How to Shop for Energy Efficient Doors

By Vernon Trollinger, July 31, 2017, Energy Efficiency, Green, Home Improvement, Save Money

While most homeowners love their homes, not every home is perfect. There are one or two things the homeowner would like to change, such as an outdated bathtub for a new walk-in shower or updating the look of their kitchen. And then there’s occasional “uh-oh” of the unexpected repair. We’re going to identify several projects and some of the ins and outs of what you can expect.

How to Shop for Energy Efficient Doors | Bounce Energy Blog

How to Shop for Energy Efficient Doors

We all want the entries to our homes to be attractive, secure, and weather proof. However, when it comes to energy efficiency, doors can be a problem. After all, a door is really a hole in the side of your home big enough to walk through. To keep the weather outside, doors need to close snugly and securely. That also means they need to be strong enough withstand opening and closing for years.

If your home needs a new exterior door, then getting an energy efficient door can help reduce your electricity bill by eliminating drafts and providing better insulation. While doors seem like simple things, there’s actually a lot of information you’ll want to unlock before you enter into replacing one.

Key Door Considerations

Pre-hung or Slab— Doors come either pre-hung or as a plain, frameless door called a “slab”. Which one will be the best depends on what you want for your home and the condition of the entryway.

  • For a slab, you’ll need to make sure it will fit snugly into the existing frame. You’ll also need to fit hinges to line up with the existing door frame, and then make sure the door closes with a good seal.
  • Pre-hung, framed door units already have all that taken care of. The problem is that the entire old door frame must be removed first. Fortunately, that’s usually just more messy than complicated.

Door Swing—Residential doors swing open into your home so it’s important to know which way you want your door to swing. If there’s a light switch mounted on the wall adjacent to the door, you want the door to swing inward so you can easily reach inside and turn on the lights.

Size — exterior residential doors come in three widths, 30”, 32”, and 36”. Minimum width clearance for wheelchairs is 32”. Meanwhile, standard door height is 80”.

Thresholds—Most new factory pre-hung doors come with an adjustable threshold that you can raise or lower with a screwdriver to get the best seal. It takes just a little time to tweak by placing a piece of paper across the threshold and closing it in the door. If the threshold is too high and the paper tears when you pull it, the threshold is set a little too high and will cause the door sweep to wear faster. If it’s too loose, outside air and moisture can leak inside. You want to go for a happy medium.

How to Shop for Energy Efficient Doors | Bounce Energy Blog

What Makes a Door Energy Efficient?

Door energy efficiency depends on what the door is made from. Consider that a home’s exterior wall is on average about 4 1/2” thick. In contrast, an exterior door is between 1 3/4” to 2 1/2” so getting a high insulation value from a door can be complicated. Another problem is heat conduction. In summer, a door can conduct heat inside and in the winter they can conduct heat outside. Steel doors are tough and durable but conduct heat easily. Fiberglass and less durable wood doors conduct much less heat. While wooden doors are attractive and their insulation has better R-values than hollow steel or fiberglass doors, hollow doors can have even higher R-values by being filled with foam insulation. On the whole, door R-values run from R-2 for 1 3/4” wood all the way up to R-11 for a 2” thick steel door with a foam core. Meanwhile, doors with windows in them have a lower R-value because glass in a poor insulator.

EnergySaver doors are evaluated according to amount of the door that is glazed, whether that glazing has multiple insulating panes of low-emissivity glass, and how much air the door leak can leak around its seals. EnergySaver doors must leak less than 0.5 cfm/ft2 (cubic foot per minute per foot2).

Pricing

Doors prices break down into three tiers. Wooden doors are attractive but expensive and depending where you live need attention to maintain them. Steel doors make up half the market, being cheap and if their finish is cared for they can be maintenance free. Unfortunately, steel doesn’t offer a lot of decorative or designer options. Fiberglass doors are a little more expensive than steel but resist weather better especially because they resist shrinking and swelling in humid climates.

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About 

A native of Wyomissing Hills, PA, Vernon Trollinger studied writing and film at the University of Iowa, later earning his MA in writing there as well. Following a decade of digging in CRM archaeology, he now writes about green energy technology, home energy efficiency, DIY projects, the natural gas industry, and the electrical grid.

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