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Unfortunately, Advertised Garage Door R-Values are Meaningless

First United Door - R Value

Published on GreenBuildingAdvisor.com by Martin Holladay

Is R-8.6 per inch even possible? The advertised R-value for Clopay’s model 9200 garage door strains credulity.

If you’re shopping for a garage door, the door’s energy performance may not matter — especially if you don’t heat your garage. However, there are a few reasons why you might be looking for a well-insulated, draft-free garage door:

  • A good overhead door on an attached garage can keep the garage — and therefore the house — a little warmer than a leaky door.
  • Since cars can be hard to start in sub-zero weather, homeowners in very cold climates — even those with unheated garages — may want a garage door that limits heat loss.
  • If the garage is used for vehicle maintenance or woodworking projects, it may occasionally be heated.

So, how do you tell a high-performance garage door from a lemon?

“We sell high R-value doors!”

Many garage-door manufacturers advertise the R-values of their doors:

  • Clopay [8] advertises that some of its doors are R-17.2.
  • Overhead Door [9] advertises that “a 17.5 R-value makes the 490 Series among the most thermally efficient doors you can buy.”
  • Raynor [10] advertises “R-values from 12.0 – 18.0.”
  • Wayne-Dalton [11] advertises garage doors with R-15 insulation.

Unfortunately, these advertised R-values are almost meaningless.

Advertised R-values are inaccurate, irrelevant — or both

To determine the thermal performance of a garage door, you need to know two things:

  • The door’s leakiness, and
  • The R-value or U-factor of the entire door assembly.

The R-values that are trumpeted by garage-door manufacturers are measured at the center of one of the door panels. No manufacturer, as far as I can determine, reports the R-value of the entire door assembly (including the panel edges, the seams between panels, and the perimeter of the door) in their promotional materials. Moreover, manufacturers’ reported R-values tell us nothing about air leakage.

Most garage-door manufacturers are reluctant to share actual laboratory reports showing the results of R-value testing. When I asked Mike Willstead, a technical representative for Raynor, if I could see a copy of Raynor’s test results, he suggested I send him an e-mail. He later e-mailed his response: “I apologize if I misled you. I was informed that this is proprietary information that will not be disclosed.”

The window industry does a much better job
More than a decade ago, responsible window manufacturers realized that the reputation of their industry was being damaged by misleading R-value and U-factor claims. (U-factor is the inverse of R-value; in other words, U=1/R and R=1/U). To address these problems, industry leaders developed a method for testing and reporting whole-window U-factors. The U-factor reported on an NFRC label accurately describes the U-factor of the entire window, including the sash frame and the window frame — not just the center-of-glass U-factor.

When it comes to accurate reporting of U-factors or R-values, however, the garage door industry is years behind the window industry.

There’s nothing to prevent garage-door manufacturers from using the NFRC testing and labeling protocol — a protocol that yields a more honest and useful result than the center-of-panel numbers trumpeted by garage-door marketers. Alternatively, garage-door manufacturers could use the voluntary consensus standard (ANSI/DASMA 105) for reporting whole-door U-factors adopted by the Door and Access System Manufacturers Association (DASMA). A technical data sheet (DASMA TDS #163) describes this testing protocol, dubbed the “tested installed door” protocol by DASMA.

“For marketing purposes, the garage door people get a measurement on the center of panel,” said David Yarbrough, a research engineer and insulation expert at R&D Services in Cookeville, Tennessee. “The overall R-value of the entire door might be quite a bit less — in extreme cases, it may be half — of the R-value of the center of the panel. Not everyone approves of this kind of marketing. It’s been a hot debate in recent years.”

In fact, the percentage turns out to be much less than half.

Actual R-values are one-third the advertised values

Although it’s hard to obtain actual test results that report the whole-door U-factors of “tested installed doors,” I managed to obtain one report on a garage door from Clopay, and another on a garage door from Overhead Door.

Clopay provided test results for their model 3720 five-panel garage door. According to Mischel Schonberg, Clopay’s public relations manager, the door is insulated with 2 inches of polyurethane foam. Schonberg wrote, “This model is the commercial version of our residential model 9200 and has the same construction.”

