Easy to install, affordable line of mobile home furnaces
The Coleman electric furnace is a compact mobile home electric furnace that provides quiet, reliable heat in cool weather. It is available in 6 models with capacities ranging from 34,000 to 77,000 BTU and is designed for interconnection to a Coleman air conditioner or Coleman heat pump.
Mobile homes have specific requirements for electric furnaces – especially space savings and stronger airflow – and it’s important to choose a furnace designed for those requirements. If you try to install a non-mobile home furnace in a mobile home you are asking for trouble. The Coleman electric furnace is a great fit for mobile home applications: its price is right, typically $500 to $1000 depending on capacity; it can be installed in an hour or two by a competent handyperson; and it operates quietly and, according to the manufacturer, at close to 100% efficiency.
Efficiency of electric furnaces
Hold on a minute – doesn’t 100% energy efficient sound too good to be true? This 100% efficiency rating is not exclusive to the Coleman electric furnace. In fact, pretty much any electric furnace is 100% energy efficient – at converting electricity to heat – because of the second law of thermodynamics: there’s pretty much nothing else for the electricity to turn into other than heat (eventually, anyways). But that doesn’t make electric heating more efficient than other forms of heating – because the process of converting a heat source such as coal, natural gas, or nuclear energy into electricity is only 30% to 40% efficient, which is only half to a third the efficiency of a mid to high efficiency gas furnace.
What this suggests is that if you have access to natural gas in your mobile home, you are much better off from an energy efficiency and operating cost perspective, to install a Coleman natural gas furnace for mobile homes, than a mobile home electric furnace. Even with propane, which is considerably more expensive than natural gas, you may wind up paying less for the energy to heat your mobile home than with a Coleman electric furnace. So while these electric furnaces are very affordable in terms of sticker price, be sure to factor in the energy costs over the expected life of your furnace. If the outdoor temperature drops below freezing more than a few days a year, your electricity bills will start climbing pretty quickly.
If you install a Coleman electric furnace along with a Coleman heat pump, you can (sort of) get even higher efficiency than 100% on converting electricity to heat. When temperatures outdoors are above about 50F, a heat pump can actually extract more energy from the outdoor air – as heat – than the electrical energy required to power the heat pump. And in hot weather, the heat pump runs in reverse and acts as an air conditioner. For this reason, in milder climates where much of the heating season is cool rather than frigid, I recommend going with a combination furnace and Coleman heat pump. You will lower your heating costs by heating with the heat pump when it’s cool, rather than cold, and you’ll stay cool in hot weather. And if the mercury ever does dip closer to (or below) freezing, you’ll have the electric furnace to keep you cozy.
If you install both a Coleman electric furnace and a Coleman air conditioner or Coleman heat pump, you can also boost the efficiency of your hot water using an ECU Energy Recovery Unit. This heat recovery unit works by transferring the heat from the air conditioner to your hot water tank. Specifically, the hot vapor line coming out of the indoor coils of your central AC or heat pump (during cooling season) passes through a heat exchanger; water passes through the other side of the heat exchanger. The water pipes are connected to the cold water intake and hot water output of the hot water tank (with a special connector on the hot water side), and a small pump operates to circulate the water through the heat exchanger, so that exhaust heat from the air conditioner or heat pump heats the hot water. These units cost about $500 and while a handyperson can install them without help, most people will want to hire a plumber for another $500 in installation costs. For a mobile home in a hotter part of the US (ie. where air conditioning is used 5+ months a year) the system typically pays for itself in hot water savings within 2-3 years.
There’s a premium on space in a mobile home, so they tend to be built with smaller ducts. That makes it harder to blow air through the ductwork, which means you need a more powerful furnace blower. If you put a standard furnace in a mobile home you will not get enough air pressure to push air out the ducts, which will reduce your system’s efficiency and effectiveness. Also, mobile home furnaces such as the Coleman electric furnace are built for minimal clearance on all sides, so that they can be fit into a very small space.
