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Mobile Home Water Heater: A Buyer’s Guide


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Buying a water heater is complicated enough, but what if you need to purchase a mobile home water heater? Do you need one if you live in a mobile home? Are they really that different from regular water heaters? If you live in a mobile home, chances are there was already a water heater installed. But water heaters don't last forever, even with the best of care.

If the time has come to replace your old mobile home water heater with a new one, you probably have plenty of questions. This article will help you navigate your way through buying a new water heater for your mobile home. We'll answer your questions and help you learn the differences between a traditional home heater and one for a mobile home.

Handheld shower head

What is a Mobile Home Water Heater?

It's not uncommon for people to think of mobile home water heaters as the same as a regular water heater. After all, they serve the same purpose. But there are some key differences that prevent them from being used interchangeably. And since mobile homes are also called manufactured homes, you might find these water heaters labelled either way. 

The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (H.U.D.) established the standards that separates mobile home water heaters from regular heaters. It's important to note that only H.U.D.- approved water heaters can be used in mobile homes. 

What's the Difference Between Mobile Home Water Heaters and Traditional Heaters?

Just because a mobile home water heater looks nearly identical to a traditional home water heater doesn't mean that they can be used interchangeably. There are actually a number of differences that H.U.D. requires:

T&P Valve and Fixed Temperature Setting - All mobile home water heaters need to have a temperature and pressure relief valve (T&P valve), but they also need to have a non-adjustable temperature setting.

Although, T&P valves are standard on all water heaters, traditional home water heaters allow homeowners the ability to adjust their water temperature settings.

Fuel Source Flexibility - If you opt for a gas fueled water heater it'll be designed to operate on both propane and natural gas. This gives you plenty of flexibility to use whichever fuel source is available. Since mobile homes are often moved from one location to another, more flexibility is necessary because propane (or natural gas) may not be available where you're at.

They're able to do this because they have interchangeable natural gas and propane orifices which allows them to be converted from one fuel source to another with minimal effort. However, it's worth noting that this feature is the primary reason mobile home water heaters are more expensive than traditional home water heaters.

Cold and Hot Water Connections - Mobile home water heaters have their cold water inlet connection located on the side of the water heater, and the hot water connection is on the top of the water heater. Although, it's not uncommon to find models that have both the hot and cold water connections on the side. Regular water heaters have both the hot and cold water connections on the top of the tank.

Strapping Kit - Since one of the H.U.D. requirements for mobile home water heaters is for them to be securely mounted, a strapping kit is always included. Even though regular water heaters should be strapped in place, a kit is rarely included with the purchase of the heater.

Three sizes of plastic houses

Mobile Home Water Heater Sizes

Most mobile homes don't have the same amount of space as a traditional home, and because of this, it's common to find much smaller water heaters in mobile homes. A traditional home may have a 40 to 60 gallon water heater, with the space to go even larger if necessary. And there are plenty of locations the water heater could be installed, they're frequently found in the garage, basement or utility room.

A mobile home water heater is often installed near the furnace, and may be in the master bedroom closet. However, you may also find them in the laundry room, utility closet, or hidden behind a wall panel in the hallway. Because space is so limited in mobile homes, the water heater must fit the dimensions of the area it's designated to occupy.

Since there's less space available for water heaters in mobile homes, it makes sense that the tank sizes are smaller. You'll commonly find 30-gallon water heater tanks in mobile homes, but occasionally, you may find a larger 40-gallon tank.

In most cases, 30-gallons of hot water will meet the needs of several people, however, if your hot water requirements are higher, you may want to consider installing a tankless water heater.

Can a Regular Water Heater Be Installed in a Mobile Home?

No. As outlined above, mobile home water heaters have different code requirements and must be H.U.D. compliant to ensure they are safe for use in mobile homes. If a mobile home water heater does not have the H.U.D. safety approval, it's actually against the law to use it in a mobile home. It's also important to consider that the manufacturer's warranty will be voided and any insurance claims will almost certainly be denied.

