June 26, 2009

Manufactured homes and efficiency

The State
Lindsay: Energy-efficiency starts in the home: the manufactured home
Laura Lindsay

June 20, 2009

South Carolinians have a real opportunity to reduce our energy consumption.

An estimated 355,499 South Carolinians lived in manufactured homes in 1990, and according to the 2007 U.S. Census, this growing demographic accounted for 20 percent of all South Carolinians. Many of those homes were manufactured before 1979.

Why is this important? Not until 1976 did the first federal code on manufactured housing take effect, dramatically increasing the energy-efficiency of manufactured homes. Thus, it is likely that somewhere between 125,000 and 190,000 homes in South Carolina have shells that perpetually leak air; inferior or no insulation in the walls, under the roof or and in the doors; and heating and cooling ducts that have no insulation, not to mention wiring deficiencies and other safety issues.

In 2007, the median income for families living in these “worst energy efficiency violators” was $24,000, which, depending on the number of family members, falls near the federal poverty level. These unsafe energy hogs are costing their financially fragile occupants 30 percent more in energy bills, and they also are emitting literally tons of unnecessary carbon into the atmosphere, contributing to South Carolina’s dependency on non-native, toxic coal imports.

Unfortunately, these same families could face a more pressing concern. A recent Texas study, found a 2.6 percent increase in autism rates per 1,000 pounds of mercury released in that state by its coal-fired plants, with a decrease in autism by 1 percent to 2 percent for every 10 miles distance lived from the plants. If these numbers prove true, then just looking at one toxic substance from the cornucopia released by these plants in South Carolina every year, it is possible to conclude that the man is sticking it to these rural poor twice.

We can change this. The American Clean Energy and Security Act, introduced in Congress on May 21, offers South Carolinians a chance to make substantial changes in the energy efficiency of our existing manufactured homes. The act provides for substantial rebates in the purchasing of Energy Star-rated manufactured homes for low-income families who reside in pre-1976 manufactured homes, and it encourages states and private donors to match or exceed those rebates. South Carolina has already stepped-up to the plate with a $750 income tax credit and sales tax exemption for these homes, while Duke and Progress, two of our private utilities, already provide a 5 percent rate discount for these homes.

Of course, some will argue that the $50,000 price tag on Energy Star-rated manufactured homes is too high ($15,000 more than standard manufactured homes) and that the poor cannot afford these homes. That is precisely where we step in as a community, following the examples from such states as Kentucky, Maine and Montana, which are pooling community resources to decrease their energy dependence and take the burden of high energy costs off the shoulders of the poor by helping them trade up to energy-efficient manufactured homes.

What can South Carolinians do? Demand that your representatives vote for passage of the American Clean Energy and Security Act, through phone calls, e-mails and letters. Then demand that your state officials and community leaders come up with a comprehensive plan to begin the hard work of helping our struggling citizens exchange pre-1976 manufactured homes with new Energy Star-rated manufactured homes. Lastly, volunteer and contribute where you can to make this plan a reality, and our state more energy efficient.

We can and must make a collective resolution to stop the criminal polluting of our environment and remove our hand in the cycle of poverty.

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1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this very informative posting on these kinds of houses. I have been doing some of my own research since my parents are currently looking for some manufactured homes in Tennessee. I am a big fan of how energy efficient and cost saving they all are. Can't wait for my parents to find the perfect one for them.