Q. I want to replace my old, noisy, faded garage door with a new insulated one with decorative, yet secure, glass windows for natural light. What are the best designs, materials and features to consider?
A. When it comes to the street appearance and overall energy efficiency of your house, people often forget about the garage door.
More than 30 percent of the frontal area of a typical home is garage door. With lifetime warranties, a new efficient, insulated garage door can be a good investment.
Although the garage door opener has an impact on the noise level of a garage door opening, the design of the door is most significant.
High-quality rollers, hardware, counter balance springs and adjustable tracks reduce the noise to where it will not wake you, even with a bedroom above.
The newest garage doors are carriage-styles. When closed, they look like side-hinged carriage doors. They open upward though, like a regular section garage door. Some use insulated steel with wood trim while others use all real wood with insulation. Grained stainable steel doors also look like real wood.
Another recent improvement is the use of decorative and energy efficient windows in the garage door that naturally light the garage. Tough clear acrylic plastic windows are available in beveled and leaded designs.
Real glass windows are available in frosted and leaded (for privacy) and efficient double-pane styles. The newest styles have different window shapes across the door to create a decorative pattern.
Even if you don't heat or cool an attached garage, the door quality impacts your utility bills. Check the joint design between the door sections for safety and efficiency. The newest are pinch-resistance joints that push fingers out of the joint as the door closes (great around children).
For efficiency, the joint seal, between the sections when the door is closed, should be as airtight as possible. Several of the best seal designs for between the sections are tongue-and-groove, shiplap and compression.
Since sections constitute the majority of a garage door, its insulation level has the greatest impact on efficiency. Insulation levels in the top-quality two-inch-thick doors ranges from about R-6 to R-18. Choose a door with a plastic thermal break between the indoor and outdoor steel skins.
Polyurethane foam insulation, injected inside the steel door skins has the highest insulation value. The other insulation method uses a piece of rigid polystyrene foam that is placed inside the door during construction. Beautiful, durable copper and composite plastic door skins are also available.
Q. With winter approaching in several months, I am giving my heating system some thought. If I replace the furnace, I am wondering whether a heat pump or another gas furnace is better. What do you suggest?
A. This is a very difficult question to answer because which is best depends on very many variables: relative price of gas and electricity in your area, efficiency of the units, efficiency of your house, your budget, etc.
The only way to make a fairly accurate determination is to have a heating contractor do a computerized heat loss calculation of your house. After this, he must do payback analyses on several different models of both types of heating systems.
XWrite for Update Bulletin No. 894 which gives a buyer's guide of 11 insulated garage door manufacturers listing insulation types/levels, styles, materials, colors, glass options, seals, panel contours and features. Please send $3 and a business-size SASE to James Dulley, The Vindicator, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, Ohio 45244. For an instant download, visit James Dulley online at www.dulley.com.