Arizona Green Homes – The In’s and Out’s of Doors.

Choosing Exterior Doors for Arizona Homes

When it comes to to the energy efficiency of a home, having the proper windows and doors is every bit as important as the insulation in the walls.  Most of the energy loss has to do with leaks around the doors. So, as with windows, you’ll want to check the seal around all of your existing doors even before you consider replacing them.  Industry experts recommend checking door weather stripping at least once a year.

Many people know to check how well the windows and doors are sealed and insulated around it but do you know to check what the door is made of.  If and when you are ready to replace one or more of your exterior doors, you’ll quickly discover that all doors are not created equal. As with windows, door materials and door’s energy efficiency can vary widely. Some doors allow a lot more heat to transfer through the door itself than do others.  So, if you have old exterior doors on your home, you may be able to enhance your home’s insulating ability dramatically by changing to a new, more efficient design.

The Insulating Properties of Doors

When it comes to materials, you can get new exterior doors made from wood, steel and fiberglass. If you are trying to create a truly green home, many people will shy away from the use of a fiberglass product. When it comes to exterior doors, I don’t recommend hollow doors.  They’re very light doors, making them easier to transport and to hang, which is why many home builders will use them. You will also find the hollow doors to be far less expensive than the solid doors. Solid doors are a far better choice simply because of their superior insulation qualities. Hollow doors are fine for use inside the home although they do let more noise to penetrate from one room to another.

Steel and fiberglass doors generally have some sort of core inside that has insulating properties, and you can find wood doors that also have an insulating core. These are called wood-clad doors. Of course, the steel and fiberglass doors are marketed as being more durable than wood and as requiring less maintenance. They also have good insulating properties, with R-values in the range of R-5 to R-6.

Unfortunately, from a green perspective, the insulating material inside most exterior doors is polyurethane foam. Polyurethane is a petroleum-based product, with all of the attached concerns. If this is a concern of yours then be sure to find a manufacturer that uses a more environmentally friendly insulating material.

If you can’t find a petroleum-free insulated door, the alternative is a solid wood door. Solid wood is a good natural insulator, though the R-value will not be as high as one of the insulated-core doors. Of course, as with wood window frames, when you look for wood doors, you want to seek out a company that uses Forest Stewardship Council-certified lumber as much as possible.

Most replacement doors also come with a frame, much like a window. These doors are considered pre-hung. They are already attached to the frame, so they’re easier to install and they’ll seal well and also swing open and shut properly.

Some doors also have decorative inserts, perhaps a stained-glass or leaded-glass design, or they have one or more windows built into the door. Naturally, a door only insulates as well as it’s weakest portion, so you want to make sure any window or other decorative inserts will not adversely affect the doors ability to keep heat outside in the summertime and heat inside in the winter.

Most of the time, these inserts will be dual-pane. You do not want a door with a single-pane insert, any more than you want a single-pane window. One way to find out quickly if a leaded=glass insert is dual-pane or not is to slide your hand over both sides. If one side (usually the outside), feels smooth, then it’s a dual-pane. If you can feel the bumpiness from the leading on both sides, it’s probably single-pane.

Interestingly, some door manufacturers have purposely installed dual- and triple-pane windows with low-E coatings in their solid wood doors specifically to increase the door’s R-value. The glass portion of the doors actually insulate better than the wood portion.

Again, replacing old, non-efficient doors on your home can be every bit as important as properly insulating your home. Making the right choice can save energy, make your home quieter and add beauty to the home as well.

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