As homeowners, we often are faced with the question: “Do I need to insulate my garage door”? Most likely, the answer is yes. Whether to insulate a garage door often depends on a few factors, such as where you live, which direction your garage door faces, and even the color.
Today we will investigate the differences between insulated vs.uninsulated garage doors and why we may want one over the other.
We will also discuss the cost difference and why you might want to spend a little more money or enjoy the savings. We’ll also describe the ROI (return on investment), R-rating, the pros and cons of insulated vs. uninsulated, and which version may be best for your particular situation.
Insulated vs Non-Insulated Garage Door: Key Differences
- Cost. The cost associated with insulating a garage door can be significant, depending on the style and manufacturer of the door. Most new homes will have an uninsulated garage door if it is a “spec” home. These are homes built on the speculation that someone will buy it, as opposed to a custom-built home that is already sold. In most cases, the cost will be the driving factor and since garage doors aren’t usually required by building codes to be insulated, they won’t be. Fortunately, most new and older garage doors can be insulated after construction, if needed.
- Warmth. A typical uninsulated garage door will provide very few insulating properties compared to a well-insulated door. As an example, a typical wooden garage door, due to its solid construction, has a typical R-value of around two (R-2). The same door with added insulation will usually be closer to R-16.
- ROI (Return on Investment). So will my insulation pay for itself? The short answer is, it likely will. The ROI is usually determined based on the cost vs. the effective life of a product. Since any insulation will impede the transfer of temperature from one space to another, garage doors are no exception. Depending on the severity of the weather and the condition of the garage door system, an insulation project will often pay for itself in a few years. The best part is that since modern insulation lasts a very long time, the cost savings compound.
- STC (Sound Transmission Class). One commonly overlooked benefit of insulating an insulated garage door is how well it repels or absorbs exterior sound. An uninsulated door offers no more resistance to sound transfer than any door. Adding insulation, however, can reduce sound volume passing through a garage door by 50%! In areas where traffic noise is annoying, many homeowners insulate their garage doors for this reason alone.
Insulated vs. Non-Insulated Garage Door: Detailed Comparison
In this section, we will briefly describe the key differences between an insulated versus an uninsulated door. Much of the contrast will involve the cost versus the ROI, and the associated opener, if present.
Insulated Garage Door Pros:
Retention of Both Heating and Cooling
Obviously, the first benefit of insulation is the retention of both heat and cooling. Depending on where the house is, both heating and cooling can be expensive. Most of the northern United States have local building codes requiring insulated garage doors, as the insulation will save energy costs for most of the year. In south Texas, however, the ROI may be much lower.
If a home is located near street noise, the sound dampening effect of an insulated garage door can be dramatic. Since most garage doors face the street, this is a common problem.
Many of us store items we only use occasionally in our garages. Things like seasonal decorations and photos are often found on a dusty shelf. Extreme heat inside the garage can damage these irreparably. An insulated garage door can have a drastic cooling effect as most of the heat on a hot summer day is radiated through the door. An insulated garage door can also protect items from extreme cold, which can damage other commonly stored items, such as spare paint.
Insulation Is a Great Investment
Adding insulation anywhere in a home is often a great idea and an insulated garage door is no exception. There is a point of diminishing returns, however, so following EPA guidelines is a good idea. There are several ways to insulate a garage door, so selecting the best option for your style of door is important.
Insulated Garage Door Cons:
There are hundreds of garage door styles, ranging from around $500.00 to thousands of dollars. For a typical single-car door, prices range from around 500.00-800.00, depending on the manufacturer and geographic location. As an example, adding insulation to a door as an option from the factory will likely add around 50%-70% to the final cost. Again, depending on what type of weather a door is subjected to will determine if the extra cost is a good investment.
Adding insulation, whether from the factory or added later from an insulation kit, will also add weight. Most of us use garage door openers, and ensuring your opener will accommodate your door is very important. It is quite possible to add enough weight to require an upgraded opener, which can get expensive.
As mentioned earlier, some doors can be ordered with insulation already included. These doors will not require additional maintenance beyond a standard door. However, the majority of doors will be insulated after the installation of the door, leaving the insulation exposed. Care should be taken to protect the insulation from damage, as holes and tears will affect the performance of the insulation as well as the appearance.
One commonly overlooked situation is an overused garage door. Especially in winter, many of us enjoy using our garage for other projects. If those projects involve opening and closing the door several times a day, the benefits of an insulated door may be compromised. Although the effectiveness will vary depending on the climate, an insulated door will usually maintain around a 5-10 degree difference between the outside and inside air temperature as long as the door remains closed. That may not seem like much, but consider that in the hot summer sun a metal door can easily reach temperatures too hot to touch. In summer, an uninsulated metal door will often only be slightly cooler on the inside than on the outside. Even if the difference from the outside temperature to the inside is only five degrees, it may still represent a 20% to 50% change. Depending on the heat source and air temperature, changing the ambient temperature by just five degrees can take hours. However, every time a door is opened, the process must start over. Therefore, in extreme environments where this is common, insulation may provide little to no benefit.
