How to Lower the Electric Bill in a Mobile Home

by Reader Contributors

How gto Lower Electric Bill in Mobile Home photo

Do you need to reduce your mobile home electric usage? Our frugal readers share their most effective tips for lowering energy usage and costs of mobile homes.

Dear Dollar Stretcher,
I live in a single-wide mobile home with my family of five. We cannot seem to get the electricity usage down. The winters seem to be just as hard, if not harder, than the summers.

I thought of turning my water heater off, but I have been told that it would take more energy to reheat it than I would save in turning it off. I have put up a clothesline and hopefully that will make a difference in the coming summer months. I have also put a cool seal on my roof.

Please help. I live in Texas and the temperature can get pretty high. Last month, my bill was already $175 and that was only running the air during the day and not at night. Please help!

How to Lower Mobile Home Electric Bills

We have a lot of information on the site for keeping energy costs in check for homeowners and much of it applies to mobile home owners as well. Here are a few that may help you get started:

We also reached out to our readers for advice on lowering electric bills in mobile homes. Many of them are mobile home dwellers themselves and had some very helpful advice to share. Read on for their tips and suggestions.

Trees Reduce Mobile Home Electric

If you intend to stay in your mobile home indefinitely, plant some trees. By shading your roof and exterior walls, you can reduce your electric bills by 10% or more. Find out the direction of the prevailing winds in your area so you can plant evergreens to block cold winds and other deciduous trees and shrubs to channel cool summer breezes. Plant shrubs around the skirting of your mobile home to buffer winter winds and for shading the crawlspace. Heat rises and goes through the floor of many mobile homes in summer adding to the unbearable heat.

You can also purchase insulated curtains to place on your south, west, and east facing windows. It will keep the heat out and the cool in. Light colors will let in the light but not the heat.

Another option would be a window quilt. I took a shortcut and made mine from pieces of cut fleece that I got on sale. I hot glued a seam on top for a tension rod pocket. I wash them in the washing machine on gentle and hang to dry (the glue melts in the dryer). Put them inside the window frame and make sure that the quilt fits tightly all around the window to minimize any airflow.

There are a lot of great sites on the Internet that address landscaping for energy efficiency. I hope this gives you a good starting point!

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Energy Efficiency Important in Mobile Home

Check on the age and efficiency of your appliances. We had a 25-year-old refrigerator that ran almost non-stop until it died. We replaced it with an energy efficient model and our electric bill was cut almost in half.
Monica in Illinois

The A/C Is Only Part of Mobile Home Electric Usage

You said in your post that winters seem to be just as bad as summers or worse. This says to me that the problem is not the air conditioner. The two biggest electric hogs in a mobile home are often the hot water heater (as you already suspect) and the refrigerator.

Turning off the hot water heater will help. The hot water heater has to heat the water every time it is depleted and keep it hot. By turning it off for extended periods (8 or so hours), you are saving a lot of electricity. You can go to Lowes or Home Depot and buy a timer. Set the timer to have the hot water heater come on in the early morning about an hour before everyone gets up. Set it to go off when everyone leaves for work or school. Set it to come on again an hour before supper or when everyone is due to come home and go off again after baths in the evening. Also, test the water heater to make sure it’s working properly.

The refrigerator you now have is probably an older model. Even if it is newer, it probably is a larger sized model. During the last energy crunch (1970’s), appliances got more energy compliant. However, when the energy crunch went away, the appliances got bigger. Newer refrigerators are huge! I did a test once and shut off everything in the house. I even turned off the breakers. I left the refrigerator running. Wow! The little needle on the electric meter outside was turning around very fast. I turned everything else back on but flipped the breaker for the fridge. What a difference! OK, so what can you do?

You can sell the big energy hog and buy a compact fridge. I know of a family that did this. They bought one of those little refrigerators with a small freezer in it. They saw a big difference in their electric bill. Walmart sells them or to a used appliance store or look on craigslist for a used one. (See also: Want To Cut Electricity Costs? Fill Up Your Fridge.)

How old is your air conditioner? You may need it to be checked out. It might just need some tweaking to get it back to optimum performance. If it is really old, you may need to buy a newer energy efficient unit. Check with your electric company. Here in Georgia, they will finance a new energy efficient unit for homeowners. You can also have the electric company come out and give you energy saving tips tailored to your home and your needs.
Lori in Beautiful NW Georgia

Advice on Electric Usage from a Mobile Home Owner

I live in a mobile home in Florida. Our electric bills are much less than a lot of our neighbor’s bills. Here are some things that I think have helped.

We keep the breaker to the hot water heater turned off except for about 30 minutes a day. We have lived here 11 years and have had to replace one breaker at the cost of about $10. Since there are just two of us and there are five in Amy’s family, she may have to do this once in the morning and once in the evening to ensure an adequate supply of hot water. Since mobile home water heaters are usually smaller in capacity, the recovery time for heating is quick.

My husband also covered our water heater with a blanket of fiberglass, which helps keep the heat in and offers some protection in the really cold weather. On extremely cold nights, the water heater is left turned on. Better to be safe than sorry by having frozen pipes. Yes, it does get that cold here occasionally. (See also: Are Hot Water Heater Blankets Worth the Cost?.)

The front of our mobile has three windows and faces the West. We bought a good quality darkening film from an auto shop. My husband applied this to the three windows about ten years ago at the cost of $60 (total). We feel that it has more than paid for itself by cutting down on the heat from the sun shining on the windows in the latter part of the day. The film gives some privacy from the outside, but still allows sufficient light in. I recommend getting a good quality of film. Ours still looks new. The cheaper kinds tend to bubble and turn purple.

