When it comes to keeping your mobile home cool during the summer months and warm during the winter, there’s arguably nothing more important than insulation. Specifically, insulation works as a barrier to heat loss as well as heat gain – and it isn’t just a great way to make a mobile home more comfortable year-round, but to make it more energy efficient as well. In fact, in some cases, insulation can improve energy efficiency by up to 80 percent.
Insulation is commonly placed in the roofs, ceilings, walls, and floors of mobile homes. It may also be placed in areas like crawlspaces and in the underbelly of mobile homes to further improve energy efficiency while reducing condensation. In addition to the important comfort and energy efficiency benefits, insulation can also help to serve as a sound barrier, both between rooms within the mobile home and when it comes to deadening sound from outside of the mobile home.
Though proper insulation is important in any home, it’s arguably the most important in mobile homes. That’s largely because mobile home builders typically use below average insulation when initially constructing the home to save on costs. Furthermore, it’s often difficult for most mobile home insulation to stay in place long-term due to the strain that is put on units from Mother Nature.
This post will take a closer look at everything you need to know about mobile home insulation, from the all-important R-values to tips and tricks to know when installing insulation. Here’s a closer look:
Mobile Home Insulation Standards
The most important thing to know when it comes to mobile home insulation standards is the all-important R-value.
Just what is R-value? Simply put, it’s intended to measure thermal resistance. What this means is that the greater an insulation’s R-value, the better job it’s going to do. Conversely, a low R-value means that the insulation isn’t going to be very efficient. Generally speaking, insulation with higher R-values is likely to be priced more expensively than those with low R-values.
R-value is based on three variables:
- Insulation type,
- Insulation density, and
- Insulation thickness.
Speaking in generalities, the thicker the insulation, the greater the R-value. However, it’s important to note that if you compress insulation in an effort to make it thinner and fit into more confined areas, the R-value of the insulation will decrease. There are a lot of other household factors that may influence the final R-value of the insulation. One of these is where the insulation is installed. For example, heat flows differently through the likes of studs, joints and certain building materials, which means that the final R-value of insulation installed in walls and ceilings is likely going to be different than what is installed in floors, for example. Another factor is how well the insulation is installed. Any patches in insulation in any area of the mobile home can greatly reduce the overall R-value.
It’s often recommended that you try to purchase insulation with an R-value of no less than 30-50 for the roof and 15-30 for the floor, but even these values are largely based on the climate of the location that your mobile home is in, the type of HVAC system your mobile home has and what part of the mobile home you’re planning to insulate. For this reason, it’s often best to check in with a professional contractor, mobile home expert or with your local mobile home supply store to get an idea of what R-values you should be striving for.
Areas for Mobile Home Insulation
We’ve already briefly touched on some of the basic places you should be insulating, such as roofs, floors, and walls. But there are more places to insulate that your overall mobile home can greatly benefit from. This section will take a closer look at the various places that are ideal for insulation in the mobile home:
Roof: This is arguably the most important area of the mobile home to insulate and the reason behind this ties into basic science. As you may recall from grade school, hot air rises. And as this hot air rises, it will easily escape the mobile home if there isn’t quality insulation preventing it from doing so. Poor insulation in the roof is directly related to higher energy costs, as the mobile home HVAC appliances will almost certainly be working extra to keep the unit comfortable. The large, spacious nature of the roof and variety of building materials can also make it a somewhat challenging area of the mobile home to properly insulate. However, when you get into the attic area, you can place this insulation over the ceiling of the mobile home. You can always have a look at your roof on a frosty day to see where it needs improvement.
Underbelly (crawlspace): All mobile homes have some sort of underbelly or crawlspace, and while you may not initially think that this area of the home is a big deal to properly insulate, it’s more important than you may initially hypothesize for one big reason: plumbing. Yes, it’s in this area where you’ll find many of the pipes and plumbing that deliver water into the home and drain water from it. If these pipes were to freeze during the cold winter months, then they could burst. This can result in a mess under the mobile home, potential water damage, and the certain need for pipe and possibly appliance replacement. This makes mobile home underbelly maintenance and repair one of the most important aspects of ownership. On this note, you should also be regularly repairing and insulating the skirting, as a better-insulated skirting can also have a positive impact on the insulation quality of your mobile home’s underbelly.