As well, since mobile homes are a single floor and tend to be smaller than other homes, there’s no need for a cold air return duct. Instead, the Coleman electric furnace has a louvered grill on the front that draws air in for heating. Because of this you need to ensure, for a furnace installed in an enclosed part of the mobile home, that you have a minimum airspace opening somewhere in the enclosure – for example, louvers on the closet door, or a gap at the bottom or top of the door.
Coleman furnace capacities, models
There are six different models in the Coleman electric furnace EB series. Here are the model numbers, wattage, BTU output, and average prices for all six models:
|Model||Wattage (kW)||BTU/hr output||Price range|
The first thing to notice is the price range – for the first five models I found a wide range of online prices, while for the top output rated EB23 the range was much narrower. Why? Because one company in particular seems to be charging a much higher price for all these furnaces but does not carry the EB23 in their catalog. If you’re shopping around for a Coleman electric furnace be sure to check multiple vendors for the best price – and make sure you are getting the same thing. Some companies provide free shipping while others may try to recover their profits from a discounted price by overbilling on shipping fees.
Make sure you select a furnace whose BTU output meets your requirements. I can’t provide even general guidance on what BTU output you need – it’s best to contact a qualified HVAC technician or HVAC consultant and ask them to do a heat load calculation and provide you with a BTU estimate. The BTU you will need depends on a range of factors including:
- Local climate conditions – how cold does it typically get in winter
- The square footage and air volume of your mobile home
- How well insulated the mobile home is
- How much air leakage there is at doors, windows and elsewhere
If you are replacing an existing electric furnace in your mobile home, you can determine the BTU rating of that furnace by consulting the electrical specifications panel on the old furnace. Each watt of electricity consumed produces 3.4 BTU of heat per hour (3.4 BTU/hr), so a 15 kilowatt (15,000 watt) furnace, for example, provides 51,000 BTU/hr of heat output. While there is no guarantee that your old furnace was properly sized for the home, at least you can be sure that a Coleman electric furnace of a similar capacity won’t leave you freezing on cold winter nights!
The Coleman electric furnace is relatively easy to hook up to a mobile home with existing ductwork and electrical. In terms of electrical hook-up, all models but the lowest-capacity EB10 use two circuits and require a jumper across the two circuits. The EB10 is rated at 44 amps and so can work off 1 50 amp circuit.
This furnace can be installed in a closet with zero clearance. You’ll need either a 2 foot clearance in front of the unit or a closet door in front of it for maintenance access and for changing the filter.
A relatively competent handyperson can install the Coleman electric furnace in an hour or so by following the detailed installation instructions provided with the unit. If you are at all unsure of any step in the installation process you should either hire a pro, or at least consult one.
The Coleman electric furnace gets good marks for its relatively quiet operation, and I found very few instances of customer complaints or technical problems in online forums and furnace review sites. The main problems appear to be issues with the fan blower coming on too soon – before the heating element is fully heated up – and these are easily addressed by an HVAC technician or (again, for the handyperson) by following a simple set of repair steps.
This furnace requires a disposable filter – a fairly standard 16×20 inch filter, 1 inch thick. I recommend changing the filter every month: you’ll get better airflow, and your indoor air will be cleaner, than if you use the same filter for months. If you don’t want to replace the filter every month you can of course extend its life somewhat by removing it, gently shaking it back and forth out of doors to dislodge the dust, or even vacuuming it out of doors.
Compatibility with heat pumps and air conditioners
The Coleman electric furnace is specifically designed to be used in conjunction with a Coleman heat pump or Coleman air conditioner. The furnace contains a powerful blower fan that effectively circulates not only heated air but cooled air through the restricted ductwork of mobile homes. In fact you can buy the Coleman electric furnace to use as a powerful air handler for an outdoor unit heat pump or air conditioner, even if you don’t really need much heat. The furnace heating element is always there as a backup for unusually cold days, and the blower keeps plenty of cool air circulating in hot weather.