Volume 16, Issue 4 - May 2015

EYE ON ENERGY
James.Meeks@quanex.com

Thresholds: The Ground Floor of Efficiency
by JIM MEEKS

Building and construction professionals and homeowners alike understand the importance of windows and insulation as major contributors to the energy efficiency, or inefficiency, of a home. But often neglected are the house’s exterior doors, an extremely vulnerable place for air and water infiltration.

Replacing a home’s front door is one of the most valuable improvement projects a homeowner can do —with a return on investment of close to 100 percent, according to research from the National Association of Realtors.

And it’s a trend that’s not isolated to North America. The 2015 international trade shows, including the International Builders’ Show in Las Vegas and BAU in Germany, revealed a growing focus on energy-efficient appliances and construction materials. They showcased research that today’s homebuyers and building owners expect these products, and no longer view them as just “nice-to-have” options.

But as glamorous as some of the sleek new appliances and technologies are, we must not forget the impact of even the smallest components on today’s efficient home.

The Window and Door Manufacturers Association (WDMA) predicts a 4.9 percent increase in 2015 for entry door demand alone, according to its Window and Entry Door 2014 U.S. Market Study. With that expected growth and the renewed focus on entry doors, technological advances must match those in window systems by protecting against heat and cooling loss, as well as water infiltration.

In addition to the increased focus on doors in recent years, NAFS-08 is a major item of interest. It already went into effect as a regulation in Canada, providing the most stringent code requirements there to date. Many, if not most, of the doors currently on the market don’t meet the new NAFS-08 standards, which have stricter air infiltration/exfiltration ratings and increased requirements for water infiltration.

What many don’t realize is that the Canadian code is not just for companies operating in Canada; it’s for any companies selling in the Canadian market. If your products cross the border, they must comply with NAFS-08.

One of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to increase the efficiency of an entry door is to install an efficient threshold. A quality threshold creates an effective air seal with an exterior door, nearly eliminates air and water infiltration, resists weathering and provides a long-lasting door system—all while meeting code requirements in every climate. The threshold of a door, while small, has an exponential impact on the overall system.

When choosing a threshold, consider these three keys elements:

Aesthetics: Finding a threshold that fits the color scheme of a house or building is vital for long-term satisfaction. Look for products that are weather-resistant as well, as the weather elements can quickly wear down the look of a threshold. Easy-to-install thresholds offer an additional level of consideration, as the installer will be less likely to bump or scratch the threshold prior to the normal wear and tear of daily use.

Performance: Look for products that meet or exceed building codes, which ensures that the threshold will protect against air and water infiltration. It’s important to also look for thresholds that are ADA-compliant, whether it’s a building requirement or not. By doing so, you reduce the stress on the threshold, resulting in a longer-performing component. Durability is another key area of performance to consider, especially on entry doors, as continual opening and closing can quickly wear down a threshold.

Price: Components don’t seem to impact the bottom line, but their costs can begin to add up quickly. Finding a component within the budget while meeting the aesthetic and performance demands is key. Most suppliers offer a range of thresholds that can do this.

As the needs of entry door producers and installers continue to evolve, it’s important to look for a component supplier who offers many products, with options in price, performance and aesthetics, to find the ones that fit your specific needs. Below are a few tips to consider when looking for the right supplier:

Partner with a well-established component supplier. You don’t want to work with a supplier for price-related reasons alone when you’re trying to create a high-value door system for a home with a long life cycle. Work with a company that not only has a proven product, but also a proven history.

Don’t hesitate to ask more of your component supplier than just product. In addition to providing quality window and door components, foster a relationship with a company that can consult on best practices and offer additional support to help you identify opportunities to create efficiencies within your processes. Your chosen component supplier should have expert technical services representatives who can work with you, keeping you at the leading edge of the industry.

In the end, your door system is only as strong as the components and the processes behind its creation. Partnering with the right suppliers allows you to maximize your valuable time, producing the best and most consistent product possible.

Jim Meeks is an engineering manager with Quanex Building Products.



DWM
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