While Clopay advertises that the 9200 door is R-17.2 — presumably, a claim based on a center-of-panel measurement — the test report for the installed door shows R-6.14.

While Overhead Door advertises that their model 494/495 Thermacore door has an R-value of 17.5 — a claim that, like competitors’ claims, is presumably based on a center-of-panel measurement — the test report for the installed door shows a U-factor of 0.16, equivalent to R-6.25.

Based on the only two test reports that I was able to track down, it seems logical to conclude that the R-value of a garage door is about one-third of the R-value claimed in a manufacturer’s brochure.

All over the map
Mike Thoman, the director of thermal testing and simulation at Architectural Testing Incorporated, a Pennsylvania laboratory, has tested many garage doors.

“The assembly R-values are not going to be nearly as good as the R-value of the material would indicate,” Thoman told me recently. “When you compare the assembly R-value to the material R-value, the percentages are all over the map. The percentage is a function of how the joints in the panels are made, and whether any attempt was made to provide for thermal breaks at panel edges — a lot of different things. Some products have a lot of insulation in the panel but have everything else wrong. We’ve also seen doors that do everything right. There’s really a wide, wide range.”

Are the reported R-values even accurate?
There’s another potential problem with the R-values reported by garage-door manufacturers: even if one accepts the fact that the advertised R-values represent center-of-panel values rather than whole-door values, the numbers are still higher than most insulation experts believe are possible.

Several manufacturers report that their polyurethane-insulated door panels have R-values between R-8.6 and R-9.0 per inch — values that are highly unlikely if not technically impossible, even for the center of a door panel.

“The R-value of polyurethane decreases with age,” said Yarbrough. “When it is absolutely fresh you might get R-7.5 per inch, but a realistic aged R-value would be lower — perhaps about R-6.5 per inch would be on the high end. I’m not sure I can explain these reported test results. I have seen labs make mistakes before. I think it’s an error.”

One garage-door distributor who doubts the accuracy of manufacturer’s R-value claims is Bill Feder, the president of Door Services Incorporated of Portland, Maine. On his own initiative, Feder sent a garage-door panel (Overhead Door model 194) to Yarbrough’s lab, R&D Services. The ASTM C518 test conducted by Yarbrough came up with a value of only R-7.83 for the 1 3/8-inch-thick panel. Yet Overhead Door advertises that the door is R-12.76 — or R-9.28 per inch.

Feder’s R-value challenge
“If anyone calls me about a door, I tell them about my R-value challenge,” Feder told me. “I will give anyone a check for $250 if they can bring in a document that shows that a 1 3/8-inch-thick garage door has an R-value of 12. They can’t do it.”

Unfortunately, Feder’s admirable challenge has not yet shamed the garage-door industry into correcting the numerous exaggerations in their product specifications.

What about air leakage?
If the day ever comes when garage-door manufacturers follow the path blazed by their more honest brothers and sisters in the window industry — that is, if they ever decide to report whole-door U-factors or whole-door R-values — an important piece of the door-rating puzzle will still be missing. The reason: when it comes to the thermal performance of garage doors, air leakage matters much more than R-value.

“Garage doors are so leaky that they are difficult to test,” Thoman said. “Their leaks exceed the capabilities of the available testing apparatus.”

When he needed to buy a garage door for his own house, Thoman ignored advertised R-values. “I find it almost offensive that garage-door manufacturers even publish the R-value of the insulation material,” Thoman told me. “I hate it when I see that, because it’s not a representation of the door’s performance. Air leakage is a much more important issue than the R-value of the door.”

The bottom line
Although some garage-door manufacturers have measured the whole-door U-factor and air-leakage characteristics of their doors, most won’t release the data. Until they do, purchasers of garage doors have to select their doors based on anecdotes.

“I tell customers that the R-value of the door should be the last thing you should think about,” Bill Feder told me. “Instead, look at the seals and the hardware. On my own garage I just have a raised-panel cedar door.”

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Garage Doors: To Insulate or Not to Insulate

Insulate Garage DoorsDeciding if you really need insulation in your garage door depends on where you live, so the benefits of an insulated garage door and how to select the right degree of insulation to best suit your needs will differ quite a bit.