But with that being said, some manufacturers offer water heater models that meet the H.U.D. guidelines, and are designed to be installed in either traditional homes or mobile homes. Although this is more commonly seen with electric water heaters.

Hot Water Handle

Mobile Home Water Heater Buyers Guide

There are a few factors you should consider when shopping for a mobile home water heater:

Choose the Right Size

Water heaters come in a wide variety of sizes to accommodate differing needs. Selecting the right water heater size for your needs is an important decision. If you purchase a tank that's larger than your requirements, you'll unnecessarily pay extra in energy bills. Similarly, if you choose a water heater that's too small, you'll almost definitely run out of hot water on a regular basis.

If you have several people living in your mobile home, you should purchase the largest water heater you can find. 30-gallon tanks are the most common, but you can often find 40-gallon heaters. Just make sure, which ever size you choose fits in the designated space.

Although, if it's just you living in your mobile home, you may want to opt for a water heater in the 19-gallon range. Since they are smaller, they'll use less energy and they should still be able to meet your hot water needs.

Gas or Electric

Just like traditional water heaters, mobile home water heaters are available in both gas and electric models. There are pros and cons to each of these options, and it's well worth the effort to take a close look at each before you buy.

Gas mobile home water heaters are typically more expensive than their electric counterparts. However, they're also regarded as more versatile. This is because they offer both propane and natural gas connectivity options, which can be especially valuable to mobile home users.

Electric water heaters are less expensive than gas models, and because electricity hook-ups are available in all locations, you'll never need to worry about a gas hook-up or not having hot water.

However, mobile homes need to have the right electricity infrastructure to support an electric water heater. This means you may need to run new electric lines or install a new electric panel in your mobile home before installing a new electric water heater. We highly recommend staying with the fuel source that was originally installed in your mobile home.

Tank or Tankless

Both tank and tankless water heaters can be a good fit for mobile home owners. Tankless water heaters offer hot water on-demand, which can save money since the heater won't waste energy on pre-heating and holding the hot water until it's needed.

Tankless water heaters also take up less space than their tanked counterparts. This can be a huge advantage since mobile home owners typically try to make the absolute most of their available space. 

That being said, tanked water heaters are still popular for a reason. They're frequently less expensive than tankless models and don't have any special installation requirements.

Tankless water heaters, on the other hand, may have highly specific venting requirements, and may be more difficult to install.

How Much do Mobile Home Water Heaters Cost?

The cost of mobile home water heaters varies for a number of reasons. For example, the price you pay could be influenced by the manufacturer, where you buy, and the features that the heater includes. Electric mobile home heaters tend to be less expensive, and you should be able to find a quality heater for under $600. 

Just like a traditional home water heater, gas fueled mobile home heaters are more expensive than electric. You could spend as much as a thousand dollars for a quality water heater, but you can often find them much cheaper.

We highly recommend contacting a professional plumber to not only install your new water heater, but to also help you find the best option for your mobile home and hot water needs. Buying and installing mobile home water heaters isn't as simple as buying one for your traditional home, and having a professional help you through the process is money well spent!

Can I Install a Mobile Home Water Heater?

Although, we highly recommend hiring a professional plumber to install your mobile home water heater, it is something you can do yourself, especially if you're comfortable doing DIY projects. Here's what you need to do:

  • Turn off your mobile home's gas and water supply lines, and drain the water heater's tank.
  • Remove the gas and water supply lines from the old tank. Then remove the old water heater from the mobile home.
  • Place a drip pan on the floor where the new water heater will be installed.
  • Install earthquake straps on the wall to keep the new water heater secure.
  • Place the new water heater on top of the drip pan and connect the gas and water supply lines.
  • Turn on the water and allow the new tank to fill up. Open the pressure relief valve to allow the air in the tank to escape.
  • Turn on the gas and test for gas leaks. After about an hour, check to see if you have hot water.

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