Those old front doors could be more than just an eyesore. If it’s worn or damaged, it’s likely costing you money, too — more than you might expect.
How Can Your Front Door Cost You Money?
Your front door is one of the places in your home where air most often escapes. If there are gaps around your doorframe, your weather stripping is worn or your door is cracked or warped, you’re losing air you’ve spent money to heat or cool.
What’s the Cost of an Old Front Door?
Doors leading outside can be the cause of as much as 20 percent of a home’s energy loss — especially if those doors are old or inadequately insulated. In fact, a gap around your door that measures just an eighth of an inch is equivalent to having a six-inch-square hole in the side of your home.
Heating and cooling make up around 48 percent of the typical U.S. home’s energy use. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the average U.S. household spends $808 on heating and air conditioning.
Fixing air leaks in your home can reduce your annual heating and cooling costs by 10 to 20 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, which comes out to around $81 to $162.
That means that simply upgrading your old front door can save you around $16 to $32 every year.
Of course, the actual cost of air lost through your front door will vary dramatically based on how much energy you use for heating and cooling, the cost of that energy, the type of door you have and the condition it’s in.
How Can You Tell When to Repair or Replace Your Front Door?
A simple visual inspection can help you determine whether you may need to repair or replace your front door. If you can see gaps around your door or cracks in it, you know you’re losing energy.
Also, check if your door has shifted in its frame. If it sticks or squeaks when you open and close it, it may have moved.
To get a better idea of the efficiency of your door, conduct an energy audit. You can do this yourself or hire a professional for a more thorough evaluation.
To test your door for airtightness, stand outside and see if you can feel heated or cooled air leaking from it. The Department of Energy (DOE) also suggests closing your door on a dollar bill, then trying to pull it out. If you can pull it out without it dragging, the gap is too large.
You can also shine a flashlight around your door at night and have a partner stand outside to see if they can see the light through any gaps. However, this works better for large openings and might cause you to miss smaller ones.
If you want a detailed, comprehensive view of your home’s energy efficiency, you can have a professional conduct a home energy audit. Your utility may conduct inexpensive or free audits as part of an energy efficiency program.
The auditor will examine your past energy consumption and conduct a series of tests before giving you recommendations on how to improve your home’s efficiency.
How Can You Make Your Door More Efficient?
If you don’t want to replace your door entirely but still want to make it more energy efficient, you can take on several projects to improve your existing door, including the following:
- Tighten the Door at the Hinges: Make sure your door is securely on its hinges. If it’s hanging loosely, this could be creating gaps. To improve your door’s fit in the frame, clean the hinges and tighten all loose screws.
- Use Caulk to Fill in Gaps: For gaps smaller than a quarter-inch on fixed parts, use silicone caulk to fill them in. Make sure you don’t apply caulk to moving parts.
- Apply Weather Stripping: Weather stripping helps to fill gaps between the door and the frame. Common weather stripping materials include rubber, plastic and felt. You can also use metal, but this requires a more involved installation process.
What Should You Look for in a New Door?
Sometimes, the most effective option is replacing your old, worn-out front door.
Energy performance ratings can help you choose the right door for you. In climates where you mostly need to cool your home, look for doors with a low solar heat gain coefficient (SHGC), which measures how well a door keeps solar heat out. Look for a high SHGC in climates where you mainly need heating — the range of the SHGC rating is zero to one.
The U-factor describes how well a door keeps in heat. The lower the U-factor, the better it is at doing so. The range for this rating is zero to two.
Efficient doors often include features such as polyurethane foam insulated cores, rot-resistant sills, and moisture-resistant frames.
You know your front door is essential for your home’s curb appeal and security, but you may not have realized the critical role it plays in the energy efficiency of your home. By evaluating the condition and type of door you have and improving or replacing it as needed, you can save substantial amounts on your heating and cooling bills.