Friday, December 23, 2011

Cavco 2011 solar park model is special

Before starting the video, click once on the word YouTube near the lower right corner of the video and it will open up a new tab on YouTube, so you can choose to see it full screen by clicking on the full screen button on lower right:

Arizona-based manufactured home builder Cavco, which introduced the first commercially available solar park model in 2008, has a new 2011 solar park model. They introduced it at a KOA campgrounds expo in Las Vegas, in November, 2011.

Aside from a nice size added porch, the new model has 2 x 6" exterior walls (hurray!) and eaves (hurray!) and some special energy efficient design features like phase-change insulation in the ceiling to help stabilize interior temperatures.

The exterior appearance doesn't make me go squishy inside for its charm, but I like the shed roof design, and that it has some eaves. The 2010 model they did for KOA, with more natural wood, makes for a warmer interior. This 2011 also comes with the option of natural wood board (1 x 6”) or drywall on walls and ceiling rather than the white-painted board in the model. Drywall is the least expensive and from a design perspective, would probably look the best. Lines in the blinds. Lines in the flooring. Lines in the walls. It's too much.

It comes with a 2KW PV solar array (off-grid with batteries or grid-tie) and propane tankless hot water heating and a two burner propane gas stove, and costs $79,000. (The grid-tie has to be cheaper.)

I'm enthusiastic about this house, even if it is only 400 square feet, because of use of things like "tech-shield" OSB wrap and cork flooring, they are making a special effort to make this energy-efficient and environmentally friendly.

One thing missing from this house is a washer/dryer and closets, although the bunk room could probably be converted into a room for both. This is where the bump up to a 600 sq. ft. manufactured home, instead of a 400 sq. ft. park model, would make the home liveable. However, tiny house living  is possible for people who have ingenuity, opportunity or resourcefulness to strip most of the stuff out of their lives.

Cavco bought Palm Harbor Homes when they went bankrupt earlier this year, so they must be doing something right in the way they run their business. The "park model" market for a solar home is growing in KOA and other campgrounds, where people can rent them and experience what a solar system is like.

Although Cavco is going to take this solar house on the road, starting in California, I don't see why they haven't made a video of it, or at least a good slide show for YouTube. The local Vegas news station did a nice piece on it (at top), but it is pitiful that this low resolution video is the only video of the home available. I will update my post when a better video becomes available.

In Internet marketing, Clayton got with it, finally, and Palm Harbor's dealers in particular, made good use of YouTube, to show their model lines. Cavco has a dismal presence on YouTube, although their website is pretty good.

Cavco, or any manufactured home company, should also work into the green market to produce a zero-energy manufactured home in the 600 sq. ft. to 1100 range, or at least a very high tech home with regard to insulation and the building envelope, such as a house with R-30 in the walls and R-60 in the ceiling. That is, make a simple, sturdy house, that will have a significant advantage over stick-built to-code houses. Then,  if a person buys a small single-wide, they will have bought something that will hold more value after 15 years.

As I’ve written in my blog on the Clayton ihouse, 2 x 6” exterior walls and good insulation are a no-brainer, and will enhance the value of a home well beyond what they cost. In the past, people didn't pay any attention to good insulation and special energy saving features, the web is gradually changing that, creating more informed buyers.

In places where it is allowed, this park model would make a nice guest house or house for an elderly parent. Due to the downturn in the economy, sales of park models are growing for people using them as their primary residence too.

Park models start at about $20,000. Judging from what people spend building their tiny houses, this solar model (above) could probably be built for $60,000, maybe, but it would take a lot of skill and time to do so.

The towable RV industry is dynamic and highly competitive in increasing the performance and appeal of their products. They are more like the auto industry in that a manufacturer has to keep improving or they will die. Innovation in the manufactured home market is slower, but it is nice to see a gap being bridged in the "park model" home. That is, they are perfecting the design of small spaces, to make them functional and appealing.

Some park models have higher ceilings than conventional homes, and kitchens that would function well for a retired couple or single person.

In the U.S., "park model” is an RV designation for a home under 400 sq. ft, that can be put in an RV park. Because of the colder climate, Canada builds park models to a much higher insulation standard, more like that of a quality manufactured home. Some of the Canadian models are built in Arizona by Cavco, but check to see if it will qualify for where you want to put it.

Below is a 432 ft. to 530 sq. ft. model from Cavco, built to Canadian standards. The exterior looks like a cracker box, but I like the interior and the higher building standard. Canadian park models are bigger and would not be allowed in RV parks here in the U.S.


  1. They're building houses INSIDE warehouse buildings now! Okay, okay, one company in America is, but it cuts down the construction time by an estimated of more than half and it doesn't vary on the season! These are manufactured homes in Arizona. :)

  2. Loved the article for its details. May start thinking about Solar because of your

  3. Great writing post! Very helpful blog.Thanks for share this... installers

  4. I am doing a series of books on the Park Model RV format available on Unfortunately none of the eleven Factories and factory outlets I have visited the last 15 years has realized the paradigm shift to Small Home Movement segment has happened. 4Fathomd Designs on Facebook has my designs for free if the books are too pricy. All Designs with 1.5 bath and W/D, D/W as well as Solar and on demand water heater options.

  5. I love the wood walls, very currant, I want this place

  6. Very nice.

  7. I would also like to see a small off-grid capable single wide. I'd start with the Schult 307 because it has a utiity room, storage room in addition to the pantry, and space between living and dining area for a wood stove.

  8. Wow, loved all the models I saw, but a 400 sq. Ft I think would be more than enough for 2. Can't wait to get my own soon during this year.