Blog > Category Post > Posted: 2022-Jun-28, Updated: 2022-Jun-23

Energy-efficient doors reduce energy costs and increase comfort

Energy-efficient doors increase comfort and reduce energy costs. With environmental concerns and sky-rocketing fuel costs, more and more homeowners are opting for insulated front doors, but which door material will produce the best result? Read on to find out, then compare the Energy Star® ratings of the products you may be considering.

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Energy efficiency and entrance doors

Replacing an entrance door is a great way to freshen up a home’s curb appeal, but it is also a great opportunity to make your home more energy-efficient.

What does that mean:

  • Lower energy bills, higher efficiency
  • Insulation that works efficiently in both hot and cold environments
  • Consistent comfort throughout the home (if the whole house is optimized - i.e. including windows)
  • Natural light that doesn't heat up the inside of the home
  • Less fading of furniture
  • You help reduce the carbon footprint

In areas with extreme hot and cold weather conditions such as Ottawa, losing indoor heat in the winter or cold air in the summer can drive up energy costs while contributing to the compound effects of global warming. Your home's exterior doors can significantly contribute to temperature transfer and air leakage into the home, especially if they are old, poorly insulated, or improperly installed.

Of course, entrance doors don't use electricity or burn fuel, so when we are talking about doors being energy-efficient we are talking about the potential to help reduce the energy usage and costs associated with heating and cooling a home.

In Canada and the US, a government-sponsored Energy Star® program provides unbiased testing, Energy Star® certification, and energy ratings (ER) for door products that meet or exceed the strict technical specifications for energy-efficient performance.

More on ER

What are doors made of - how energy-efficient are they?

Most entrance doors are manufactured and sold in a pre-hung configuration that includes the door slab (door by itself without frame), the frame (including the sill), hinges and hardware. Maximum energy efficiency is only achieved when replacing the entire unit.

When purchasing a total door/frame solution and material type, doors are categorized by the door slab material, not the framing material. Metal and fibreglass doors are actually metal or fibreglass skins that cover a reinforced frame and insulating material - wood doors are typically solid wood without any interior insulation.

While entrance door manufacturers continue to improve the insulating properties of doors (R7), they are still very poor performers when compared to a solid wall in a home (R13).

More on R-value

Fibreglass or vinyl doors (R-value between R5-R7)

Coupled with polyurethane insulated core (rigid foam - up to 6 times more energy-efficient than solid wood), fibreglass doors are generally considered the most energy-efficient and durable doors available in the residential door market today.


Fibreglass and vinyl are poor conductors of heat which makes them perfectly suited to helping to keep inside-the-home temperatures stable while warding off the hot and cold outside temperatures.

Fibreglass and vinyl doors are typically less expensive than steel (plain doors) and vinyl doors are less expensive then fibreglass doors. They provide great thermal value, will stand the test of time (fibreglass more than vinyl), and offer a wide range of design options that include very realistic faux wood grain textures to stained glass inserts.

Steel or aluminium doors (R-value between R5-R6)

Unfortunately metal conducts heat - thus metal doors are more susceptible to the transference of outside temperatures into the home. In extreme prolonged temperatures, it is probable that you'll be able to feel the change in temperature on the inside of the door.

Metal doors come in a variety of colours, styles, configurations, quality, and insulative properties - they are often used by builders for new homes because they are typically less expensive than fibreglass and wood. Not all metal doors are constructed the same, some may provide better insulation than some wood or fibreglass doors, be sure to check for the Energy Star® symbol, and compare it with other non-metal doors that you may be considering.

Once upon a time, metal entry doors were the most common door available on the market, although many metal doors are energy efficient, they are not as energy-efficient as fibreglass.

Wood doors (R-value between R2-R3)

Solid wood doors absorb heat more easily than metal and fibreglass doors and allow outside temperatures to pass through into the home. Solid wood doors are considered the least energy-efficient door - R-value is typically less than half that of an insulated steel or fibreglass doors.

Wood doors are beautiful, but faux wood fibreglass doors look amazing, provide better insulating properties and cost less. Plus they won't rust, fade, warp, or dent, and they'll never need to be stained or painted. If you're adamant about wood, look for a thicker, solid-core wooden door for better insulation - the thicker the wood the higher the R-value.

Other energy-efficiency considerations

Although the door slab (door by itself without the frame, hinges and hardware) is the biggest surface area to consider when looking for an energy-efficient entrance door solution, the frame, frame insulation, weatherstripping and glass (if used) are just as important. All the components must work together to produce the desired energy efficiency, if any of the components do not have equal insulating properties, they will diminish the door's overall U-factor and R-value. Be sure to consider the entire door (slab, frame, weatherstripping, and glass) when looking for energy-efficient doors.

Glass & glazing

Glass in a door will decrease its energy efficiency, but some options will help improve the insulation value: 

  • Glass with a higher low-E (low-emissivity) coating will reflect both outside and inside temperatures back to the source
  • Glass thickness can contribute to overall window efficiency (thicker is better)
  • Multiple panes (glazing) of glass (2 or 3 panes) allow for the insertion of low conductive gases and add another insulating barrier that reflects or absorbs heat
  • Low-conductivity gases between the glass inhibit heat transfer through the glass
  • Plastic thermal frame breaks (around the glass) can insulate between the inner and outer parts of the door inhibiting temperature transfer from the glass to the door

Core insulation and slab framing

Metal and fibreglass doors are typically filled with a rigid polyurethane foam insulation core that strengthens, insulates and helps maintain the home's inside temperature.

Metal, composite and wood framing are used to help strengthen a door slab. Each of these framing materials conducts or absorbs the temperature from inside or outside the home differently. Although they can have a positive or negative effect on energy efficiency on their own, the biggest influence on your purchase decision should be the overall door rating.

