Brett from Rolling Earth was by today and we mulled over the problem of keeping mobile homes warm in the winter. It’s supposed to be a doozy this year, with the coldest weather in 50 years. If we all prepare like little ants, that will just about guarantee balmy weather, so let’s all pitch in. If it freezes up hard, I’ll know someone out there slacked off.
I bought a mobile because it was the only home I could afford. She was an old hulk in a corner of a mobile home park when I first laid eyes on her. She had rust running down her flanks, had wires sticking out at strange angles, dissolving windowsills and cracked steps. She was almost 45 years old at the time, and beyond some tar being poured onto her badly dented roof, apparently had never been maintained. I loved her and pleaded to buy her on the spot. Bruce Lasuta, my real estate guy, argued for rationality. Go inside first, look around, ask some questions, he said. But I didn’t care. I could afford her just as she stood. She had walls and a roof. She had a flush toilet and drains. I could fix the rest.
I’ve had her for 14 years now and she has been worth every bit of work. She has protected me from snow storms and bears, has helped me welcome spring and prepare for fall and I never owed another penny on her, fixing her up as I got $30 or $50 to spend. But golly, this old babe is cold. Her skin is thin – metal sheets over three inch insulation, single ply windows in aluminium frames.
I’ve had lots of time to consider her strengths and weaknesses. Her strengths – you can drag her to a patch of land and have most of a house in one day (I’ve done this to her twice now). She is built on sturdy steel H beams and could be built from the floor up again if I really wanted to. She could be jacked up for a decent crawl space or basement, or have a frame built over her for a second floor. If she leaks, you pour some tar on her and it stops. Oh – and I could afford her – did I mention that? I got a whole house for the price of a car.
Weaknesses – she needed some work, that’s for sure. the carpet needed reaming out and replacing, it took layers of paint to cover the nicotine dribbles, her pipes run almost horizontal to fit into the subfloor, and her door sills are made of plastic. And she’s cold. But the cheapest fixes have been very helpful, to my immense glee.
Having a two inch diameter hole drilled through the wall behind the woodstove really has reduced drafts. It seems crazy to create still another hole in the colander-like carcass of the normal mobile, but when a fire can pull all the cold air it wants from a couple of feet away, it doesn’t have to yank it from all the way down the hall. The wind chill factor has dropped accordingly.
Skirting the undersides in was a big and instantaneous help. It did cost a lot to hire a friend to create the skirting, but much of the wood sheathing was cut from dismantled equipment cases from Howe Sound Pulp and Paper. I will continue to seek used Styrofoam to insulate the inner skirt one day. The difference this skirt makes is so distinct that if the small entry door is left open on a winter day, I can feel the chill seeping upwards right away.
Lots of heat is lost through windows. I certainly do put plastic up over single pane windows. I don’t care if that only helps by a degree or two – every bit counts. And I close my curtains at night as my depression era mother taught me to do, to create that envelope of still air for another couple of degrees.
As for the windows, for Christmas each year, my parents have been buying me a twin seal and now I only have two old ones left to exchange.
Another tip – We’re told to close up unused rooms to conserve heat, but in the Wild Wet Coast, that leads to a lot of mildew and rot. Leaving a light on in a closed room really does help keep the humidity down.
We’ve been told to avoid incandescent lights because they emit heat – but I was pretty excited to hear that they could warm and dry as well as enlighten, so now I leave a couple of incandescents on during the day all through the rainy and cold season. They do not draw as much electricity as a heater does, while helping with the chill and damp factor. Even a fan in a closed room would keep the rot down.
One day when I’m rich and famous, I’ll have the underside of the mobile thickly insulated, and maybe have a roof put on, and thick siding installed. But for now, I’m getting by with my blankie, woodstove and cat.