The amount of insulation you need in your garage door depends on if your climate is typically cold, hot, or somewhere in-between. With the garage usually being the primary entrance to the home and with living space often above or beside it, it’s best to keep the temperature in the garage as comfortable as possible. This is especially true in very cold or very hot regions. You can choose garage doors with varying degrees of insulation to best suit your needs.

The effectiveness of the insulation is expressed as an R-value. The higher the R-value, the better the insulation in the door.

Another point to consider is that an insulated door is generally quieter and has a more attractive interior than a non-insulated door.

Lastly, pests and insects enjoy nesting in the back of uninsulated garage doors. An insulated door doesn’t give them a place to call their own.

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Reduce the Noise Coming From Your Garage Door!

Garage Door NoiseEvery time the garage door opens and closes, a loud rumble comes right through the walls of your home. Can’t stand it? Here’s some advice to help you reduce noise generated by the up and down movement of your garage door.

1. An insulated garage door can significantly reduce the intrusion of street noise into the home – especially important when there are bedroom or other living areas above or adjacent to the garage. If your door isn’t already insulated, the insulation can be installed by professional installers for a minimal charge, but it is not difficult to mount the insulation yourself and kits are available at your local home improvement retailer. It is important to consider having your springs recalculated because of additional weight to the door.

2. Have the steel rollers on your garage door changed to nylon. With nylon rollers, you will obtain almost silent running on the tracks and there is no need for lubrication.

3. Another point to look at is your electric operator. Any belt-driven model is best because the motor of this model is insulated from the metal case and will cut vibrations. The rubber belt is also quieter than the steel chain.

4. A noise isolator system (semi-rigid rubber 6 mm) can be effective. The supports that hold up the horizontal tracks can be insulated with a piece of rubber to cut the vibrations. On a wood frame, do not fix directly under the beams, place a piece of wood perpendicular under which you will have installed a rubber insulator. If you have a bedroom or living space above your garage and intend to add hardwood flooring, it is recommended to sound proof it by installing carpet and under carpet.

5. A good lifting system (springs) can also contribute to noise reduction. ”Torsion” type springs (instead of ”Extension” springs) is ideal because they allow precise balancing of the door and avoid friction of cables and springs on the horizontal tracks.

6. Concerning the tracks, it is best to choose tracks with the largest radius possible. In fact, the larger the radius the smoother the door action will be. The standard radius is 10 inches (”extension” spring) and 12 or 15 inches (”torsion” spring). Opt for the largest radius possible if you have a big clear space above the door.

7. Finally, regular lubrication (twice a year) of rollers and track is important.

With the above advice, it should easier to reduce noise problems from your garage door. Do not hesitate to call a licensed and insured garage door professional. They are trained to offer you top quality work and service and in the end, peace of mind.

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garage door and snowWith the cold weather, the following can you save you a lot of time and expense!

Keeping it Clean

Clean your garage door regularly with mild soap, such as car detergent, and a soft bristle brush. Avoid using abrasive cleaners and very strong liquid cleaners which could damage the paint or cause delaminating. If you have a steel garage door, you can revive its luster by applying a car wax as it will protect against acid rain and dust. It is best to avoid waxing in direct sunlight to achieve better results.

Weather Stripping

Clean the weather stripping with a good all-purpose cleaner. Lubricate it every 2 or 3 months with a SILICONE-based lubricant. Never use a petroleum-based lubricant on weather stripping as it will dry up and crack. Don’t forget the weather strip between your door panels. It is important to let your weather strip hang 1/2″ below the door base when you readjust your perimeter weather stripping. If the weather stripping is too tight, the door will not function properly. So if your weather stripping has lost its flexibility, it is best to replace it.

Maintaining the Hardware

Lubricate the rollers, tracks and hinges and all moving hardware parts with a little motor oil (e.g.: 10W30) every three months. Wipe off excess oil with a cloth. As for the springs, use the same oil applied with a cloth. You are not only prolonging the spring’s life, but also reducing the noise the springs make when the door is operated.

