Dulley: Insulating garage door improves energy efficiency

Dear Jim: Our old metal garage door is uninsulated and the bottom seal has disintegrated. I work on cars in my garage, so I think a new efficient door would make it more comfortable. What are new garage door options?-Mike R.Dear Mike: It can get ...
After clips are stuck to garage door, the fiberglass batts are pressed over the clips. Photo courtesy Owens Corning

Dear Jim: Our old metal garage door is uninsulated and the bottom seal has disintegrated. I work on cars in my garage, so I think a new efficient door would make it more comfortable. What are new garage door options?-Mike R.

Dear Mike: It can get uncomfortable working in a cold or very hot garage, but another concern is your energy costs. If there is a room above the garage or an attached house wall, these often are not insulated. Energy loss from a garage door results in energy loss from the rest of your house.

Although installing a new efficient door provides the most improvement, it is also expensive. If the existing garage door operates fine and looks good from outdoors, adding insulation panels and a bottom seal is effective. Gluing rigid insulation panels to the indoor door skin is an easy project.

A simpler and very efficient option is installing an Owen-Corning (www.owenscorning.com) garage door insulation kit. It has retaining clips which stick to the door and white R-8 vinyl-backed insulation. The bright white backing reflects light so fewer lights need to be switched on.

There are many new garage door materials, but the most frequently installed on houses are insulated steel, insulated fiberglass, wood and aluminum. Insulated steel and fiberglass provide the best overall energy efficiency and comfortable workplace. In areas where severe storms are common, some steel doors are wind-rated for rigidity.

Real stained wood garage doors are probably the most attractive, but they require regular maintenance and are more difficult to insulate. An attractive alternative is an insulated steel skin door with a thick polymer exterior coating. Authentic wood graining is rolled into the coating and it can be stained similarly to real wood.

From a cost standpoint, a standard painted insulated steel door is the best option. Select a door made of an inner and outer steel skin with foam insulation in between them. Insulation values are as high as R-19. Blown-in urethane foam provides the highest insulation level, but glued-in rigid polystyrene foam panels also are effective.

Since steel is a good conductor of heat, select a door with a polymer thermal break separating direct contact of the indoor and outdoor metal skins. Since you work in the garage and need light, get an upper section with optional windows that are double-pane with a low-e coating. Examine the joint edges between the horizontal door panels. They should be stepped to create a longer path to reduce air leakage. If there are children around, select a pinch-resistant edge design. As the door comes down and the panels mesh, they tend to push out anything between them.

A simulated carriage style door is currently very popular. It rolls up like a panel door, but from the street, appears it would swing open like carriage doors. The following companies offer efficient garage doors: Amarr Garage Doors, (800) 503-3667, www.amarr.com; Clopay, (800) 225-6729, www.clopaydoor.com; Overhead Door, (800) 275-3290, www.overheaddoor.com; Raynor Garage Doors, (800) 472-9667; www.raynor.com; and Wayne-Dalton, (800) 827-3667, www.wayne-dalton.com.

Dear Jim: We are going to be away from our house for several months this winter. Is it better to leave the window blinds open to get solar heating or keep them closed? We have double pane windows.-Wanda V.

Dear Wanda: You should keep the blinds closed even though you will miss some free passive solar heating. Much more heat will be lost through the glass over 24 hours and the amount gained for the time the sun shines in.

When you are back home, it does make sense to open the blinds, but only when the sun is shining in even with very efficient windows. Heat loss from windows is greatest at night, so always close all blinds and curtains.

Send inquiries to James Dulley, The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244, or visit www.dulley.com