Manufactured Home Park Energy Efficiency

Good clean energy projects do more than just reduce pollution: good projects support people in making their lives better and provide on-ramps to engagement in the clean energy transition. 

Thanks to the generous support of the Carolyn Foundation, CERTs works side-by-side with numerous community partners to put this idea into practice in a project spanning multiple years and 47 manufactured home parks.


State of MN outlined in yellow

Manufactured Home Parks Served


home illustration

Homes Reached


piggy bank illustration

Annual Energy Bill Savings


energy gauge

Annual Energy Savings

393,123 kWh
66,685 therms

Why manufactured home parks?

Manufactured homes (sometimes called “mobile homes” or "trailers") can offer a path to home ownership for many individuals and families who might not otherwise be able to afford to buy or rent a home.

manufactured homes on a streetIn Minnesota, over 180,000 people live in manufactured homes, with nearly half of these households living on an annual income of $35,000 or less.

But housing affordability is about more than just the purchase price. It also matters how much it costs to live there, and energy is a big part of that. Many manufactured homes use more energy than similarly sized housing of other types, because of inefficiencies like poor insulation and air sealing. So, as CERTs works to reduce Minnesotans’ energy burden to under 5% of income, reaching manufactured home residents is a key piece of the puzzle.

When it comes to making manufactured homes more energy efficient, there are many challenges. Insulation is nearly impossible to implement (except for crawling underneath to insulate the “belly” of the home). What’s more, many homes are heated by propane, and there are no state-mandated utility programs to reduce propane use. 

Efficiency and affordability matter. So, too, does the ability of all Minnesotans to participate in shaping our state’s clean energy future. That’s why this project works to build partnerships with community-based organizations and residents in manufactured home parks, as well as with park owners, electric and gas utilities, and Community Action Agencies. The project provides accessible ways for residents and community organizations to enter the clean energy space, whether through changes at home or by strengthening their capacity to do energy work in community.

"CERTs’ emphasis on reducing energy burden by working closely with park managers and residents has been refreshing and pragmatic, and residents are seeing real energy savings."


A strategy for manufactured home parks

CERTs staff with boxes at Bemidji eventThe strategies used in this project were based on 2016 research from Slipstream (PDF) and on CERTs’ own experience partnering on six pilot projects in 2019: three with the Northcountry Cooperative Foundation in member-owned parks (in southern Minnesota), and three with Mahube-Otwa Community Action Partnership and Detroit Lake Public Utilities (in the Detroit Lakes area).

Research shows that a “blitz” style outreach approach — bringing as many partners as possible together for a big event that targets the entire park — is the best way to reach the most community members. Our own experiences tell us that the “secret sauce” to make the blitz even more successful is to have community members themselves be as heavily involved in the project as possible, and to be paid for their time. 

In 2020, CERTs received funding from the Carolyn Foundation, to expand and further develop our work with manufactured home communities. The goals of the project were to decrease energy use and increase safety, comfort, and affordability for Minnesotans living in manufactured housing. CERTs’ approach would be to work with local partners to conduct energy efficiency blitzes in 15-20 manufactured home parks, reaching at least 40% of the homes in the parks. In the end, the project met — and exceeded — these goals. And along the way, we learned a few things! 

Steps to run a community blitz

1. Electric and/or gas utilities express an interest to CERTs in serving manufactured homes.
2. Identify manufactured home parks that are good candidates, given your capacity and goals, with which to host an activity.
3. Engage with a park contact who can be the local champion to shape the activity around and for their community.
4. Invite other partners to contribute or participate for a more comprehensive offering.
5. Give away free energy saving items and provide information.
6. Raffle a high ticket energy item or give away non-energy items to draw people into the event.
7. Utility representatives and other partners attend the event and engage.

Implementation: success requires adaptability

We started implementing the new project in 2020, and…well, we all know how 2020 went! 

