(C) J Wiley, S BlissExterior Door Energy Efficiency Ratings

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Energy efficient doors:

In this article we discuss the frame types for exterior doors and the energy efficiency ratings of exterior doors. We review the proper installation details for windows and doors, and we compare the durability of different window and door materials and types.

In this article series we discuss the selection and installation of windows and doors, following best construction and design practices for building lighting and ventilation, with attention to the impact on building heating and cooling costs, indoor air quality, and comfort of occupants.

We also provide a MASTER INDEX to this topic, or you can try the page top or bottom SEARCH BOX as a quick way to find information you need.

Guide to Types of Doors, Exterior, & Door Frames

As discussed in Best Practices Guide to Residential Construction Chapter 3, BEST PRACTICES GUIDE: WINDOWS & DOORS:

In new construction, most exterior doors are purchased pre hung in a frame complete with adjustable thresholds, sidelites or transoms, and, in some cases, high-tech electronics, such as motion-sensor lighting and keyless ignition systems. The frames come in a variety of materials from basic finger-jointed pine to low-maintenance frames clad in vinyl or aluminum.

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The most critical piece of the frame is the sill and threshold. Most today are extruded aluminum, often with a treated wood or composite subsill (Figure 3-24).

Figure 3-24

(C) J Wiley, S Bliss

Some have built-in channels with weeps to safely drain away water and many have an adjustable sill step, a helpful option since few of today’s doors can be planed or easily adjusted.

When purchasing a complete entry system, make sure that the components all come from the same manufacturer, since many distributors mix and match door slabs from one company with more economical frames, hardware, or glazing systems from another, potentially voiding the warranty should some components fail.

Doors, Exterior, Energy Efficiency Guide

As reported in Best Practices Guide to Residential Construction Chapter 3, BEST PRACTICES GUIDE: WINDOWS & DOORS:

Insulation values for entry doors range from about R-2 for solid wood to about R-5 for a fiberglass or steel door filled with polystyrene foam. Doors with polyurethane foam average about R-8. The values are lower than for a solid slab of foam insulation due to internal blocking and frame materials. In doors with glazing, the numbers drop considerably.

However, because of a door’s relatively small area, conductive heat loss has little effect on annual fuel bills. Thermal breaks are important with steel doors since they help eliminate condensation around the door’s perimeter. Air leakage has the biggest energy impact since it can contribute to condensation, increased fuel bills, and discomfort due to drafts.

Weather-Stripping Advice for Exterior Doors

Look for air tightness ratings similar to windows, preferably below .10 cfm/sq ft. Equally important as the rating, however, is how the weather stripping holds up over time. Magnetic weather-stripping generally performs well but is only available on steel doors.

Compression bulbs form a tight seal, but some materials lose flexibility in the cold or take on a permanent “compression set.” Silicone and EPDM both resist compression set and stay flexible in the cold. Neoprene and vinyl are less durable and less flexible in the cold.

Another widely used weather-stripping material with a proven track record is Schlegel’s proprietary Q-Lon, a thermoset plastic that outperforms thermoplastics, such as vinyl, TPE, and urethane foam.

Exterior Door Sweeps

(C) J Wiley, S Bliss

Also look for a durable seal at the door bottom.

There are many approaches to sealing at the threshold, including bulbs, sweeps, and interlocks that work in conjunction with the threshold to seal out water and air leakage (Figure 3-25 at left).

One of the most effective approaches is an automatic sweep that retracts into a dado cut in the bottom of the door and drops down only when the door is closed. These are available as retrofits for wood doors and will even work without a threshold.

Window and Door Resources: where to buy window and door products

As noted in Best Practices Guide to Residential Construction Chapter 3, BEST PRACTICES GUIDE: WINDOWS & DOORS:

Industry Associations for Windows & Doors

-- Adapted and paraphrased, edited, and supplemented, with permission from Best Practices Guide to Residential

See WINDOWS & DOORS our home page for window and door information, and also see WINDOW TYPES - Photo Guide for a photographic guide to window and door types and architectural styles. Our links listed at the "More Reading" links at the bottom of this article provide in-depth articles on window and door selection, inspection, installation, problem diagnosis, and repair.


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