Walls: Next to the roof, the walls are arguably the most important places where you need insulation. That’s because, like the roof, the walls also make up one of the largest areas of the home, especially as it pertains to separating the outside from the inside. Like we mentioned in the opening, all mobile homes are usually built with some sort of insulation, however, it’s typically very thin insulation with low R-values, especially when it comes to that found within a wall. Needless to say, it’s not of the utmost quality – which is why mobile home owners should be looking to upgrade it when possible. Walls, however, can be somewhat difficult to insulate because it’s necessary to get inside of them to install the insulation. For this reason, one of the most popular insulation methods for the inside of walls is blow-in insulation, a minimally invasive technique. We’ll have more on the various types of insulation later in this piece.
Windows and doors: Before we delve too deep into this category, it’s first worth noting that there is no specific insulation type for any window or door within a mobile home. However, there are certain measures that you can take to prevent drafty doors and windows. And being that taking these measures can help with heat loss and heat gain, and also help keep utility costs down, it’s worth taking matters very seriously. Minimally, you should be inspecting caulking and weather stripping around doors and windows, replacing and repairing when necessary. If you really want to amp up efforts around windows and doors, you might also consider adding storm doors or replacing existing windows with ones that are more energy efficient. Door draft stoppers, which install underneath the door, can also come in handy.
Common Materials (and Methods) Used for Mobile Home Insulating
The materials that makeup insulation are vast, and it’s possible to dedicate an entire post just to those. That said, for this article, we’ve chosen to focus on the materials and deployment methods that are the most applicable to the mobile home. Here’s a closer look at these, as well as some pros and cons of each:
- Blanket or roll insulation: Blanket insulation, which is also commonly referred to as roll insulation, is available in fiberglass, wool, and plastic and natural fiber varieties. One of the biggest pluses when it comes to blanket insulation is that it can be purchased at just about any major hardware store, and installing it is a fairly easy DIY job, especially in areas such as attics or around the home’s underpinning. Literally, all that you need to do to apply it is unroll it out and secure it into place. In addition to blanket insulation being a fairly easy DIY job, it’s also a less expensive type of insulation than the others you’ll find on this list. The real lone downside is that you need to be able to access the areas of the mobile home that you want to install it in. For instance, if you want to lay down blanket insulation behind existing walls, you’d need to remove the walls to do so, which isn’t often practical. Hence, blanket insulation is often ideal for in attics and crawlspaces.
- Blow-in insulation: Blow-in insulation, often commonly referred to as loose insulation, is a type of insulation that requires a certain degree of professionalism and proper equipment to perform. It basically consists of cutting a small hole in a wall, floor, ceiling or other areas of the home where application is intended, and then using a special type of compressor to push insulation into the area. With insulation materials ranging from cellulose to wool, it’s a very practical style of insulation, especially when it comes to hard-to-access areas of the home, such as in between walls. There are a few notable downsides to blow-in insulation, however. For starters, it’s more expensive than applying blanket insulation, mainly because it takes a qualified professional with the right equipment to perform the task. Secondly, it’s technically a blind process, meaning that whoever is doing the insulating doesn’t know exactly how much insulation they’re putting where. Plus, the insulation needs to settle. This means that some areas that are being insulated might have more insulation than others.
- Foam boards: These are similar to blanket roll insulation in that it’s a fairly easy DIY job and it’s an affordable type of insulation. However, unlike blanket roll insulation, which is flexible in nature, foam boards are rigid, a factor that can make them challenging when it comes to installation. Specifically, foam boards can be used to either patch various holes in existing insulation or they can be used to insulate full areas of the mobile home. They’re typically crafted from either polyurethane or polystyrene. A few other downsides to foam boards aside from what we’ve already mentioned is that this isn’t a suitable insulation type for all areas of the home, notably floors and ceilings where the boards can come loose and pose a greater problem. What’s more is that foam boards are more of a fire hazard than other types of insulation, which can be problematic.
- Beads: The one other type of insulation that we’ll mention here is beads. Typically made of polystyrene, these beads are easy to install and very affordable. Specifically, they’re designed mostly for patching purposes. As we noted, bead insulation is very easy to apply – all you need is an opening to the area, then it’s just a matter of filling said opening with as many beads as you’d like. Aside from being affordable and easy to install, beads are also water-resistant. However, the main downside is that bead insulation typically has a much lower R-value than other types of insulation.