People in an open space

We planned to host in-person trainings on efficiency measures. Given the global pandemic, those didn’t happen. We shifted to what could be distributed safely and with social distancing

Local partnerships may provide resources (handouts, tools, kits) and expertise, such as a fire department with free heat tape materials, a church providing food, or a nonprofit giving out books and even laptops at events. A particularly fun and effective event in Willmar included ice cream — popular with the kids!

When parks lack an in-door community space and a good sense of community among residents, it may make more sense to employ a door-to-door approach, which can also be done as a follow-up to community events. This is done by paid staff, volunteers, or in some cases CERTs, utility, or non-profit staff who want to ensure that the outreach had been completed. 

Valuing people’s time

Hermantown community eventFrom the beginning, we knew we wanted to respect the value of people’s time as well as recognize that people have a lot going on in their lives. They don’t have unlimited time and mental resources to devote to any single thing, including energy efficiency. In particular, a process that required people to sign up for an in-home visit, confirm that visit, and then schedule their lives in a way that they could be home for that visit was unrealistic for many people.

We found that the most successful efforts had brief, direct, social-distanced contact with a community member to speak with them and provide them with the DIY energy saving materials, forms, and educational resources that they were interested in.

Information works only if it’s accessible

Person holding translated home energy guides

Making information accessible to community members — many of whom are new Minnesotans — meant providing content in multiple formats (written, spoken, and video) and multiple languages, as well as building capacity of local partners to do energy work. 

Of the initial 22 parks we served, 12 were majority Spanish speaking. We now have videos in English and Spanish, as well as Home Energy Guides translated into Spanish, Somali, Hmong, and Karen. Residents of the Willmar Regency project were about 60% Spanish-speaking and 40% Karen-speaking, so that event had publicity and interpreters for both languages, as well as Spanish-language materials for weatherization, home energy savings, and wastewater information.

Energy Saving Videos for Manufactured Home Residents

DIY Energy Efficiency Measures

DIY Energy Savings in your Manufactured Home

Duct Sealing

DIY Duct Sealing

Direct Install Energy Efficiency Measure

Install Energy-Saving Products

The project made the partnerships...

This project could not have happened without partnerships. A large part of CERTs’ role was to identify and bring together a diverse array of partners:

Partners at Cambridge event

  • Park residents
  • Park owners, managers, and maintenance employees
  • Gas and electric utility representatives
  • Energy assistance and weatherization service providers
  • Local governments 
  • Tribal nation governments
  • Community-based organizations

CERTs has long worked with utilities and service providers, and a couple of developments made their involvement easier. First, the Minnesota Department of Commerce permitted service providers to claim 50% of a park’s residents as being able to access income-eligible programming from the utilities without individual income verification. Second, the natural gas company Minnesota Energy Resources created and implemented a new pilot conservation program specifically for manufactured home parks, working with CERTs in several of the parks.

Overall, intense community organizing, with participation of the park managers and residents, was the key factor in the project’s success. Each outreach effort — big or small — required many emails, calls, and Zooms to coordinate and implement. 


How to use low-income CIP dollars for a manufactured home park project

...and the partnerships made the project!

The work was worth it.

Building partnerships with community organizations like Growing Up HealthyProject FINE8th Fire, and UNIDOS MN, with Native nations like Lower Sioux Community, and with residents and managers of manufactured home parks, made it easier to build trust, bridge cultural and language differences, and get the work done.

At CERTs, we believed — and still believe — that building a network of community members who are knowledgeable about ways to reduce energy costs, while at the same time improving the comfort and safety of their homes, will have a lasting impact.

Similarly, the partnerships built over the course of this project continue, creating on-ramps for community members and community-based organizations to engage meaningfully in energy and climate work. 

What's next

solar panels in the snow

Beyond programming like energy efficiency kits, educational materials and Energy Assistance and weatherization, CERTs hopes to expand programming into exciting areas:

Working with the Minnesota Department of Commerce - Division of Energy Resources, CERTs coordinating projects for on-site solar and community solar garden subscriptions that reduce energy costs for manufactured home park residents.