5 Reasons You Need an Insulated Garage Door

Have you been considering replacing your garage door? You’re not alone.

Replacing garage doors is an easy way to update your house. It’s also one of the most valuable renovations you can make. When they sell their house, homeowners recoup 74 percent of the cost of a new garage door.

 

It’s also an affordable renovation option. The average garage door replacement costs between $700 and $1400. And many homeowners say it’s a renovation that makes a big difference. A new garage door can increase your curb appeal. It can also make your garage more useful and inviting.

One of the newest trends is to choose an energy efficient garage door. The insulation in these doors minimizes heat loss. And modern technology means that these garage doors are available in many styles. If you're looking for a particular design, material, or size, it's possible to find an insulated door that fits.

What is an insulated garage door, and what can it do for your home? Read on to find out what an insulated garage door can do for your home.

1. Garage Door Insulation Saves Energy


Most energy saving tips focus on the inside of the house. It makes sense! Insulation, energy efficient windows, and better heating systems can all reduce your energy use.

So it's no surprise that most advice on saving energy overlooks your garage. Garages aren’t always considered part of the house. But garages often have conditioned rooms above them. Many have a door that connects directly to the house, as well.

Because garages aren't considered living space, the construction standards are different. More gaps and air leakage is allowed. As a result, garages are one of the least energy efficient parts of your home.

This means that uninsulated garages transfer cold air to the rooms next to them. They also allow cold air into your home via gaps in the door

Adding insulation to your garage door can help you save energy. By moderating the temperature in the garage, you're reducing the amount of energy required to heat the rest of your home.

That's true even if your garage isn't insulated.

In the past, people thought that an insulated garage door was unnecessary. After all, the rest of the garage is rarely insulated. The engineers at Clopay Doors decided to put this idea to the test.

They measured temperatures inside of an uninsulated garage in 20 degree weather. With a single layer door (no insulation) the temperature inside the garage was only 30 degrees. But with an insulated garage door, temperatures inside the garage climbed to 42 degrees.

Although that seems like a small jump, those twelve degrees make a big difference. Your car is less likely to sustain damage if the temperature is above freezing. The same is true for paints, sealants, and other chemicals often kept in garages.

It also has a big difference on heat loss from the rest of your house. Garages tend to act as a buffer zone between the heated indoors and outdoor weather. This in-between space is warmer than the outdoors, which means that you won’t be bringing gusts of cold air directly into your home. And because your heater won’t need to work as hard, you’ll save energy.

2. Insulated Garage Doors are More Durable

Another benefit of an insulated garage door is added durability.

Insulated garage doors are constructed differently from single layer garage doors, which make them stronger. Since your door needs to stand up to cars, kids, and equipment, this added durability makes sense.

Many of today’s insulated doors are made with a steel or aluminum frame. The frame is filled with solid-core insulation, which is then sandwiched between single or dual steel panels. This style of construction creates a lightweight, energy efficient door that’s less likely to dent than older, uninsulated doors.

By contrast, older garage doors tended to be made of thin steel sheets wrapped over the panel frames. With no insulation, these panels could be easily dented by cars, items stored in the garage, and even basketballs or children’s bikes.

These dents from daily activities meant more maintenance for homeowners. They could also lower a home’s curb appeal or value. Insulated garage doors, which contain multiple layers of insulation, steel, and aluminum, are less likely to be damaged. 

Added durability increases your garage door’s lifespan in other ways, too. Because of their size, garage doors are often damaged by bad weather. Dents and scratches from wind-borne projectiles are one of the most common types of weather related damage. Insulated garage doors stand up better to these types of projectiles as well.

Simple wind, rain, and sun can also take a toll on a garage door. Cold weather can warp metal components of a door. And heat can stress door panels, particularly those made of vinyl or acrylic. Extreme temperatures can also affect lubrication, springs, and the drive mechanism of your garage door.

Insulated garage doors tend to hold less heat than uninsulated doors. They also help to maintain moderate temperatures just inside the door -- where your opening mechanism is usually located. That means that these components aren’t exposed to such extreme conditions, which helps to prolong their lifespan.

 

3. Insulated Garage Doors are Quieter

An insulated garage door tends to be much quieter than an uninsulated garage door. Although noise dampening isn’t usually the most important factor, it’s an added benefit of an insulated door.

Many garage doors tend to produce some noise. For older garage doors, the primary offender is usually the track mechanism. Loose chains on the track tend to produce a loud, jerking noise. And worn down rollers can also grumble and squeak. Badly lubricated hinges and springs are another common contributor.

