West Newfield: Poorly insulated trailer becomes a high performing tiny home

This profile is part of a showcase of Maine retrofits. Learn more and see the rest of the profiles here

 Photos courtesy of David & Christine Gallant

Photos courtesy of David & Christine Gallant

THE PROJECT: renovate a 1970 12’x58’ mobile home with a 12’x24’ bump out into a state-of-the-art, superefficient tiny home where empty nesters David and Christine Gallant could downsize.

Motivated by a desire to spend more time volunteering in the Christian ministry of which they are a part, the Gallants wanted a home with low maintenance and overhead requirements. And that meant more efficient, too.

They had owned the mobile home in West Newfield since 2003 and rented it out while living and raising their family in a larger house nearby. When the kids moved out, they started thinking, could the mobile home meet their needs? After conducting extensive research on restoration forums, they learned that many older model mobile homes were actually solidly constructed— due in part to post WWII airplane manufacturers redirecting their talents and materials to mobile homes and travel trailers (think Airstream). They concluded that their mobile home was well worth restoring. And since David Gallant’s small machine shop where he focuses on R&D and prototype development also shares the site of the mobile home, it made sense in many ways.

IMG_3076.JPG

They decided to completely gut the interior down to the 2’x3’ studs and metal siding, which involved removing all of the walls, paneling and ceiling tiles and old insulation. They contracted with Bob Frechette of Heatmizer in Sanford to conduct a comprehensive energy audit followed by air sealing and insulation throughout, including walls, crawl space, basement and attic. He replaced the exterior door, installed a new Panasonic Whisper green fan set to ASHRAE ventilation guidelines, installed a metal roof and had Shawn Huston of Affordable Comfort install a Mitsubishi Heat Pump.

The Gallants moved into their newly refurbished home in April of 2017; since that time they’ve used only one quarter of a tank of oil (the project maintained the original Miller furnace) and their electric bills with the heat pump included have averaged $65-$70/month. They are extremely happy with the results and plan to renovate the exterior of the home this year. All told, the project cost approximately $21,500 after $5,000 of rebates from Efficiency Maine. This includes about $6,500 for a few window upgrades, new kitchen with energy efficient appliances, hot water heater and all new flooring.

Why we like it: It’s always great to see something thought of as “disposable” transformed and given new life. We tend, as a building community, not to think too much about mobile homes. But they are an important and common part of Maine’s housing stock. With a relatively small outlay, the Gallants were able to turn this unassuming property into a tight, high performing "tiny house."

TECHNICAL SPECS

EFFICIENCY: Energy costs average $65-$70/month (plus 1/4 tank of oil for the full year. Prior to renovation the home used 640 gallons of oil/year).
BUILDING ENVELOPE: Foundation—R-15, Walls—R-17, Roof—R-49, Airtightness—7.25ACH50 (was 15.02ACH50 before renovation).
SYSTEMS: Heating and cooling—Mitsubishi heat pump (single head), with original Miller furnace as back-up. Ventilation—Panasonic Whisper green set to ASHRAE ventilation guidelines.
RENEWABLES: none
SIZE: 936 sq ft
COST: $21,500 (after $5,000 rebate).

PROJECT TEAM

AIR SEALING & INSULATION: Heatmizer
ENERGY/PERFORMANCE CONSULTANT: Bob Frechette, Heatmizer
ENERGY SYSTEMS: Affordable Comfort Heating & Air Conditioning (heat pump)

 

C1 GHM-S18 Cover-#8f.jpg

This article was reprinted from the spring issue of Green & Healthy Maine Homes magazine. Subscribe today!