How To Look At A House
McGarry and Madsen's home inspection blog for buyers of
site-built, mobile/manfuactured and modular homes
Where do I find the water heater in a mobile home?
Monday, July 9, 2018
Almost all mobile home manufacturers put the water heater in a compartment with an access panel secured with screws. Older mobile homes have the access panel on an outside wall, usually next to a bathroom or kitchen window. Also, there is often an on/off switch in or near the bathroom that glows red when the water heater is turned on.
Newer mobile homes locate the water heater compartment access panel in the master bedroom closet or laundry. The raised panel with a narrow trim piece around it is easy to recognize, and the screws typically each have a snap-off cover piece to conceal the head.
If you have tried looking in all these locations and still can’t find the water heater, here are several other possibilities:
- Sometimes a homeowner installs new siding on an older mobile home and sides right over the access panel, making it disappear. Yes, it’s silly, but it does happen.
- When a long-term leak in the water heater compartment rots out the floor, some ingenious homeowners put a low-boy (short and wide) water heater on the ground directly under the compartment. Check in the crawl space.
- If the homeowner decided to upgrade to a larger water heater that does not fit in the compartment, it may have been moved to a shed on the ground next to the exterior wall of the compartment, or to a detached shed, carport storage room, or well house.
Because getting at a mobile home water heater requires a few minutes work to remove the 6 or 8 screws securing the cover panel in place, it rarely gets checked for leakage or corrosion unless it stops working. That’s a shame because, when a problem does occur, it may not get noticed until water seeps into an adjacent room. At that point, there is likely to be structural damage to the floor, wet insulation under it and mold growth in the drywall of the compartment. To head off this potentially expensive problem, we recommend opening the compartment once a year for a quick look around.
If you determine that your water heater needs replacement after you find it, only a water heater rated for installation in mobile homes should be used. See our blog post What is the difference between a manufactured/mobile home water heater and a regular water heater? for more on this.
The water heater may also have an on/off switch located in the bathroom, especially in older mobile homes and it is often red and lights up when on.
Another location for an on/off switch is mounted over the cover plate for the heating element at the side of the water heater, like in the photo below. If you have checked the circuit breaker in the electric panel and it’s “ON,” but you still do not have hot water, try looking around for a switch.
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