At least once a year, home owners must check the following :
1. the sturdiness and adjustment of the hinges;
2. the rollers for worn-out ball bearings, flattened rollers, and crooked rods;
3. the tracks for premature wear and tear, loose bolts, and loose supports;
4. the cables for wear and tear; especially near the pulleys and the lower support (corner bracket).

Open Sesame: The Garage Door Opener

Depending on the model you own, consult the manufacturer’s guide. If you want to add some white grease on the operator track, again you must first clean the track. By oiling all the mobile parts you will reduce the noise initiated by the motor. If it is still too noisy for your liking, then nylon rollers would help reduce the noise.

Pull on the trolley release cord and operate the door manually. Is it difficult to open and close? The electric operator only replaces manual operation, therefore it must move freely. If you have trouble operating it, contact your local l qualified and licensed garage door installer. For your safety as well as your child’s, check the automatic safety reverse system of the door opener every month.

Get Your Annual Exam

Consider your garage door as an important part of your home. With appropriate annual maintenance, it will operate beautifully. Ask a qualified and licensed garage door installer to lubricate and adjust your garage door at least yearly. In a 10 step check-up, they will lubricate all the above mentioned parts and perform any required repairs.

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The All Purposeful Garage Door

Your garage door serves many purposes. It keeps your garage secure. It provides aesthetic appeal for your home. It also can be an energy efficiency product to help lower your energy bills.

You can get so much from a garage door that when it comes time to buy a replacement, you should shop smart. Make sure that the new one will be even better than the last. Do not settle for just any door. Shop around and be sure the model you get will serve all your purposes perfectly.

There are many considerations to make when choosing a new garage door. You should consider how you use the garage when making your choice. In some homes the garage is a playroom or a workshop in addition to keeping vehicles in out of the elements. How you use the garage will play into your final choice on a door.

You also need to make sure you get the right size of door. The wrong size of door will not serve any purpose. Take measurements carefully. Get help if you need it. Many retailers will offer help with taking measurements.

The appearance is also important. There are a range of styles, so you should try to figure out what you want before you go shopping. Common styles include flush panels which are flat and slightly textured. Flat panel styles blend nicely in with your home’s exterior.

There are also doors with raised panels that are long. This style is very dimensional. It provides depth to the look of the door and accents the home’s appearance.

There are short raised panels that add depth, too. They are really intricate in style and are perfect for homes of Victorian style or Tudor style homes.

Besides the style, many different colors are available. You can get almost any color or even pattern of colors you want. Along the same lines, you can also choose from different materials, like wood or steel. Some are more durable than others and some require less care and maintenance than others.

You can also choose to have windows added in the doors to really customize and change the look. You really have many choices when it comes to the look of the door you choose.

The last consideration you should make is energy efficiency. Most today come with the option of being energy efficient. If you are concerned about energy loss through the garage then you must look for energy efficiency properties in your new garage door. Try to find a door with good insulating qualities.

Make sure there are weather seals between the door sections. Additionally, look for a bottom seal. If one is not built into the door, then they are simple to add, so keep that in mind.

Buying the right garage door is not too difficult. You just have to know what your needs are and do some shopping around to find the door that is a perfect fit for you and your garage. With all the great options on the market, you can be sure you will find that perfect door.

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Advancement in Energy Efficiency, Safety and Curb Appeal

The bitter cold of winter marks the time to rethink that garage door.

This is the season when homeowners usually make efforts to seal up the biggest opening in the home. It’s also a popular time for garage door replacement. It’s that time of year when weather has a distinct effect on the garage door business.

Steel isn’t a good insulator, so to compensate; manufacturers double up the panels and fill the space between them with polystyrene or polyurethane insulation. Polyurethane insulates better than polystyrene, but it tends to break down after a period of time, whereas polystyrene lasts forever.

Polystyrene is a flat, sheet-like material, similar to a Styrofoam cup. Polyurethane is pumped into a door as a liquid, then expands and fills the space between the metal sides of the door. There are some synthetic problems with polyurethane. It can dry erratically, leaving unprotected spots in the door. That problem is detectable when a homeowner sees granulated polyurethane draining from the door. A polyurethane-lined door, however, can often have a better R-value than the rest of the garage.

