended by the manufacturer. Never use gasoline or any other substitute fuel. When refueling, always turn off the heater and wait until it cools down before adding fuel.
Have your fireplace chimney inspected and cleaned by a professional every winter. Creosote, a chemical substance that forms when wood burns, builds up in chimneys and can cause a chimney fire if the chimney is not properly cleaned. Always protect your home and family by using a sturdy fireplace screen when burning wood. Remember to burn only wood – never burn paper or pine boughs or coal. These can float out the chimney and ignite your roof.
Chimney connections and chimney flues on wood stoves should be inspected at the beginning of each heating season and cleaned periodically. Remove ashes as they accumulate, and be sure to follow any additional maintenance instructions provided by the wood stove manufacturer. Burn only wood and be sure the wood stove is placed on an approved, fire-resistant surface to protect the floor of your manufactured home from heat and hot coals.
Play it safe and observe proper maintenance and safety rules before starting your furnace, space heater, fireplace or wood stove this winter.
Finally, don’t forget to check your fire extinguishers and smoke detectors. Keep one fire extinguisher in the kitchen and another near the furnace. Use a multiple-purpose dry chemical extinguisher suitable for use on Class A, B and C fires. Small home fire extinguishers operate only five to ten seconds, so take careful aim before using. Test your smoke detectors often to be sure they’re operational, and replace batteries before the weather gets cold. You should have one detector located high on the wall or ceiling adjacent to your bedroom areas and another in the kitchen.