British Columbia

Why mobile home residents are paying for more electricity

BC Hydro says its 70,000 mobile home customers — the majority of whom are over 60 and many of whom live on low incomes — have much higher electricity bills than people who live in similar-sized homes.

BC Hydro says its 70,000 mobile home customers have much higher bills than people in other similar-sized homes

According to a new report from BC Hydro, the majority of B.C.'s mobile home residents are over 60, and many have low incomes, however, they're paying for more power to heat and cool their homes. (John Robertson/CBC)

Most of BC Hydro's 70,000 mobile home customers are over 60 and live on low incomes — but on average they're paying much higher power bills per square foot than people living in houses, apartments, duplexes and townhouses, according to a new report.

The utility's report — Mobiles and megawatts: Why mobile homes use the most electricity — was released on Tuesday.

A mobile home uses, on average, 50 per cent more electricity per square foot than a single-family home and about the same as many townhouses or duplexes — though they are generally smaller, sometimes as much as half the size, according to BC Hydro.

There isn't much that can be done about the insulation and thin walls of a mobile home, but according to BC Hydro spokesperson Mora Scott, there's still lots that can be done to improve energy efficiency and lower electrical bills.

She said sealing gaps and cracks with weather stripping to block drafts can reduce a BC Hydro bill by about 10 per cent.

Window upgrades can help with energy efficiency — there's also a BC Hydro rebate of up to $2,000 for window replacements.

Power intensive behaviour

According to Scott, the utility found there are three examples of common behaviour among mobile home residents that contribute to hefty power bills. 

  1. Many people use a single space heater to warm an entire dwelling, when the devices are meant to heat small, confined spaces.
  2. BC Hydro found there are often severe temperature swings in mobile homes, with residents opening windows to cool down an overheated home, then cranking the heat again to warm it up.
  3. Mobile home residents are more likely than others to use air conditioners, and they're typically portable units that use 10 times more electricity than a central cooling system. 

Scott suggested installing a heat pump to drastically reduce the cost of heating and cooling mobile homes. She said it can be pricey — between $4,000 and $5,000 after installation, but there's a $2,000 BC Hydro rebate, and she said for someone using an air conditioner and electricity to heat their home, a heat pump can reduce BC Hydro bills by 25 per cent.

She said there are other simple ways to reduce power bills, like tweaking the thermostat — Scott said dropping it by two degrees can save five per cent on a bill, so reducing the temperature when you're in bed or away from home can make a big difference.

Customers can also apply for a free energy saving kit, which includes things like weather stripping and energy efficient LED light bulbs.

Scott said BC Hydro plans to take the findings of its report and work on plans for other rebates and ways to help mobile home residents reduce their electricity use.

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