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(707) 539-4533 |  Sonoma Napa and Marin Counties

updated 7/22/22


Air Conditioning in a Mobile Home

Like any other house, mobile homes need climate control to be comfortable – especially with the heat waves we’ve all been experiencing lately. Whether you’re in a trailer or a huge mansion, nobody wants to spend the whole summer sweating through their clothes. However, due to their size and unique structure, mobile homes have special requirements that many homeowners and landlords don’t know about. Learning about mobile home air conditioning can help you find an HVAC system that works for your unique situation without costing you extra time and money. In this post, we’ll go over some of the common problems that mobile home residents run into as well as a few solutions that you might not have heard about yet.


HVAC 101 Everything you need to know


Top Nine Problems in Mobile Home Air Conditioning

We’ve talked about some of the common issues homeowners experience with their air conditioners, but mobile homes come with their own set of potential problems. Air conditioners are often improperly sized and installed in mobile homes, and workarounds for limited space can cause problems as well. Here are nine of the most common issues you might experience, as well as a little info on how you can fix them:


Unmatched Split-System AC – By far the most widely used type of air conditioner is called a split-system AC. As the name suggests, split-system air conditioners come in two separate units, one that goes inside your home and one that stays on the outside. The indoor unit holds the evaporator coil and the blower fan and typically connects to the ductwork if you have some, and the outdoor unit holds the condenser coil and the compressor.  Because mobile home residents and landlords are often operating on a stricter budget, they can sometimes end up with indoor and outdoor units from different AC models. This might seem like a solid cost-saving method, but it’ll just cause more problems moving forward. Air conditioners work by transferring heat energy back and forth between the two coils, and that process needs to be very carefully calibrated and controlled. If you have mismatched units, you can end up paying more every month as the system loses efficiency.


Worn Out Ductwork – Because of space constraints, many mobile homes have ducts running underneath the house instead of above it. This gives you more headroom and prevents the house from being too top-heavy, but it does make your ductwork more vulnerable to damage. Leaves and other debris can more easily end up inside the ducts, blocking them and causing damage to the delicate metal frames. To counteract this problem, we recommend having your ducts cleaned about once a year or so. If the ducts are blocked up, it can also reduce the airflow through the whole system and force the air conditioner to work a lot harder to keep your home cool. That means extra wear and tear, extra power use, and a real headache for you. The same goes for any vents, grills, or other exit points for air in the system. The best thing you can do to take care of your air conditioner is to keep everything clean and unclogged so it can run smoothly.


Window Units and Mini-Splits – To save money, many mobile home residents eschew a ducted system in favor of simpler window units or mini-split air conditioners. Window units are especially inexpensive and are easy to install on your own, making them a solid choice for any bedroom. However, these single units are almost always insufficient for an entire mobile home. Even a mini-split AC can typically only handle a single room, and attempting to leave the door open and use the unit to cool the whole house will only run up your power bill while leaving you hot and sweaty. That being said, mini-split air conditioners are actually a terrific way to cool down your mobile home without having to install ducts. We’ll talk about them more a little later on in this post. If you do want to use alternatives to a ducted forced air system, we recommend working with an HVAC technician and purchasing enough units to cool down the entire mobile home.


Poor Sizing – An improperly sized HVAC system will cause a problem in any house, no matter the dimensions. This is one of the most common issues for homeowners who choose to buy and install their own air conditioning systems instead of going through a contractor. Air conditioners come in a wide variety of sizes, measured by their output in British Thermal Units, or BTUs. As you might imagine, an air conditioner that’s too small for the space it’s installed in will struggle to cool down the entire house, causing wear and tear on the parts and raising your power bills while leaving you uncomfortably warm all summer long. However, that doesn’t mean that bigger is always better. If the air conditioner output is too high for your house, it’ll just end up switching itself on and off much more rapidly than it should. This is called short-cycling, and it can drastically shorten the lifespan of the unit. There are some calculations – including the square footage of your house, the number of windows and residents, and the climate zone you live in – that will tell you the proper BTU requirements for your space.


Pests in the Ducts – This is kind of a strange one, but placing the ductwork underneath a mobile home can leave it vulnerable to invasion by pests of all sizes. If you’re not taking good care of your vents, critters can crawl in there and cause problems for the whole system. You might be amazed at the animals we’ve seen in the ducts under houses. In the worst-case scenario, something can crawl into the ducts and die there, causing the air conditioner to blow the stench of death all through your home. The best way to avoid this problem is by checking all the vents and entry points to the ducts to make sure everything is kept secure. You should also semi-regularly inspect the ducts themselves to make sure there aren’t any holes allowing cool air to escape and animals to crawl inside. Besides allowing pests to make their way inside the ducts, holes will also severely cut the efficiency of the system and lead to more problems down the road.


Clogged Air Filters – This is a universal problem for anyone who owns an air conditioner. Whether we’re sending a technician out to a mobile home in the country or the biggest suburban McMansion, there’s always a pretty significant chance the issue is going to be a dirty or clogged air filter. Filters play an important role in the system by making sure the air inside your home is clean and free of any contaminants from outside. However, they can easily become clogged up with dust and other debris through regular use. The clog reduces airflow through the ducts, reducing the overall efficiency of the system and eventually leading to more serious problems like worn-out parts. We recommend either cleaning or replacing the air filter in your AC unit once a month, depending on whether you’re using disposable or washable filters. Make sure to check the documentation that came with your air conditioner so you know you’re buying the right kind of filter since some systems can’t handle finer filters with higher MERV ratings.


Dirty Blower Fan – The air filters aren’t the only parts that can be clogged or covered in dirt. The outdoor unit also holds a blower fan, and that can become tangled or clogged up with dirt, leaves, and other debris coming in from the outside. This is especially true if you live in a rural area. As a general rule, the outside AC unit requires a lot more care in rural areas than in a suburban lawn. Since many mobile homes are found a little way out from the suburbs, it’s important to keep the outside unit clean and free of any debris that could damage it. Of course, an HVAC technician will also clean all the parts inside both units during your regular yearly maintenance appointment, but it’s still a good idea to go out there and clear debris away every once in a while.


Neglecting Regular Maintenance – Mobile home air conditioners tend to be crammed into tight spaces that make the units difficult to reach. Out of sight means out of mind, and it’s easy to forget that HVAC systems actually require some regular maintenance to run smoothly. If properly taken care of, a single air conditioner can last you for a decade or longer. However, that means keeping it clean, clearing away any debris, checking the filters regularly, and bringing in professional HVAC contractors once a year to take a look at the inner workings of the AC. It might feel like a waste of money to bring someone in when everything is working smoothly, especially if you’re on a budget already, but the cost of a regular yearly appointment is a whole lot lower than the cost of repairs or replacing a broken air conditioner, which can run $5,000 or more.


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These are some of the most common problems we see with customers who live in mobile homes. It takes a little extra work, but taking care of your air conditioner and keeping it clean will go a long way towards avoiding pretty much all of the issues we just mentioned. If you’re aware of the special challenges that come with mobile home air conditioners, they’re really not any more difficult to take care of than ones in bigger houses.


Mobile Home AC Solutions and Alternatives


You might have noticed that a lot of the problems mobile home residents have with their air conditioners have to do with the ducts. Installing ductwork in a mobile home or trailer can be a tricky proposition, and the solution does leave them more exposed to debris and animals under the house. Because of these concerns, more and more mobile home residents have been looking for alternatives to traditional central air HVAC systems. There are a bunch of different options for ductless cooling in a mobile home, so we’ll go over a few of the most popular.


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