Mini-blinds on all the windows allow you to turn them so the light can come in but not the direct sun. In the winter months, I use heavier drapes on the bedroom windows and close them at night. I set the heat at 60 degrees at night in the winter and the air conditioning at 80 degrees in the hot months.

Try not to keep opening the outside doors frequently. This is probably difficult to do with children. Each time the door is opened, the hot air rushes in.

If your air conditioner is located in the sun most of the day, an awning to shade it will help. Allow for sufficient airflow to the unit.

Check Mobile Home Electric Meter

Several years ago, we thought our electric bills were abnormally high. We shut off all the appliances (water heater, refrigerator, etc.) and looked at the electric meter. It was still indicating that power was being used. So, we called the power company to check the meter.

Sure enough, we had a “power leak” (my term). Even with all the breakers off, the meter registered power being used. They replaced the meter and our electric bills dropped significantly.

Track Electric Usage

When I received an unexpected high electric bill, I decided to try to track the culprit. I had my husband go to the electrical breaker box and flip each breaker one at a time as I watched the electric meter. When he flipped the one breaker, the meter slowed down to a crawl. So then I knew that the problem was in my kitchen outlets. What I found out was that my coffee pot must have shorted out and was eating the electricity. I replaced the coffee pot, and the next month, it was back down to normal.

Another time I had another unexpected high electric bill, so I followed the same procedure to track the culprit. I found out that my well pump was going bad. When we replaced the well pump, the electric bill went back down.

Common Aussie Electric Trick

I lived in a trailer in the desert in Australia for three summer months, and it was tolerable because the cattle station owner had used a common Aussie trick. He built a false roof over the trailer. The false roof was pole-supported and corrugated-tin; it created shade for the trailer roof and had enough overhang to keep direct sun off the walls as well. It had an airspace of about 6″ between the false roof and the trailer roof, and a ridge vent on the false roof, so air flowed freely when the corrugated metal was heated. This false roof also reduced heat loss in the winter, I was told, by reducing the wind chill on the roof.

Maybe if you increased insulation in your trailer attic (cheap if you buy the batts and do it yourself) and added a false roof (nothing fancy with junk-yard or secondhand materials for the poles, rafters and tin sheets, which can be painted if you like), it would help for both of your extreme seasons.

Window Units for Mobile Homes

I live in a single-wide with central air and my electric bill averaged $200 to $280 per month in the summer for years. I decided to stop using the central A/C and I bought two new window units last year and my electric bill now averages $65 to $85 per month!

The units cost less than $100 for 5000 BTUs and less than $200 for 8000 BTUs, so they practically paid for themselves the first summer I used them.

Programmable Thermostat Reduces Electric Usage

The first thing to do is replace your regular thermostat with a programmable one. That’s much cheaper than buying a new air conditioner! I installed one three summers ago and my bill went from $260 to $145 in one month during the heat of the summer! It doesn’t take more than a screwdriver, and with the simple directions included in the package, only a few minutes to install. Ours cost less than $60.

To use the thermostat wisely, I’ve found that running the air at night, not during the day, also helps because the unit isn’t competing with the hot daytime temperatures. We make sure the house cools sufficiently at night (either with the windows open or the air on) to about 68 or so and then open the windows in the morning. It rarely creeps up to 80 degrees during the day unless the outside temps are over 95.

Also, get the kids outside in the summer. They are the biggest complainers about how hot it is inside! We bought an inflatable 42-inch deep pool last summer and it did wonders keeping them outdoors. The $145 investment has paid off!
Teresa in Missouri

Start with the Big Things

In Florida, the power company puts in a device that will turn “off” your power in peak times of total city usage. I get a credit every month ranging from $5.50 to $9.50. It doesn’t seem like much, but that pays for a lot of the extra taxes and fees that are charged. And to tell you the truth, I have never noticed any “off” time.

To help pay my higher bills every month, I am on what FPL calls budget billing. Every month they average out my bill and put the extra aside. I pay around $130 every month. In months when I don’t have either the heater or the air on, the extra is added to the bill to keep it at $130. Your power company may offer programs like these.

Also, FPL will come out and give a free energy home inspection. They tell you whether you might need a new A/C unit or water heater. They give suggestions on how to better insulate your dwelling. Then they give coupons for the A/C unit or insulation and a list of contractors with whom they deal. You can do all the little stuff yourself like caulking around the windows.

Start with the big stuff first. I had a new A/C unit and insulation put into my house. It made a huge difference! Then focus on the little things like hanging out your laundry.
Kathleen in Florida

Avoid Oven In Mobile Home

To lower our electric bills, there are several things that we have done. First, we replaced every light bulb we could with compact florescent bulbs. We saw a very good drop in energy consumption the very first month. Some are more expensive at first, but the payoff is there. And we have found a lot of them on sale really cheap. Also, make sure to turn off lights when you aren’t using them. Don’t forget your outside spot lights and yard lights, too!

I also avoid using the kitchen oven. It’s just a huge, cavernous cave of electric waste! If I use my ceramic stovetop, I turn it off before everything is totally done because the surface maintains the temperature for quite a while and finishes cooking the food just fine. Turning it off early really saves energy.

Instead of using the oven, which wastes electricity and heats up the house, I use my microwave. And I use items like my crock pot, electric roaster, toaster oven, and electric skillet. All of these small appliances use less energy. Plus, I set them outside to keep the heat out of the house! The other major energy saver I use is my BBQ grill. Most often, I use my gas grill because it’s more convenient. I try to fill the whole grill surface up so that I’m not wasting propane. By doing this, I have plenty of wonderful leftovers for future meals. (See also: Summertime Kitchen Energy Efficiency Tips.)

We also try to turn off our computers when we’re not using them. I’m not sure how much power they use, but they absolutely do give off quite a bit of heat.
Brenda in California

Reviewed August 2021

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