Mobile Home Water Heater Guide: Install, Compare, Troubleshoot

Hot water is essential in any household – let alone a mobile home – for the likes of bathing, cleaning and properly disinfecting. In single-family homes and mobile home units, water is heated and dispersed to faucets and shower heads by a water heater. But don’t confuse the hot water heaters that you’ll find in single-family homes as the same as a mobile home water heater. Though there are certainly similarities when it comes to functionality and installation, there are also some key differences. This post is designed to detail everything you need to know about mobile home water heaters, from how they differ from conventional ones to how to repair and install them.

Mobile Home Water Heaters vs. Conventional Ones

Mobile Home Water Heater vs Regular

First things first: As we noted in the introduction, a mobile home water heater differs from a conventional water heater. This is mainly because water heaters found in single-family homes typically have a lot more room to be installed in, while mobile home water heaters must fit into a designated closet that’s either inside or outside of the manufactured home. Because space is often limited in this closet or storage space, the water heater needs to be sized to fit those dimensions. It’s common to find anywhere from 40 to 60-gallon hot water tanks in conventional homes, but most mobile home water heater closets are only able to accommodate sizes of up to 30-gallon tanks. This is a key reason why you can’t just install a standard water heater in a mobile home. Another important reason for doing so is that it’s against the law. Mobile home water heaters must have a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) safety approval.

There are some other key differences between conventional water heaters and mobile home water heaters:

  • Unlike conventional water heaters where all connections are located at the top of the tank, the cold inlet connection is positioned on the side and the hot water inlet at the top of a mobile home water heater. On some tank models, both inlets may be positioned on the side.
  • Gas heaters typically have orifices so mobile home owners can power it via either natural gas or propane. However, this also tends to increase the cost of said heaters.
  • The location is crucial if you have a gas water heater. That’s because if it’s installed inside the mobile home, it must be a sealed combustion gas heater. Failure to abide by this standard is against the law, voids any warranty and will likely result in a denied insurance claim in the event of damage.

Read more on this topic in our mobile home repair forum.

Gas vs. Electric Water Heaters

Gas vs Electric Water Heater for Mobile Home

The various types of water heaters that mobile home owners have to choose from isn’t unlike the choices that conventional homeowners have. The two main types of mobile home water heaters are gas and electric, and it’s also worth noting that tankless water heaters are rising in popularity. Here’s a rundown on the pros and cons of each type of water heater:

  • Gas Water Heater: Like we noted above, gas water heaters are more expensive than electric mobile home heaters. However, it’s important to note that they are often more versatile, offering both propane and natural gas connectivity options.
  • Electric Water heater: The key advantages to selecting an electric water heater include the comparatively low cost of the units and the fact that no matter where your mobile home is located, you’ll have hot water so long as there’s power. However, the key drawback is that electric heaters have special electrical requirements, so if you’re going from a gas heater to an electric one in your mobile home, you may need to run a new electric line or install a new electrical panel to ensure it’s getting the juice it needs.
  • Tankless Water Heater: The big benefit of tankless water heaters is that it’s essentially “on demand” hot water. Specifically, water is only heated for what you use whenever the hot water faucet is turned, which can result in significant cost savings versus heating 30 gallons of hot water at once. Another advantage is that they take up much less room, potentially permitting the water heater closet to double as a storage area. The disadvantages to tankless are that they’re more expensive to purchase, require special venting requirements if they run on gas and can be more difficult to install.

Troubleshooting Mobile Home Water Heater Issues: Repair vs. Replace

Repair or Replace Mobile Home Water Heater

Whether it’s a single-family home or a mobile home, hot water tanks don’t have an incredibly long shelf life. In fact, it is estimated that homeowners can expect to get anywhere from 8 to 12 years out of their tanks before a new one is necessary. It goes without saying, however, that the better a tank is cared for, the longer it’s likely going to last. Here’s a look at some common maintenance tasks to consider performing on your mobile home water heater:

  • Flush it: Unless you have a tankless heater, draining the tank and flushing it at least annually can help it last longer by removing sediment that has a tendency to build up at the bottom of the tank. To flush your tank, turn off the gas and the cold water supply to the tank. Then hook up a garden hose to the drainage spigot on the bottom and ensure that the end of it either drains outside or in a sink or drain. Open up the bottom spigot and let the water drain. Then, turn on the cold water to the tank and let it flush out the tank for a few minutes. To conclude, turn off the drainage spigot, disconnect the hose and turn the gas back on. The tank should begin to fill back up.
  • If you only live in your mobile home for part of the year, consider draining the tank before you leave for an extended period of time – especially if this time is during the winter months. If water is left in pipes to freeze, it could lead to a burst pipe, which can result in a water damage situation.
  • Routinely check valves, spigots, and connections for signs of leakage and repair accordingly.
  • Consider adding a water sensor near the hot water heater. These can better alert you to potential issues with it, which can be difficult to observe due to the concealed nature of mobile home water heaters.

How to Install a Mobile Home Water Heater

How to Install a Mobile Home Water Heater

Water heater on the fritz? Though it is possible to replace a mobile home water heater yourself and save whatever a plumber would charge for this service, note that it is a project that’s best for more handy DIYers. This is especially true if you are on a well and need to incorporate filters to minimize mineral and sediment accumulation. If you do decide to go the DIY route, a few notes to get you started: Try to select a new water heater that’s similar in dimensions to your old one. Also, remember to be sure that it’s HUD-approved. If you’re going from a gas to an electric heater, you may want to rethink whether or not it’s a project you can handle yourself. Here’s a closer look at the process to replace a mobile home gas water heater. You’ll need a wrench, garden hose and perhaps a helper to assist you in removing the old tank and placing the new one.

  1. Turn off the gas and water supply to the tank. Drain all the existing water out of the tank through the drainage spigot.
  2. Remove the gas line and the water connections coming into and out of the water tank.
  3. Remove the old water heater and clean up any water or debris remaining in the area.
  4. Place a drip pan in the place where the new water heater will be positioned.
  5. Install straps so that the water heater can be secured to the floor and to the wall.
  6. Insert the new hot water tank onto the drip pan and reconnect the gas line and water supply lines. Tighten the connections and then secure the tank via the straps.
  7. Turn on the water and allow the new tank to fill up. Open up the pressure relief valve as the tank fills so that air within the tank is pushed out.
  8. Turn on the gas, then set the temperature on the heater and you’re ready to use hot water in your mobile home.

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