If your door is making a lot of noise, check these areas first. For best performance, hinges, tracks, and roller bearings should be lubricated every six months or so.

However, not all noise problems can be solved through maintenance. On some garage doors, the panels themselves vibrate and create noise. Lightweight doors without insulation tend to make the most noise.

If you have a living space directly above or next to the garage, this noise can be a nuisance. It’s particularly problematic for rooms directly above the garage.

If your garage door makes lots of noise, it may be time to consider replacing it with an insulated door. The insulation dampens most of the vibration. It can also help to dampen noise from outside the door.

Insulated doors also tend to make less noise because they’re more tightly constructed than other doors. Because each panel is made of layers of material sandwiched tightly together, there’s less loose material to make noise. And because they’re often heavier than uninsulated doors, they’re less likely to jolt or vibrate on the track.

4. Insulation Helps to Protect Your Car and Belongings

Insulated garage doors can also help to protect your car. A car stored in a garage with an insulated door is less likely to be in freezing conditions. Since cold weather can affect your car in a number of ways, your insulated door can have a big impact on the life of your car.

Some of the ways that freezing weather can affect cars include:

  • Shorter battery life or dead batteries
  • Thickened transmission, engine, and brake fluids
  • Low air pressure in tires
  • Unreliable spark plugs and wiring

The lower the temperature, the less likely your car is to run properly.

Remember that experiment about whether an insulated door on an insulated garage had any effect? That insulated door raised the temperature from 30 to 42 degrees. Since car batteries are most reliable between 30 and 90 degrees, just the door can make a big difference.

That temperature difference can also prolong the life of other items. Those cans of paint in the corner of the garage? Extreme heat and cold can change its consistency. It will become unusable more quickly than if it were in a temperature controlled space. The same is true of many fertilizers, cleaning supplies, and motor oil.

5. A Warmer Garage is More Convenient

Many people use their garages for more than just parking their car. If you work out in your garage or use it for hobbies, an energy efficient door makes sense. Keeping your garage warmer makes it easier for you to do occasional activities in it.

In cold climates, like here in Minnesota, that added warmth can make a difference. Getting to and from the house is easier when you have a warmer buffer zone to pass through. If you need to carry groceries or move your children from the car to the house, it’s easier to do so in a warmer area.

If you heat your garage, or use it for more than occasional activities, you may want to go a step further. The garage is usually the least energy efficient part of a home. That’s because construction standards are different for garages than they are for living spaces. Garages generally have less insulation and more leaks than the rest of your home.

To create an energy efficient activity space in your garage, you’ll first need to identify where you lose the most heat. Leaks between the doorframe and foundation, and around windows and doors, are usually the biggest culprit. Single layer garage doors, particularly aluminum, also allow lots of heat to leak out.

You can fix these problems in many ways. Caulking gaps between the foundation and the frame will also make a big difference. You can add rolled insulation to the walls, or blow foam insulation into finished walls. Finally, there are weather stripping kits available for garage doors and residential doors.

Of all of the energy efficiency solutions available, an insulated door usually has the biggest impact. But choosing the right garage door can be a challenge. Read on to learn more about how to compare and choose an insulated door.

 

How to Choose an Energy Efficient Garage Door

Garage door insulation can be confusing. Manufacturers can use several different types of energy efficiency ratings. Other factors, like materials, also affect how energy efficient a door is. The way that your garage door is constructed can also play a role.

Choosing Energy Efficient Materials

The materials used in your garage door have a big impact on its appearance. And since a garage door can add considerable curb appeal to your home, it’s a good idea to choose a well-designed door.

The good news is that most doors, regardless of material, can be insulated. If you’re looking for an energy efficient garage door, look for a double layer or triple layer door.

  • Single layer doors are made of just one layer, with no added insulation
  • Double layer door has an added layer of insulation, usually polystyrene
  • Triple layer doors have a thicker layer of polystyrene or polyurethane insulation, usually the most energy efficient

If you’re choosing a single layer door, you’ll only get the insulation from the panel materials themselves. Most of these materials provide relatively little insulation.

If you’re selecting a double layer or triple layer door, most of the insulation will be done by the internal layers of polystyrene or polyurethane. That means you can choose your finish based on aesthetics instead of heat retention.

Modern garage doors usually use one of four types of materials:

Steel: The most common material for new garage doors. It’s usually chosen for its low maintenance requirements, wide variety of designs, and durability. It provides moderate insulation.

Aluminum: A lightweight alternative to steel. Aluminum can give your garage an updated, modern look. However, it’s a poor insulator.