Polystyrene has a lower R-value, the insulation rating system, and also is less expensive. Single polyurethane doors are rated around R-15 and cost more.

Insulation with polyurethane and polystyrene has made doors so efficient that there often is a 15- to 20-degree difference in a garage after new doors are installed. That can play a big role in heating costs.

While energy efficiency plays a big part in the selection of a garage door, safety is also a key consideration. Safety plays an increasingly important role in garage-door design. All new garage doors incorporate many new safety technologies and innovations such as pinch-resistant door panels, easy-to-set torsion springs and advanced reversing mechanisms.

Garage doors are also more than just practical openings, they often make up the largest percentage of the front of the house and mean a great deal in the appearance of a property. It is, in fact, a home’s fashion accessory. The look of a garage door is important to accentuate the look of a house. Many people would never consider this to be the case because the garage is the traditionally overlooked and forgotten part of the house. But a garage door can draw attention away from the home’s other exterior features. When two of these are these garage doors are placed side by side it seems to take up at least half of the house. Going on three it’s easy to see how the house’s otherwise beautiful look can be swallowed up—unless the doors are thought through carefully.

With houses getting bigger and more lavish, though, the best garage door is one that compliments the house without taking away from it. Because of this need we are now able to walk a street without seeing the same color and style of garage door twice.

One of the most popular features is the carriage house design which originally was made with large hinges on heavy wood that gave the doors a striking presence. Manufacturers are taking these old traditional styles and providing fresh design choices. To enhance appeal, manufacturers introduce “high-definition” lines that feature more complex designs that give the look of texture and create shadow lines.

These days, garage door manufacturers are up-to-date with the demands of the consumer, continually creating better looking and better functioning garage doors. So, no matter whether it’s a remodel or new construction project, and no matter how far out the ideas are for a garage and garage door design, there’s probably one that can be found. Garage doors today are as efficient and aesthetically-pleasing as ever.

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Don’t Wait Until Your Garage Door Doesn’t Work… Maintain It!

For those of you who have moved into a new home or have just installed a new garage door, be sure to take the time to thoroughly read the garage door owner’s manual. It may seem like a chore and take time, but one would be surprised at what they can find in most well written garage door manuals. The manual will contain safety and design information to help you insure that your garage door is safe to use and properly installed, and contain information on how to keep your garage door properly maintained.

For example, many garage door manuals will contain helpful tips for painting them. Most companies will tell you to pain BOTH the inside and outside of the garage door to keep everything even, and to never remove any parts of the garage door when painting. If you want to make sure that your garage door is completely covered in a fresh coat of paint, you need to call in a professional to dismantle it so that you can finish the paint job, and then have the garage door installed again. This usually does not happen, but again, do not try to dismantle any of the parts of the garage door. It can lead to a very dangerous situation.

Once you have your garage door installed, it is vital that you periodically lubricate most parts of it. It is often easiest to lubricate the metal parts using silicone spray that can be found at most local hardware stores. However, be sure to never lubricate plastic rollers and plastic idler bearings. It is also suggested that you check for loose nuts and bolts on a monthly basis and if you find something out of the ordinary, call in an expert to help you with your problem. Don’t try anything yourself unless you are licensed and well trained in repairing garage doors.

Also, make sure to check that the door has proper balance by slowly opening the door and making sure that when the bottom of the door is waist high, it does not sway and move in any direction. Finally, using a 2×4 block of wood, make sure that the sensors on your garage works (if it is a remote-controlled door). Place the 2×4 in the pathway of the door and when the door gets somewhat close to the top of the 2×4 it should reverse direction and go back up.

If the garage door is moving, keep your distance and never stand or walk under a moving door. It is important that you set an example for your children and you do not want them under a moving garage door. You should also try to make sure children cannot reach the wall-mounted garage door openers and be sure to hide the remotes. You do not want your children playing with the garage door at all. Finally, if you think you have a problem, call an expert. Never try to fix anything yourself as garage doors are very dangerous and you put yourself in harm’s way when you try to fix it, especially when you don’t know exactly what you are doing.

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