Non-solid wooden doors with a polyurethane foam core are available through some manufacturers. This type of doorway may provide better insulative properties than solid wood doors.

Caulking/Foam insulation

During the entry door installation procedure, installers follow the manufacturer's instructions (including materials such as caulking and low expanding insulation) to ensure the installation replicates the testing environment with the intent of matching the set Energy Star® specifications. Inferior installation materials and improper installation practices will minimize the energy efficiency results.

Weatherstripping & door sweeps

Plastic, rubber and thermoset plastic foam core weatherstripping and sweeps (door shoes) between gaps and pockets of the door ensure the seal between the frame and the door is airtight - weatherstripping and sweeps can be extremely effective in eliminating air leaks and retaining indoor temperature.

National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) vs Energy Star®

Although most Canadian window and door manufacturing companies place Energy Star® rating labels on their doors (rather than NFRC rating labels), you will find some manufacturers use one or the other, or both labels, it depends on the point of origin and whether the windows may also be destined for US markets. Both performance rating processes rate products based on U-factor, R-value, Visual Transmittance (VT), and Coefficient of solar heat gain (SHGC)

In the US the NFRC is responsible for testing and rating windows, doors and skylights. Then Energy Star® provides a stamp of certification for those products that meet or exceed government specifications. The NFRC is committed to advancing the continuous improvement of windows, doors, and skylights, contributing to making buildings more comfortable and energy-efficient. Certified Products Directory

In Canada, it is a different story - windows, doors and skylights are tested and rated by Natural Resources Canada (NRC) authorised independent testers. Then the eligible Energy Star® results (Energy Efficiency Ratings) are posted on the Canadian Government's website under Natural Resources Canada. Certified Products Directory

For the most part, you will have more success comparing ratings for doors sold in Canada by comparing products that are Energy Star® rated.

Certified Energy Star® products

Not all door manufacturers build doors the same way or with the same fillers, there are plenty of doors that do not even qualify for the Energy Star® stamp of approval.

According to Natural Resources Canada and Energy Star®, doors that are Energy Star® approved doors are 15% more efficient than the average non Energy Star®. Energy Star® approved doors provide tighter seals, superior insulated glass units and superior materials with greater insulating properties. Energy Star® is the mark of high-efficiency products in Canada.

When buying energy-efficient doors for your home it's important to consider their energy performance ratings in relation to the local climate and your home's design. Look for the Energy Star® label to help identify energy-efficient products, this will help narrow your selection.

An Energy Star® qualified door meets the energy efficiency requirements as per the Energy Star® program. An energy-efficient door may have features such as:

  • Foam-filled insulation core
  • Compression foam seal on the edges for a perfect seal
  • Thermal break (plastic insulator in the frame)
  • Low-E coatings on glass inserts and side lights
  • Installed by a company experienced with installing Energy Star® products

In Canada, an Energy Star® door must be tested using the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) A440.2 standard. Its performance is rated on six metrics which may or may not be used depending on product characteristics. For example rating 5, 6 and 7 really only apply to doors that have windows.

  1. U-factor - Rate of heat transfer from warm to cold areas (the lower the U-factor the more energy-efficient the door is) Read more - Understanding the U-factor
  2. R-value – Resistance to heat transfer (the higher the number the greater the efficiency) Read more - Understanding the R-value
  3. Energy Rating – Rating number that indicates the balance between U-factor, SHGC and air leakage (the higher the number the greater the efficiency)
  4. Coefficient of solar heat gain (SHGC) – Ratio showing how much of the sun’s heat can pass through a product (higher numbers > greater heat gains from sunlight)
  5. Visible transmittance – Number depicting how much visible light can pass through a product (higher numbers mean more light can pass through)
  6. Centre-of-glass rating – A value that measures only the rating of the glass area of the product, not the product as a whole (lower numbers indicate greater efficiency)
  7. Condensation resistance - condensation rating that is optional for manufacturers to include, so you may or may not see it on the label (the higher the number, the
    better a product resists condensation).

Energy Star® resource links

Not every home in Canada needs the same window performance. Regions in the north of the country are colder and receive harsher winters, while the southern parts of Canada see a much milder climate. However, in 2020 Energy Star® climate zones were simplified by merging the three distant zones into one which raised the specifications bar for the southern regions of Canada.

What about the installation

An energy-efficient door will be ineffective at providing the desired energy efficiency and comfort in your home if it is not installed properly. Professional door installers have the right tools and use the proper materials, training and expertise to ensure that cold drafts, water leakage and condensation will not diminish the door's performance.

When you purchase a door, it will be delivered in a pre-hung configuration. Pre-hung doors typically come with wood or steel frames - weatherstripping already installed. Be sure to select an installation company that has a stellar reputation and Window Wise certification. Watch a video of a typical installation

  1. The existing door frame will need to be removed from the rough opening before the new pre-hung door can be installed.
  2. The new door frame must be squared up (shims and screws as per manufacturing specifications) so that the door seals tightly to the jamb and swings properly.
  3. A taped vapour seal will be applied to the inside of the door frame.
  4. Before adding the interior trim, expanding foam insulation will be inserted between the new door frame, the rough opening and the threshold (care must be taken to ensure the foam creates a solid contact and will not push the frame out of square.
  5. Once everything is set and the door is performing properly coloured caulking (to match the door frame) will be applied to the outside door frame to prevent potential water leakage into the home.
  6. Inside trim will be installed and caulking will be applied where the wall meets the trim.

Summary

If you are looking for an energy-efficient door, choosing the right product and the right installation company will make a huge difference.

If you would like to know more about energy-efficient Energy Star® doors, please give us a call or request more information via our contact form. We’d be happy to answer all of your questions.

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