They’re not called trailers anymore

After being lulled into illusions of impending summer by a string of days in the 40s and 50s, getting out our warm-weather clothes and letting the woodpile dwindle down, we’re thrown back into winter with a polar blast in the zero degree range. But the birds are coming back, sap is flowing and the earthy smell of thawing soil is in the air. For some, thoughts turn to buying a house. First-time buyers, young families and retirees want to build equity, get more space, or avoid group living.

For those groups, affordability is usually an issue. Even though that term means different things to different people, manufactured homes can be a viable alternative in the lower price range to a stick-built, worn-out house over a wet basement with steep stairs and small rooms. But whichever it is, the cost of homeownership includes heating and the efficient use of fuel. And in that respect, a brand new home that meets EnergyStar® requirements can’t be beat.

The National Association of Home Builders reports that among Gen Xers, Baby Boomers and seniors, EnergyStar appliances and whole-house ratings are among their top preferences. (Millennials tend to rate EnergyStar® at the bottom.)

EnergyStar® is a certification program of the U.S. Dept. of Energy that began in 1992 and assures homeowners of a level of comfort and measurable fuel efficiency when certain features are built into or added to the structure. EnergyStar® applications in manufactured homes differ from those for stick-built homes, but the principles are the same: preventing heating or cooling leaks and cold spots, and controlling fuel usage.

And it works: the National Renewable Energy Laboratory reports that up to 31 percent less heating fuel is used when EnergyStar® features are employed. Fuel costs can even zero out, thanks to net-metering.

Another category is Renewable Energy Ready Homes (RERH) that are manufactured to eliminate the use of fossil fuels by accommodating solar photovoltaic or air-collector systems, geothermal heat pumps, and sunrooms.

The term “mobile home” has fallen out of use, partly due to the stigma attached to them. And admittedly, some of them are little better than hovels. But even though manufactured homes are on a chassis that allows them to be moved, the new energy-efficient models are homes folks can be proud of – so attractive, in fact, that Efficiency Vermont is positioned to offer financial assistance for purchase or retrofitting, as well as significant rebates for furnaces, heat pumps and appliances. USDA Rural Development also will fund mortgages for new energy-efficient manufactured homes.

It hardly needs to be said, but this new breed of manufactured home can kill several birds with one stone. They can relieve the affordable housing shortage when acquired by non-profit housing groups for use in their mobile home parks; they can keep seniors or young families “on the farm” in snug, low-cost quarters; they move everyone closer to fossil-fuel independence; they are nice-looking; and they probably will be shown to hold their value as more homeseekers compare them with other options.


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