Major Shake Up at HUD

In my continuing effort to keep manufactured home installers informed, I feel compelled to make you aware of a recent news item out of Washington, D.C. Last week it was learned that Pamela Danner, who served as Manufactured Housing Program Administrator has been reassigned. She has been moved out of the manufactured housing programs into what appears to be a temporary position at HUD. Also, it has been reported that Lois Starkey who served as a Management Analyst in the Manufactured Housing Programs, has left HUD.

If you worked at that level of government for any length of time, you know that this is business as usual. Regardless of our personal opinion of their performance, I think we can agree, that these women genuinely wanted the industry to prosper and did their jobs with integrity and class.

Additionally, there is a rumor on the street that the chief engineer is scheduled to retire in February.

That is three important positions in a program that generally only has about ten staff members. We can take comfort in the fact that Teresa Payne, the current Deputy Administrator, will assume the role of Acting Administrator until a new administrator is named. And the remaining staff at HUD are experienced, talented and capable. However, I am concerned.

It is no secret that there are quite a few unfilled job vacancies at HUD. Should these Manufactured Housing positions go unfilled for any length of time, it can undermine the program at a time when manufactured housing industry is showing strong sales and a bright future. We can only hope that these positions get filled quickly with qualified candidates.

Should I hear more news on this issue, I will be sure to share it with you. If you want to learn a little more about HUD, click here to read an earlier post; Who Are THEY?

In closing, I wish for you a profitable, productive and safe 2018!

Installation Electrical Testing Part 2-Polarity & Operational Testing

In our last post we talked about electrical continuity testing that is required in the manufactured home installation instructions. Let’s finish the discussion on installers responsibilities for electrical testing and talk about the polarity and operational tests.

Typical electrical testing requirements

First the polarity test. In general, this is a visual “check” to assure that you have properly wired items like exterior lights, ceiling fans, and hanging chandeliers. Most of these installations are pretty straightforward; black to black conductors, white to white conductors, bare ground wire to the other bare wires. But some fixtures, like hanging lights or chandeliers don’t use color coded wires. You need to know how to identify different conductors so that you connect it to the proper conductor in the junction box.

Look closely for the ribs running along the length of the cord.

If you look closely at the power supply cord to a lamp or chandelier, you will find there are ribs that run the length of one side of the cord. The conductor that has the ribs is called the “identified conductor” and should be attached to the white (neutral) conductor in the junction box.

This may be easier to see the position of the ribbing

Now, if you don’t think this is a big deal, think again. A light fixture wired with reverse polarity can present a shock hazard. The entire socket that the bulb screws into will be energized and can shock someone should they accidently touch the lightbulb base while changing bulbs or just cleaning the light fixture.

While the instructions only require a visual polarity “check”, to be certain that you have the proper polarity, it is a good idea to check the fixture with an electrical voltage meter.  Remember, the socket should not be hot (or energized)!

 Now to the Operational Tests. In simple terms, we need to assure that all the electrical equipment in the home is properly energized and can work as intended. I highly recommend that every installer have a receptacle tester like this one from Grainger. It will check for polarity, short circuits, and test the Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI) all at the same time.

In addition to the tester, you will need light bulbs to fit every size fixture in the home. A helper to perform this test is also a good idea!


Make sure power is supplied to the home and the circuit breakers are on. Start at one end of the home and test both top and bottom of each duplex receptacle. If any receptacles are switched, make sure the switch works.  Install light bulbs and check any ceiling light fixtures, exterior lights, chandelier, etc. by operating the switches. 

In order to check GFCI’s in the home, you need to know where ground fault protection is needed.

1.       Receptacles in bathrooms even if part of a light fixture or cabinet

2.       Receptacles serving kitchen counters, including island bars. GFCI protection is not required for receptacles in dedicated spaces like refrigerator, dishwasher, disposals, etc.  See the requirement at 24 CFR 3280.806(b).

3.       Receptacles serving counters within 6’ of a wet bar sink or similar.

4.       Outdoor receptacles.

5.       The heat tape receptacle.

There can be several slave receptacles like the one seen on the left.

Keep in mind, ground fault protection can be provided from a circuit breaker in the panel box or a single GFCI receptacle which can provide protection for other receptacles, located downstream,  on the same circuit.  For example, one GFCI receptacle in the kitchen might be attached to several other receptacles along the counter. Or the one GFCI device might protect multiple bathrooms.

