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FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 21, 2007
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Reducing heat gain in garage can save on utility bills

Dear Jim: My old steel garage door is getting vertical cracks. I need to replace it with an insulated one because I am restoring a car out there. The door must have windows. What is the best door that won’t crack? — Ron M.

Dear Ron: It certainly is more comfortable to do detailed projects, such as restoring a car, when your fingers are not cold during winter or the sweat is not running in your eyes during summer. Since the garage door is practically an entire wall, a leaky uninsulated one can make it nearly impossible to keep the garage comfortable.

The vertical cracks in the door are probably caused by inadequate support across the width of the door. This allows the door, particularly a wide two-car one, to flex when it is in the opened position. Over time, fatigue cracks form. No matter what type of door you select, attach horizontal supports on the indoor side to eliminate the flexing and the cracks.

Even if you do not do projects in your garage, installing an efficient garage door makes sense. Attached garages have one or two common walls with the house. By reducing the heat loss (winter) or heat gain (summer) from the garage door, it will also reduce losses from the common house walls.

An insulated steel garage door is a good choice. Some, with several inches of urethane insulation, have insulation values as high as R-18. If your house is old, this probably is higher insulation than the house walls. The best garage doors also have an indoor steel skin covering the insulation with a thermal break between the indoor and outdoor skins.

Generally, select a garage door with small decorative windows. These look good, and if they are high on the door, they make it difficult for a thief to see indoors. Either double-pane glass or acrylic plastic work well. If you need more natural light, install a tubular skylight in the garage ceiling instead of larger windows in the door. I have one in my garage.

In addition to high insulation, airtightness of the door is important. There can be a total of more 100 feet of joints between the panels and around the door. The seals around the door are similar on most garage doors, consisting of a fin along the sides and top and a bulb at the bottom.

A shiplap or tongue-and-groove joint between the panels creates a good seal. It also locks the panels together for more strength when the door is closed. The best ones also have a narrow flexible compression seal strip between the panels.

If you have children, select a door with pinch-resistant panel edges. These are designed such that, as the door closes and the panels come together, there is no open gap and it tends to push little fingers out of the joint.

The following companies offer window air conditioners: Amarr Garage Doors, (800) 503-3667, www.amarr.com; and Clopay Building Products, (800) 225-6729, www.clopaydoor.com; Overhead Door, (800) 929-1277, www.overheaddoor.com; Raynor Garage Doors, (800) 472-9667; www.raynor.com; Wayne-Dalton, (800) 827-3667, www.wayne-dalton.com.

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