In the United States, residents of manufactured homes face some of the lowest incomes and highest energy burdens, presenting significant challenges in achieving energy efficiency and affordability. However, a recent study conducted by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory sheds light on innovative solutions that can potentially improve efficiency and lower costs for manufactured home heating across the country.

Community Solar Power

Community solar power, as defined by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), involves solar projects or purchasing programs that benefit multiple customers within a specific geographic area. Typically, an off-site solar array generates energy that is distributed to participating customers, including individuals, businesses, nonprofits, and other groups.

In Michigan, where more than 238,700 mobile or manufactured homes make up 5.2% of the state’s total housing stock, the potential for leveraging community solar and weatherization programs is substantial. Approximately 26% of these homes rely on high-cost propane or electric heaters, making them particularly vulnerable to energy affordability challenges.

Study Objectives and Findings

The study aims to assist the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) in identifying priority locations for program delivery, setting eligibility criteria for communities and households, and maximizing federal and other funding sources. It builds upon previous assessments conducted by the Clean Energy States Alliance, providing valuable insights into the unique energy needs of manufactured home residents.

One of the key findings of the study is the disparity in household income between residents of manufactured homes and those living in single-family detached homes. With an average household income of $28,115 for manufactured home residents compared to $75,760 for single-family homeowners, the need for affordable energy solutions becomes evident.

Proposed Solutions

To address this disparity and reduce winter heating bills, the study proposes community solar subscriptions for manufactured home residents, coupled with the adoption of new cold weather heat pumps. These advanced heat pumps offer improved efficiency in heating and cooling, making them well-suited for the diverse climate conditions across the country.

Moreover, low-income homeowners and renters in Michigan can access energy conservation resources and assessments through the state’s federally funded Weatherization Assistance Program, further enhancing the affordability and sustainability of manufactured home heating solutions.

The study underscores the importance of innovative approaches to energy efficiency and affordability in manufactured housing, with implications that extend far beyond Michigan. By leveraging clean energy resources, implementing weatherization programs, and prioritizing the needs of low-income households, the manufactured home sector can pave the way for a more sustainable and equitable energy future nationwide.