So, make sure any tester you purchase comes with a GFCI test button. That way you can test the receptacles and the reset button after you trip the device.

Turn on and off the bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans. Some homes have whole house ventilation fans in the laundry area. Check them too!

Next you want to test all the smoke alarms. This test is not as simple as you may think. First you need to remove all the backup batteries from each smoke alarm. Push the test button on every alarm to check 3 separate functions:

1.       Does the alarm sound when the test button is pushed?

2.       Does the alarm send a signal to sound other alarms in the home?

3.       Does the alarm sound when it receives a signal from other alarms in the home?

Typical smoke alarm testing procedures

When you are done testing each smoke alarm, make sure to replace the batteries!

The Model Manufactured Home Installation Standards (24 CFR 3285.702(f)) do not require you test water heaters, electric ranges, electric furnaces, dish washers, clothes washers or dryers, and portable appliances. But a few manufacturers require that you check to make sure electrical power is provided to this equipment or to the receptacles provided for their future installation. So, as always, check the manufacturers installation instructions that came with the home.

 If the tests are successful, document it on your Installation Checklist and keep it in your home file. If you encountered a problem, make sure you report it to the retailer or manufacturer with a record that you reported the issue. Once the problem is corrected, you should retest the affected circuit or related area in the home.  These tests are very important and must not be overlooked. As always, check the installation instructions that came with the home!


Installation Electrical Testing-Part 1 Continuity Testing

Tucked way in the back of every manufactured home installation manual, at the end of the section titled “Prepare Appliances and Equipment” you will find the requirements for electrical testing of the home for continuity, polarity, and operation. So, I thought we should take a closer look at these three requirements so we can better understand how to conduct these important tests. Today we start with Continuity Test. 

Ultimately, you are checking to see that all metal parts in the home that could become energized, are bonded (or connected) to the grounding terminal in the electrical panel box.

 The intent of this test is to find any electrical shorts that could shock the occupant the home. 

Typical continuity tester

To conduct the test, you need a simple “continuity tester” that you can pick up at a building supply store or similar place for under $10 (I bought mine with a 20% off coupon!). Then you need a decent length (50 feet or more) of light gauge wire. I like to use 18 gauge lamp cord. An extra alligator clip might come in handy as well.

Strip about ½” from each end of the insulated wire and attach the alligator clip. Clip the other end of the wire to the alligator clip that comes on the continuity tester. Basically, you want to lengthen the little short cord that came with the tester so you can test the metal parts in a large area.

Once you have added the extra length of wire, you need to test your tester to make sure it works! Just touch the end of the added wire to the probe of the continuity tester. If you made good connections and your battery is fresh, the light in the tester should come on. That would indicate you have a “closed” circuit.

Connect the bonding wire between each chassis.

So, you are almost ready to test. First, turn off the power to the home. You don’t want to get zapped when testing the home. Next, if you are installing a multi-section home, the “Bonding Wire” connecting each chassis (or frame) must be connected.

Metal junction box needed tested for continuity

Gas line bonded to the chassis

Next, attach the end of the wire to the ground terminal (or bus bar) in the panel box. Now touch the probe to the edge of the panel box. The light should come on, indicating the panel box housing is grounded. Continue to touch the probe to any metal part of the home that may become energized while the other end of the wire is still attached to the grounding terminal.  For example, you should check the furnace housing, water heater, chassis, metal heat ducts, any gas piping, any metal siding or roofing, metal light fixtures canopies, metal bath exhaust fans, range hood, waste disposal housing, any metal junction boxes (maybe for a built-in oven or cook top).     

Now, when you are checking these metal parts, make sure you touch the probe to bare metal when possible as sometime the paint can hamper your test.

If your wire is too short and you need to move to another source to ground, you can use the ground terminal from a receptacle or attach to a ground conductor. Once you have completed the test, document it on the Installation Checklist.  

Ok, I hope this helps explain the process, I would normally tell you to refer to the manufacturers installation instructions or the Manufactured Home Construction and Safety Standards, but they lack detail. If you want to see for yourself, go to 24 CFR 3280.810 (b).  

Next time we will talk about polarity testing.