Preventing mobile home electrical problems

Your mobile home was built to HUD standards.

That means it was built to meet, but not exceed, the minimum required. Do NOT expect there to be any reserve capacity above the minimum!

You should not expect it to stand up to sustained maximum electrical loads!

During cold weather, people buy small electrical heaters for spot warming of chilly areas. In the summer, they buy room size air conditioners.

Both use a lot of electricity and may run more or less constantly. This puts a heavy load on your electrical system. The electrical system in your mobile home was not designed to handle sustained maximum loads for hours at a time.

How can you tell if you are overloading your electrical system?

You keep tripping breakers. Electrical circuits are designed to shut off automatically when they detect an overload.

Perhaps you have your new heater warming the bathroom & when you turn on your hair dryer, the power goes off.

Click the link to open a new tab with more overloaded circuit problem descriptions.

Sustained electrical overloads are a more insidious problem.

Especially in mobile homes, sustained electrical loads can cause overheating and damage to the wiring & outlets without blowing a breaker. Remember, the manufacturer used minimally acceptable products to meet BUT not exceed HUD standards.

Do NOT expect there to be any reserve capacity!

Since the load is not high enough to trip a breaker, you only find out when one or several outlets suddenly stop working, you smell hot plastic around an outlet, or an assortment of appliances, which has been working fine for some time, suddenly cause a breaker to trip.

Understanding Amps and Watts

Breakers are specified in terms of Amps. Lightbulbs & many household appliances are specified in terms of watts.

The breaker on most circuits in older mobile homes are rated to trip if the total load on the circuit goes over 15 Amps. Newer manufactured homes probably have 20 Amp breakers.

Fifteen Amps is the same load as 1,500 Watts. 20 Amps is 2,000 Watts.

That hair dryer mentioned above uses at least 800 Watts; often more, but only when it is heating.

Your new space heater draws at least that much, but cycles on and off as it maintains a steady temperature.

At some point, the heater cycles while you are running the hair dryer. Boom. The breaker trips.

For an in-depth, but not mobile home specific, explanation of what breakers are & how they work, click this link & read all about them.

How do I prevent electrical system overloading problems?

  1. Hire an electrician to install new circuit(s) to power the new heating or cooling units.
  2. Add up the power demand on each circuit in your mobile home and see if you can move things around to better distribute the load.
  3. Weatherize your mobile home so you don’t need as much heating or cooling capacity. This will save you money too.
  4. Lower power demand by switching to LED lights wherever possible. 18 Watts to an LED light gives off the light of a 100 Watt incandescent bulb.

In Summary:

People commonly use 1875 Watt hair dryers on 15 AMP circuits without problems. However, in a hair salon where they are used all day you would want 20 Amp circuits.

Continuous maximum electrical demand will damage mobile home wires and outlets, leading to early failure & ongoing problems.

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