Friday, November 13, 2015

Shut the Front Door: Key Ways to Improve Home Efficiency

When it comes to thinking "green," few things are more important than the doors that lead into the home. In addition to serving as an entryway for the home's occupants and guests, doors almost always serve as an entryway for excess heat or cold air throughout the year. The result is a significant drain on home energy efficiency, increased home heating and cooling costs, and an unnecessarily large carbon footprint in virtually every season. There are some key changes that can be made to combat energy loss through a home's doors and entryways, however, and many of these improvements are cost-effective over the long-term. That's especially true when homeowners consider the long-term cost of energy savings versus the long-term cost of energy waste, just by making a few changes.

1. Low-E Coatings Keep Hot Air Out
One of the most important and impactful changes that can be made to a home's doors is to find glass with a "Low-E" coating on exposed glass. This coating is extremely thin. In fact, it's a microscopic coating that can't be seen, felt or noticed in any significant way. Despite its microscopic nature, however, the presence of a Low-E coating on an interior glass doors windows has a massive impact on how much heat is transmitted into the home from the sun.

The coating works as a UV radiation block, essentially creating a microscopic layer of "cool" glass, even when the door's glass feels hot to the touch after being warmed by the sun all day. Because the Low-E coating is on the interior side of the door's window glass, it actually keeps heat outside. In fact, homeowners might notice that the glass inside the home feels significantly cooler than the glass on the other side of the door. Over time, this lowers home cooling costs in the summer months and reduces the use of air conditioning. This can result in significant energy savings each year, helping the Low-E glass pay for itself in a relatively short period of time.

2. Cracks and Leaks Should Be Found and Blocked
The glass in a door is one of the easiest ways for outdoor weather conditions to significantly impact energy usage, but it's not the only way that doors could be making it harder to control the home's temperature and minimize its use of heating and cooling throughout the year. In fact, one of the biggest sources of energy loss each year is the cracks that often are found throughout the door's trim, molding, and mounting materials. These cracks may not be visible to the naked eye, either because they’re very small or because they're hiding underneath decorative trim. Even so, they're definitely letting outdoor weather conditions into the home and undermining the home's installed heating and cooling systems.

3. Fix Improper Door Hanging and Alignment
Another cause of home energy loss, and one that's easily fixed by a qualified contractor, is a door that has been improperly hung or aligned with the door frame itself. An improperly installed door often angles up, away from the floor, and fits poorly into the doorframe. This means that there will at least be a significant gap toward the floor, which allows cool or hot air to come into the home and waste energy. It also means that, more likely than not, the door is doing damage to the doorframe and creating several gaps on either side of the frame when the door is closed. The solution to this problem is to inspect hinges and mounting hardware after the door has been removed, making adjustments as necessary so that the door closes easily, creates a tight seal between the home's indoor and outdoor spaces, and stops damaging the doorframe in the process.

4. Replace Old or Faulty Hardware
An old doorknob could secretly be letting air into the home that produces a significant drain on heating and cooling systems. Old or faulty hardware often gets looser over time, creating cracks and crevices that undermine a home's energy efficiency. The solution is pretty simple: Uninstall old, faulty hardware and opt for a strong, attractive, reinforced doorknob instead. For example, old door hinges can cause home energy efficiency. Installing new sliding door hardware instead of hinges is a simple yet efficient way to improve your home's energy efficiency. New hardware will look great and be just easy to use, but it will block cracks and crevices that old hardware created, providing greater energy savings.

Excellent Opportunities to Conserve Energy and Save Money
It's natural for some cold or hot air to make its way into the home when a door is opened, but homeowners shouldn't expect this air to make it sway through the door's cracks and crevices all day long, every day of the year. By making a few important changes to a home's doors, energy loss can be stopped and real, substantive cost savings can take place. This can have important benefits to a home budget over the long-term, making each change recommended above into a major benefit for the whole family.

Mikkie Mills is a Chicago native who loves to save money and help others do the same. When I'm not writing, I'm chasing the little ones around or rock climbing at the local climbing gym."

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