Choosing the Best Mobile Home Insulation
So what kind of insulation is the best for your mobile home? It depends on just what you’re looking to do, and what you’re looking to spend when it comes to insulating. It’s important to carefully consider the various different types of insulation that we outlined in the section above as well as the all-important R-value. Additionally, a mobile home owner who wants to stay on budget, but increases the efficiency of the home may choose two different types of insulation – perhaps blow-in for the walls and blanket insulation for the attic and underpinning.
Common Errors with Insulation (and Mobile Home Insulation Tips)
One of the big problems with insulation we already touched on in this piece – it’s usually not very good for existing mobile homes. That’s largely because, in an effort to keep the cost of mobile homes down, manufacturers cut certain corners. Insulation happens to be one of them. Hence, to resolve this problem, many mobile home owners take matters into their own hands and attempt to re-insulate their homes. This can lead to a bevy of other issues, especially if you’re performing the insulation installation by yourself.
Here’s a closer look at some of the issues you should seek to avoid when it comes to insulating your mobile home:
- Not applying enough insulation: You might not think that a few missing patches of insulation would be a big deal. But you’re wrong. In fact, it’s estimated that if even as little as 5 percent of the insulation is missing, the R-value can decrease by more than 50 percent. Bottom line: Make sure any insulation – whether it’s applied by you or a contractor – is done so thoroughly and correctly.
- Damaged underbelly insulation: Being that the underbelly is the lowest point of the mobile home to the ground, and based on the appliances and hardware it houses, this can be a problematic area when it comes to insulation. For starters, there’s the greater likelihood for pests to enter the area and nest in the insulation, which can limit its effectiveness. Additionally, the plumbing and electrical works often aren’t insulated properly, which can be an issue. Finally, there’s also the potential that the skirting around the mobile home is poorly insulated or isn’t air-tight, which can trickle down to impact the effectiveness of the underbelly.
- Building pieces/parts: We already talked a bit about how joists, batts, knee walls and soffits – if not insulated correctly – can hamper the overall effectiveness of insulation in certain rooms of the home. If you’re not working with a professional contractor who knows how to properly insulate these troublesome areas of the mobile home, make sure that you have a thorough understanding of how to do it yourself.
- Don’t forget about the little things: We already discussed how it’s important to insulate around the likes of doors and windows, but there’s another important area that you shouldn’t ignore when it comes to exterior walls – the electrical outlet. You can purchase insulation specifically designed for outlets. An outlet might seem like a little minor thing when it comes to the big picture, but keep in mind what we mentioned about the problems associated with not enough insulation above: it can greatly decrease the overall R-value.
When it comes to your mobile home’s insulation, there are various other factors that can impact its overall effectiveness. Some of these factors are internal, while others are external. When it comes to the latter, Mother Nature has the potential to take its toll on your insulation, especially if there’s any damage to the walls or roof of the home that could allow water to intrude into the property. Certain insulation material types, like cellulose and cotton, can harbor mold growth if they’re not properly dried when exposed to moisture. If mold has already formed when the problem is caught, the insulation will likely need to be replaced. The other big thing to consider is the movement of the mobile home, which occurs over time. When this happens, the insulation can drift or lose its place. Remember, patches in the insulation can greatly reduce the R-value of the insulation, resulting in lackluster efficiency.
Lastly, there are internal factors to be mindful of. Appliance leaks, pipe leaks and more can all lead to water damage from internal sources. These are typically much easier to quickly identify and resolve but can do similar damage to the insulation if not caught in time. In areas of the mobile home that are easily accessible, it’s worth it to spend a few minutes every six months or so to ensure that the insulation is still in good shape, even if you have no reason to believe otherwise.
Best Places to Purchase Mobile Home Insulation
The nice thing about many types of insulation is that it’s pretty widely available. If you visit a local hardware store, you should be able to find certain types of insulation in stock. Other types of insulation like blow-in, as we previously mentioned, typically require a professional contractor to perform the work. While any hardware store is good for finding insulation, it’s also important to note that a mobile home is a bit different than a conventional single-family home. With that in mind, visiting your trusted mobile home supply store is where you’ll be able to find the ideal insulation type for your home and receive the customer support from professionals that are in the know about just what it is you’re looking for. If you can, bring in a small piece of the existing insulation in your mobile home so that you can analyze your options when it comes to improving it.