Save energy, add value

by Kacey Larsen

Saving energy and adding value to a home simultaneously may sound too good to be true, but many homeowners are wising up to the benefits of efficient entry doors. Doors are often a significant contributor to energy loss, especially if an exterior door is old, improperly installed or improperly air sealed. Properly installed exterior doors can save homeowners as much as 10 percent on energy bills.

Karen Sheetz, co-owner of Lake Cook Exterior in Palatine, Ill., sees the weather being a motivating factor for many homeowners to upgrade. “In the Chicago area after the extreme winter, many people are trying to save on their heating and air conditioner costs,” she says. “We continue to hear from our customers who have had replacements done that they do not have the drafts in their home anymore, and no drafts means no heat loss.”

When selecting a door to improve a home's energy efficiency, considering the energy performance rating in relation to climate and home design is the first step. Steel and fiberglass-composite doors typically have more insulating value than standard wood doors, and companies are often designing these materials to give the appearance of wood doors. 

In the market

These alternative materials are now available with insulation in the interior of the door and weatherstripping attached. Most steel and fiberglass-clad entry doors have an R-value ranging from R-5 to R-6, not including effects of a window. 

Steel doors usually have an inner frame of either wood or polyurethane, which helps the doors rate high as thermal barriers. A vinyl coating can often be added to steel doors for additional weather resistance. Fiberglass-composite doors have a framework of wooden stiles and rails beneath their molded surface, and voids are filled with polyurethane-foam insulation. Both types of doors have a thermal break to separate the inside and outside door skins, preventing cold or heat from being conducted through the door. 

Glass is a very poor insulator, meaning glass or patio doors lose more heat than other types of doors. While most modern glass doors have a thermal break – a plastic insulator between inner and outer parts of the frame – the door models with several layers of glass, low-E coatings and/or low-conductivity gases between the glass panes are worth the investment. Swinging doors offer a tighter seal than sliding types, but weatherstripping can be replaced on certain brands of sliding glass doors to decrease the amount of air leakage as the door ages. 

Appearance of energy efficiency

Companies are offering doors designed to save energy, and functional does not necessitate unattractive as homeowners begin to seek more options. After all, doors are an important part of the first impression of a home and can emphasize its character. 

Most companies offer complete entry system packages, which takes the energy efficiency benefits of an exterior door a step further, as heat lost around the door can also be detrimental to a home's performance. All components of an entry system are designed and made to work together to maximize energy efficiency. 

“Many homeowners “inherit” their front door in the purchase of their home, so when they come to see what we offer in our showroom customers are excited about the styles, glass designs and stylish locksets that are available to create that statement for their home. Our customers are looking for energy efficient products most definitely,” she says. “It is interesting to see what our customers select and some of the software available helps give them the opportunity to see what the door looks like on their home.” 

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