Mobile homes can present a series of unique challenges to homeowners, particularly in the area of heating systems. Three particular concerns for mobile home owners with gas furnaces are stable fuel supply structures, sufficient flow of air, and proper chimney location and soundness. All of these have significant safety ramifications, and inadequacies can be dangerous. Here is what you should know:
Secure propane tanks and supply lines
Mobile homes are often located in areas that do not have preexisting utility services such as natural gas. That requires the homeowner to have propane tanks and lines installed if they wish to use a gas furnace for heating. Unfortunately, the flexibility afforded by being able to locate a mobile home in a variety of places can be problematic if the installation of tanks and lines is not done properly. Here are some possible areas of concern that you should address if your gas furnace uses propane:
Propane tank – propane tanks must be mounted in a secure, stable location that is flat. Be sure that your tank does not rest directly on the ground, or corrosion may develop on the underside. In addition, propane tanks must have a manufacturer's nameplate in order to legally be in-service; if your tank is not identifiable, you will have to replace it.
Supply line – the gas supply line is sometimes installed as an afterthought in mobile homes, and this can lead to dangerous consequences. Be sure that the line leading from your propane tank is not resting on the ground or dangling in mid-air; such lines are trip hazards that might result in a broken line or damage connections. Attach any supply lines to appropriate structures such as the home or a sturdy support built for that purpose.
Adequate air supply for combustion
A significant problem found in mobile homes with gas heating is a lack of available oxygen for combustion. Poor combustion is inefficient, but more importantly, it is hazardous to the health of home occupants. The complete combustion of fuel results in harmless byproducts of carbon dioxide and water vapor; however, incomplete combustion resulting from a lack of oxygen results in carbon monoxide emissions. Carbon monoxide poisoning accidentally kills over 400 Americans each year, and this silent killer can almost always be prevented with the proper measures.
Air return blockage is a specific concern that needs to be addressed in order to ensure that combustion air supply is adequate. Mobile homes are often drafty due to poor insulation, and homeowners seek to compensate by adopting means to block the flow of air through the home. Such means include blocking return air vents that pass through interior doors, stuffing cloths under doorways or other restrictive measures. These "solutions" may slow the drafts, but they also prevent air from returning to the furnace. This, of course, leads to inadequate combustion and decreased operating efficiency.
Instead of blocking return air pathways, the better strategy is to improve insulation within walls and in areas beneath the mobile home. Weather stripping around windows and doors can also help eliminate draftiness and still preserve the flow of air to the furnace.
Additionally, air filters are often neglected by homeowners, and mobile homeowners are no exception. These filters are critical to preserving a clean flow of air back into the furnace. Dirty filters not only allow dust and other allergens back into the system, but they also restrict air flow to the furnace. That's why you should change air filters once per month to maintain optimal operation of the system. Expensive filters aren't necessary either; you can obtain good results by using ordinary fiberglass strand filters that permit strong air flow and maintain adequate filtration.
Proper chimney and vent structures
Another problem of significance for mobile homes is the presence of inadequate chimneys. Chimneys that extend from the side of mobile homes can vent gases into windows and doorways, and chimneys with poor construction can leak back into the home. In addition, chimneys can present a fire hazard if not made of the proper materials. Since ventilation can be a complex area, it is best to obtain the services of a professional heating company for inspection and repair or replacement of chimneys.
To make sure that your heating system is safe for use, contact a heating services provider.