We bought a 12-by-60-foot mobile home which will be used for vacations on one of the islands off the South Carolina coast. The drawback is poor insulation. I have long been an advocate of solar energy and fuel-saving insulation. Looking at the structure with its long roof absorbing the southern sun, it seems to me that one could make use of all that wasted heat. It would have to be strictly a do-it-yourself project and must not cost too much money. Have you any ideas? Judith Harris Columbia, S.C.
If you want to install solar panels on the roof, it will run into money and also require some knowledge of what you are trying to do as well.
Of course, you can make sure that the unit is situated east and west so that you can benefit from the influx of the sun's heat. You also could use some kind of nighttime insulation for the windows, such as heavy drapes which include du Pont Mylar in their construction or Window Quilt shades made by the Appropriate Technology Corporation, PO Box 975, Brattleboro, Vt. 05301. They could cost more than you want to spend, however. The price for an average window in a conventional house is about $40, I'm told, but it could be less for a mobile home.
For hot water, you could wrap some black hose around a piece of plywood, attach it to the roof, then draw hot water from it when needed. It's a really inexpensive way of preheating the water. I'm told of one man who wraps copper coil around his wood-stove chimney and then runs the water through it. He's resourceful, indeed.
Premanufactured solar systems are very costly. But bear in mind that there are federal and state tax credits which help to lower the cost, depending on what state you live in. Massachusetts offers a 35 percent state income-tax credit for solar installations.
Make a phone call to the Solar Heating & Cooling Information Center in Rockville, Md: (800) 523-2929. Explain what you would like to do. The toll-free call will probably be worth the time to make it.