Every real estate market has its own set of utility thorns—a persistent group of struggles that tend to dig deep, latch on, and find every possible way to disrupt utility services and gouge property management budgets. And in the mobile or manufactured housing market, some of the largest thorns are the plumbing and metering systems.
Though the quality of manufactured homes has come a long way since they were initially introduced in the late 1950s, they are still much more susceptible to metering and plumbing issues than site-built homes, and here are a few reasons why.
Most manufactured housing units have plumbing lines that run underneath the home instead of between the walls like site-built homes. As such, they are more likely to experience weather-related problems like frozen or bursting pipes—which could cost anywhere from $200 to more than $1000 to repair, per instance. And that does not include the cost of any flood-related damages or the cost of wasted water that can also occur as a result.
Under-dwelling plumbing layouts can also increase the chance of low water pressure and varying kinds of build-up.
When manufactured homes are built in one location and then shipped to another, their pipes and joints can stress, crack, and break due to weight or pressure shifts within the unit—resulting in leaks and, ultimately, wasteful utility spending.
As mentioned above, mobile homes have evolved over the years—but they are still a more budget-friendly option, meaning that their utility fixtures, connections, and piping materials are often of a cheaper, less-durable build. For example, most site-built homes will typically use copper pipes for their plumbing, whereas manufactured housing units will often use plastic pipes (e.g., PVC, CPVC, and PEX).
What's the difference?
Looking at longevity alone, copper pipes can last up to 2 times longer than their plastic counterparts. They are also less likely to corrode due to contaminants or burst due to extreme temperature changes, and they are much more expensive to install and replace.
Manufactured homes have two different supply options for water and sewer services: municipal (city-owned) systems or privately-owned systems. And while a vast majority of the nation's mobile communities are currently connected to privately-owned supply systems, some communities fall in line with site-built homes and connect to municipal utility systems.
Each supply type has its own pros and cons, as you can see below.
More than half of the nation's site-built communities have installed, or have plans to install, automated read metering systems (aka ARMs or smart metering systems) to improve their utility management efforts. The manufactured housing industry, on the other hand, continues to prefer mechanical, manually read meters. As such, they are more likely to experience:
Manufactured housing communities are also more likely to use master meters for resident bill-back instead of individual sub-meters—which also tends to increase the overall cost of utilities, as we will explain below.
If you were paying attention to the section above—which I hope you were—you probably noticed a couple of recurring issues or themes. First, manufactured housing units aren't necessarily built-to-fail, but they are more prone to water damage and plumbing leaks. Second, manufactured home owners have options. And one of the options that we recommend is a two-pronged approach that includes both submeters and smart meters.
As mentioned above, the metering standard in the manufactured housing industry often involves manually-read master meters, or meters that only measure consumption at the property or community level. Because of this, most property owners (and their residents) are unaware of each unit's actual utility usage—making it more difficult to identify abnormalities and encourage conservation.
Smart submetering systems, on the other hand, provide property teams with live updates for each unit. If there's a leak or abnormality, property owners are alerted. If usage spikes, owners can drill down to find the problem unit. And, when residents receive their bills, and are held accountable for their actual usage, they are more motivated to make changes and conserve—often lowering their consumption by more than 30%.
Other benefits of smart submetered systems:
The great thing about thorns is that they can be removed… IF you have the right tools and the right team—and Conservice checks both of those boxes. Whether you are looking to install a state-of-the-art submetering system or simply want to make the most of the equipment you already have, our meter professionals can provide exactly what you need.
Click here to learn more about our meter management solutions.
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