Ordinary manufactured housing and old-fashioned mobile homes are all too often extreme energy hogs, with high electric usages that put a real strain on family budgets.
East Kentucky Power Cooperative (EKPC), which generates and transmits electricity to 16 local electric cooperatives serving people across 87 counties, has found a way to change that.
Scott Drake, EKPC’s manager of Corporate Technical Services, says, “A large percentage of our distribution co-ops’ members live in manufactured homes.” These old homes are often drafty with extremely high monthly electric usages due to poor construction methods. Drake says, “We want to make sure those members are comfortable and as energy efficient as possible.”
Free upgrade to ENERGY STAR
East Kentucky Power Cooperative got together with the manufacturing housing industry’s Systems Building Research Alliance and Clayton Homes, the nation’s largest manufactured housing builder, and the local co-ops they serve to develop a program that makes it easier for homebuyers to upgrade to highly efficient ENERGY STAR manufactured homes.
Here’s how the program typically works: Orders for new manufactured housing to be installed within the EKPC co-op territory are flagged for an upgrade to ENERGY STAR certification. The upgrade in these new, all-electric homes include a heat pump, plus better insulation, and other construction choices for much better energy efficiency.
Karen Combs, manager of Member Services at Jackson Energy Cooperative, headquartered in McKee, says, “Working with East Kentucky Power Cooperative, we are able to offer a rebate that covers the difference in price between a typical manufactured housing unit and the ENERGY STAR version of the same floor plan and square footage home. I think this will lead to more people being willing to upgrade to an ENERGY STAR home, because they don’t have to pay for it themselves. They don’t have the out-of-pocket expense, and that makes doing the upgrade possible.”
Combs points out that although the incentive goes directly to the manufacturer of the home, it’s the co-op member who receives the full benefit in the form of lower utility usage every month.
There’s another community-wide benefit for people who choose an ENERGY STAR manufactured home. Combs says, “Helping our members use less electricity also benefits the environment because power plants do not have to produce that extra energy.”
And there’s an even longer-term benefit as well. EKPC’s Drake says, “We’re supporting the cost of these ENERGY STAR upgrades for our member co-ops because it’s better to use less energy than to have to build another power plant.” That’s not just good for budgets—it’s good for the environment, too.
To participate in the program, simply ask your manufactured home sales person for more information on how to upgrade to an ENERGY STAR manufactured home—at no cost to you in most cases—or contact your local participating co-op for more details.
SmartMH better loans, better homes
A new program known as SmartMH KY, launched one year ago, helps homebuyers get connected with lenders and other groups who can provide assistance with down payments and low-interest rates on mortgages for ENERGY STAR manufactured housing.
Stacey Epperson, CEO at SmartMH KY, says, “We created this alliance with the goal of changing the market share of ENERGY STAR manufactured homes from being less than 1 percent each year to being 50 percent of sales. During the first 10 months of SmartMH KY, we’ve already increased to 6 percent of the market so we’re off to a good start.”
Epperson notes that the new program isn’t just about market share or lower monthly utility bills. It’s about helping people reach their own goals. “Buying a home is often the single largest purchase for a family,” Epperson says. “SmartMH KY is a statewide effort to communicate to homebuyers the value of buying an ENERGY STAR manufactured home, and being able to do it with a better loan. Our program is about better homes and better loans.”
SmartMH KY staff have been explaining the value of ENERGY STAR homes and the financing options available to manufactured housing retailers throughout the state. “So far we’ve provided training and marketing support for 368 retailers and installers,” Epperson says. “Our training covers how to advise potential buyers about the benefits of ENERGY STAR manufactured housing and the best practices for installing ENERGY STAR homes. We talk about the importance of things like sealed ductwork, better insulation, and high-performance windows, all the things that help reduce utility bills.”Nancy Grant from the May 2016 issue