If you didn’t know, the kind of water heaters used in mobile homes is slightly different from what you’d find in regular residential spaces.
This means you can only replace your old/faulty mobile home water heater with another of its type.
So, What Type of Water Heater Do You Need for A Mobile Home?
The answer is: any water heater with HUD approval. According to the guidelines outlined by The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, water heaters intended for manufactured homes must meet certain standards different from what you’d expect from conventional heaters in traditional homes.
Why Are HUD Guidelines Regarding Water Heaters So Important?
Mobile homes are structurally different from regular homes.
For instance, some parts (floors, for example) are made of flammable materials.
This means equipment used in these homes should pose very little or no fire of risk.
Mobile homes are also smaller than traditional spaces, so the heater needs to be small in size to occupy less space but large capacity to meet the hot water needs for the family.
And since a mobile home can be moved to different locations, the heater should not run on just one type of fuel.
So How Do You Know a Water Heater Meets HUD Requirements?
HUD requirements are quite elaborate but we’ll break them into 6 features that you should look for.
Before you even start to inspect for these features, you might spot a sticker with writings like, ‘Design evaluated by XX in accordance with Part 123-45 (x) (1) of HUD mobile home construction and safety standards for energy efficiency.’
Here are the features:
1. Corrosion-Resistant Catch Pans and Drain
In the event of a leak, you don’t want water to seep into the underfloor, undiscovered until it inflicts expensive damages.
That’s why HUD recommends that the water heater sits on a corrosion-resistant catch pan.
The drain too should be corrosion-resistant.
Traditional homes come with permanent floors often made from concrete, meaning the catch pan doesn’t need to prevent leaks at all costs.
2. T & P Valve & Fixed Temperature Setting
For maximum safety, water heaters for manufactured homes must come with a nonadjustable temperature setting and, even better, a temperature and pressure valve.
Note that T & P valves are found in conventional water heaters as well.
The difference here is that you can adjust the temperature setting on your conventional water heater.
3. The Heater Must Be Secured in Place, Often by A Strap Kit
An unstrapped water heater can start a fire, cause an explosion, or inflict water damages in the event of sudden movements.
Hence, the strap helps keep your water heater in position in case of a seismic event or if you move or transport your home without dismantling everything.
Strap kit requirement is not a reserve of HUD guidelines; most conventional water heaters are equipped with it as well.
4. Dual-Fuel Heater (Uses Both Propane & Natural Gas)
This is a bit more common sense than a HUD requirement.
Water heaters meant for mobile homes should be able to switch between natural gas and propane depending on availability.
With a dual-fuel heater, you don’t need to acquire a new heater or make changes if you relocate your home from a location where natural gas is the most viable fuel to a location where propane is a better alternative.
A traditional home is fixed in one location, so it doesn’t need a dual-fuel water heater.
5. Cold Water Inlet and Hot Water Outlet Connections
Virtually all heaters designed for manufactured homes have their cold water inlet on the side of the tank and the hot water outlet on top.
However, some models feature both the 2 connections on the side of the tank.
In contrast, conventional heaters used in traditional homes have both their cold and water links on top of the tank.
6. Complete Separation from The Rest of the Home
According to the HUD standards, the heater must be separated from the rest of the air used in the mobile home.
There are 2 reasons for that.
- Firstly, if you opt for gas to propane, there’s a real risk of carbon monoxide leaking into the rest of the home.
- Secondly, you don’t want your nearby items to be damaged in the event of an explosion.
The best way to achieve the separation is via a “direct vent” closed combustion arrangement (even though HUD doesn’t approve all the direct vent heaters out there).
Alternatively, you can put your heater in an air-tight compartment that can only be opened from outside the home.
7. The Capacity Factor
Of course, heaters meant for mobile homes come with small capacities compared to their conventional counterparts.
That’s partly because you don’t have a lot of storage space in a mobile home to store the largest heater out there.
A traditional permanent home will permit a 40 – 60 gal. heater in the garage/basement or utility room.
In contrast, a mobile home will avail a tiny crevice for a smaller tank, often close to the furnace or in the closet of your master bedroom.
8. 30 gal. Heater Is Near Perfect
Any water heater in or on the brackets of 30 – 40 gallons is perfect for a manufactured home.
Since you don’t find a large family living in a mobile home, a 30-gallon tank is enough for an average family.
Go for a tankless heater if you expect higher demand for hot water.
How About Choosing Between Tank and Tankless Heaters?
When it comes to type, both tank and tankless heaters are great for manufactured homes.
However, the tankless option is more recommendable for a few reasons.
Firstly, it guarantees an on-demand hot water supply. It’s also energy-efficient and cheaper to run as you don’t need to pre-heat or hold water until you need it.
Another benefit of the tankless option is that it occupies less space compared to the tank counterpart.
The tank option is equally beneficial.
When it comes to affordability, for example, they have a cheaper price tag compared to their tankless counterparts.
They also don’t entail restrictive installation requirements.
Can You Compromise and Install a Conventional Heater in a Mobile Home?
No, you cannot.
A heater must meet HUD guidelines for it to be used in a mobile home. Otherwise, it will be unsafe for you, illegal, and may void your warranty.
To summarize everything, any water heater that meets HUD guidelines is great for any mobile home.
When it comes to specific types, both tankless and tank heaters are perfect as long as they meet the aforementioned HUD guidelines.