How to Choose an Energy-Efficient Garage Door

Energy efficient garage door
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In the quest for an energy-efficient home, many people overlook the importance of an energy-efficient garage door. If your garage is attached to your house, not having a properly insulated door can mean heated or cooled air is escaping—especially if you have a finished room above the garage. To combat this, make sure your garage is properly insulated. One of the key elements to this is choosing an energy-efficient garage door.

Why go energy-efficient?

If you use the garage as a workspace and run a space heater or air-conditioner there on a regular basis, it’s crucial to insulate the space well in order to save on energy. If you live in an area with temperature extremes, a well-insulated garage will help keep your car cool in the summer and warm in the winter, thereby reducing the energy you’d need to use to keep it at a comfortable temperature. Additionally, an insulated garage door can also offer good soundproofing benefits.

Check the insulation levels

When shopping for an energy-efficient garage door, there are two important factors to keep in mind:

  1. The ‘R value’ of the door: This measures the insulating qualities of the door, which is achieved through different methods of insulation. The R value of a garage door is a combination of the insulation properties of the door’s material and the type of insulation (if any) used inside the door. A higher R value translates to better insulation.
  2. The potential for air leakage: How easily can the air inside escape around the door?

Choose your material

Energy efficient aluminum garage door

When selecting an energy efficient garage door, you’ll want to factor the door material into consideration. Image Credit: romakoma / Shutterstock

There are four main types of material used for garage doors: steel, aluminum, wood and composite wood.

  • Steel is the most common material. It’s a durable option, and while it doesn’t offer much insulation alone, a low gauge steel, which is thicker, will offer better insulation than a thin, high gauge steel. Multi-layer doors with insulation between the layers will provide greater durability, dent-resistance and energy efficiency.
  • Aluminum offers a more modern look. However, it is very lightweight, so it is a poor insulator.
  • Wood is generally a higher-end option for a garage door, chosen primarily for looks over insulation and durability.
  • Composite wood is an increasingly popular option. It is an excellent alternative to real wood, and is durable and low maintenance. It is often paired with a steel interior and a faux wood composite overlay, bringing the insulating benefits of steel to the look of wood.

On top of the material used, you can opt for a door with added insulation, in the form of polystyrene or polyurethane foam. The thicker the polystyrene foam, the higher the R value.  For example 1 and 3/8″ polystyrene foam carries an R value of 6.5 whereas 1 and 5/16″ polystyrene foam 6.3 (Information courtesy of The Home Depot.)

Polyurethane offers better insulation without the added thickness. It is generally applied as a spray foam inside the door. This method helps the polyurethane to get into all the nooks and crannies, thereby making it a more effective insulator than the less-malleable polystyrene.  For comparison, 2″ polyurethane carries an R value of between 18.4 and 20.4 compared to 1 and 3/8″ polyurethane at an R value of 12.9.  (Information courtesy of The Home Depot.)

Insulation also helps strengthen the door, making it less susceptible to accidental damage, and also adds some soundproofing.

When shopping for an energy-efficient garage door, you will find three insulating options:

  • Single layer doors have no insulation. This is the best option if your garage is not attached to your home and is not climate-controlled in anyway.
  • Double layer doors include standard polystyrene insulation.
  • Triple layer doors feature thicker polystyrene or polyurethane insulation. They offer the most insulating value.

Watch out for air leakage

Even if you have the most insulated door available, it won’t work if there are big gaps between the door and your walls! To mitigate energy loss through air leakage, look for top-quality, well-fitting hardware, seals and weather-stripping. Professional installation is also important to ensure proper fitting and reduce the likelihood of energy loss.

Windows optional

Windows, while attractive, can provide a weak spot in your insulation. Opt for double- or tripled-glazed windows and low-emissivity coatings to prevent heat transference.

Don’t forget the garage door opener

If you have an electronic garage door opener, it consumes power even when you are not using it. According to a study by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory that measured the standby power draw of 34 different models, garage door openers draw between 1.8 watts and 7.3 watts of standby power a year, with the average being 4.48 watts. Mitigate this by buying a model with a low-power standby mode to reduce your home’s energy use.

Taking steps to ensure that your garage is properly insulated will save you money you didn’t even know you were losing. It will also help reduce the strain on your heating and cooling systems, allowing your home to use less energy and become more eco-friendly.

About the author: Jennifer Tuohy writes about eco-friendly and sustainable home improvement solutions, from saving energy with smart home products to buying an Energy Star-approved garage door.  If you want to see more garage door or garage door opener options, visit The Home Depot.

Feature image credit:  Kunal Mehta / Shutterstock

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Jennifer Tuohy

Jennifer Tuohy

Jennifer Tuohy is an award-winning journalist, editor and blogger based in Charleston, S.C. Jennifer frequently writes about eco-friendly and sustainable home improvement solutions.
Jennifer Tuohy