What Is the Cost of an Insulated Garage Door?
Whether you are purchasing new steel, aluminum, fiberglass, or vinyl garage door for your home, interior insulation will almost always be an available option. Since there are so many variations of door design and construction, the cost of adding insulation can be a moving target. As a very general rule though, adding insulation as a factory option will usually add 30%-50% to the overall cost. While this option is almost always more expensive than adding insulation after installation, the best-looking and most durable garage door insulation will usually be installed by the manufacturer. For comparison, most insulation kits on the market will cost around $50.00-$125.00, depending on the kit and the material. Consideration should be taken, however, as this is just for the materials. If you do not plan to provide the labor for the insulation project you may find that adding insulation from the factory is your best option.
Non-Insulated Garage Door Pros:
An uninsulated door will usually be the least expensive door available. This is why they are seen on most spec homes, where costs are monitored closely. Depending on the climate, an uninsulated door may adequately retard temperature transfer and drafts from being a problem. In instances where temperature fluctuations are minimal, the cost savings of an uninsulated door can be a smart move.
As mentioned previously, insulating a garage door has the potential to add enough weight as to cause spring and opener issues. Keeping the weight down can add additional life to both the spring system and the opener, saving the owner money.
As a rule, garage doors will look the same from the street, whether they have insulation or not. In the real estate world, spending money on features not easily seen is often not recommended. For example, if a home is located in a neighborhood of mostly uninsulated garage doors, adding insulation will likely go unnoticed, reducing the return on investment.
Non-Insulated Garage Door Cons:
Heating and cooling costs can be substantial, depending on location. If a garage is attached to the house, the walls that adjoin the house will themselves be insulated. This means that even if your door is allowing air and temperature transfer, the interior of the house should not be affected. However, most of us store valuables such as photos and liquids in our garages and as a result, they often suffer heat and cold damage and make the garage difficult to spend time in. An insulated garage door can constantly maintain an acceptable temperature range that will reduce or prevent damage from occurring and make the garage a more pleasant place to be.
As mentioned previously, an uninsulated garage door will do little to impede sounds from being transferred into the garage. If the garage is often used for more quiet pursuits, annoying street noise passing through a hollow garage door can be an issue.
Uninsulated hollow garage doors tend to be loud during operation. This is because thin metal tends to amplify vibrations. In fact, many sound effect artists use sheets of metal to recreate the sound of thunder! An insulated door, on the other hand, is much quieter during operation since the same sound deadening benefit that reduces street noise also absorbs spring and roller noise as the door is opened and closed.
Do You Need an Insulated Door? (Here’s a Checklist)
Here’s a helpful checklist to help determine if an insulated door is for you. Do any of these situations apply to your situation?
- Do you store delicate items in your garage? If you live in a climate with large temperature fluctuations, you will almost certainly reap the benefits. Simply maintaining a temperature between 35-85 degrees Fahrenheit will often prevent damage to your stored items. Imagine trying to replace precious, heat-damaged photographs, and the benefits become obvious.
- Do you often work in your garage? Many of us enjoy our garages for more than parking a car. If the garage is a multi-use part of the home, an insulated garage door may prove a good investment.
- Is your garage attached to the home? Most of us have garages attached to the house since this is more cost-effective to build than a detached garage. This means anything that affects your garage door, such as drafts and noise, will likely also impact the occupants as well.
- Do you live where it gets really cold, or really hot? Large temperature changes are a driving factor for garage door insulation. Adding the appropriate amount of insulation can have a dramatic effect on regulating large temperature fluctuations inside the garage.
- Does your garage door have a southern or western exposure? Direct, intense sunlight may have the most damaging effects of any factors affecting a garage door. If a home’s garage door has a southern or western exposure, these effects can be considerable. Having an insulated door, especially one with heat reflection properties, can reduce heat radiation through the door by as much as 80%-90%.
- Is exterior noise a problem? As mentioned earlier, some homeowners install garage door insulation for the sound dampening effects alone. If your home is affected by street noise on a regular basis, garage door insulation may be the best money you can spend.
Go Forth and Stay Comfortable
As homeowners, we often strive to make repairs and upgrades in an effort to make our homes more useful and enjoyable to occupy. Using the information provided here and asking yourself a few important questions can help you decide if an insulated garage door is for you. If you answered “yes” to more than a couple of the previous questions, chances are good that an insulated door will be a wise investment that will pay dividends for years to come.