Wood: Offers homeowners a high-end, classic look. Wood doesn’t provide much insulation, so it’s usually chosen for appearance rather than energy efficiency.

Composite Wood: Like wood, it’s generally not a good insulator. However, composite wood is often layered over steel and insulation in double and triple layer doors. It’s a popular way to get the classic appearance of wood doors with more energy efficiency.

 

Understanding R values for Garage Doors

Understanding how manufacturers measure insulation is one of the first steps in choosing an energy efficient garage door. In general, you’ll see one of two types of ratings used: R values or U-factors.

If you’ve been looking for an insulated garage door, you have probably seen R-ratings, or R values. This is the most common measurement for insulation in garage doors.

An R value is a measure of how effective a material is at insulating a garage door against heat loss. An R value is determined by the thickness of insulation, and by its chemical properties. Higher R values mean that less heat passes through the door.

Different types of insulation can have different R-ratings.  A garage door with 2” thick polyurethane insulation can have a different R value than a garage door with 2” thick polystyrene insulation.

People often think that higher R values provide significantly more insulation. Many people assume that an R-16 door is twice as effective at insulating as an R-8 door. While an R-16 door will provide more effective insulation, the actual difference is only about 5 percent.

 

R-Value Reduction in Heat Flow
R-8 90%
R-12 93%
R-16 95%
R-20 96%
R-32 97%

 

When it comes to garage doors, understanding R values is even more complicated. R values can be measured in two different ways:

  • At the center of the panel, where insulation is thickest
  • For the entire door assembly

Garage doors that report the rating for the door assembly are more accurate. That’s because they take into account the frame and the space between panels.

Not all manufacturers rate their doors this way. That means that when it comes to R values, you might be comparing apples to oranges.

Many manufacturers who report the R value for the entire door assembly have an R value between 5 and 10. As the chart above shows, that works out to about 90 percent reduction in heat flow.

But other manufacturers choose to rate the insulation in their doors from the center of the panel. In these cases, garage doors could have R values between R-16 and R-32.

Although the center of the panel has thick insulation, it’s important to keep in mind that the entire door might have a lower insulation rating. That’s because the frame, hardware, and seals can’t be insulated in the same way as the panel.

Martin Hollaway, a green building advisor, wanted to find a way to compare the two rating systems that manufacturers use. He found that the R value of the entire door assembly is about one third of those for the center of panel of that door.

So if you’re comparing doors and are confused about the R values of different garage doors, you’re not alone.

Garage door installers can help you figure out the right level of insulation for your garage door. We can also help you learn about how a specific manufacturer determines their R values. With this information, you’ll be able to compare doors more effectively.

The U-Factor: An Alternative to R values

Some manufacturers have started to rate insulated garage doors with a U-factor instead of an R-rating. U-factors, or U-values, take into account the entire assembly: frame, panels, and hardware. If a garage door is rated with a U-factor, you can rest assured that the rating applies to the entire door.

Like R values, this is a measurement of how much heat is transferred through a material. U-factors for a door range from 0 to 1.

Unlike R values, lower numbers are considered more efficient. So a garage door with a U-factor of 0.30 is more efficient than a garage door with a U-factor of 0.60.

Other Factors that Affect the Energy Efficiency of a Garage Door

Although your door’s insulation is the biggest factor in saving energy, here are a few other tips to keep in mind.

1. Choose windows carefully

Garage door windows are nice to look at. Unfortunately, they’re not always energy efficient. The glass and acrylic used in most garage door windows tends to allow a lot of heat to escape.

If you’re in a cold climate, consider a garage door without windows. And if you must have windows in your garage door, look for a door that has energy efficient windows. 

2. Make sure that your door fits properly

If there are gaps between your garage door and the walls, or beneath the door, an insulated door will be less effective. Make sure that your door is installed properly, which will minimize these gaps.

You can also install weatherstripping around the door to prevent cold air from leaking in. Weatherstripping is inexpensive and easy to install. Many hardware stores also carry garage door sealing kits.

3. Invest in high quality hardware

Surprisingly, your garage door’s hardware can actually help you save energy. You can limit energy loss by making sure that your door has a high quality track, frame, and rollers.

These parts ensure that your door rolls into place with minimal gaps and air leakage. If your track mechanism is warped or misshapen, it’s easy to air to leak in around your garage door. By replacing it with a higher quality system, you’ll cut down on air leaks.

You can view our full range of insulated garage doors online here. If you’d like to learn more about choosing and installing a garage door, contact us!