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Community and Q&A

Affordable Energy-Efficient Doors

sb1616ne | Posted in General Questions on


We are slowing upgrading our old farmhouse to as energy efficient as possible for what makes sense for this house renovation project as well as our budget. We need to replace (3) typical exterior doors and trying to avoid the cookie cutter fiberglass doors as they always seem to warp and flex just enough that the seals on the top and bottom leak like mad up here in Northern New Hampshire during our cold winters!  With out spending significant passive house money, are there many doors that folks could recommend?   These are typical half or full lite 3′-0″x6′-8″ doors.


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  1. canada_deck | | #1

    There are a few things you can do to ensure a door performs well. I find strike plates are often slightly misplaced and the door closes loose (it isn't compressing the weather stripping.) If you can build a little overhang, you can also help protect it from the weather and delay the warping, etc. I'd also suggest looking at outswing doors vs inswing doors. Personally, I'd take a high quality well installed outswing door over a poorly installed high quality inswing door. Others will have more experience in this area though.

  2. Expert Member
    Michael Maines | | #2

    On my own antique farmhouse and on many of my clients' projects I spec Thermatru Smooth-Star doors. They are "typical cookie-cutter" doors but there are a few things you can do to improve their looks and performance: Order them with a 3-pt latch, and use the multi-point function. It holds the door tightly against the gaskets. It used to be a large upcharge (~$600) but now it's usually closer to $300 and a decent value. I usually order the jambs to match whatever wall thickness I'm working with; you aren't (or shouldn't be) limited to the typical 6 9/16" or 4 9/16" jambs. I like solid jambs, meaning not finger-jointed, because no matter what the marketing materials say, the finger joints always telegraph through the finish eventually. But solid jambs are rarely straight so you have to be prepared to force the door into place. If you don't have a decent roof overhang, you should add one, but you can also get "jambsaver" frames which have a plastic composite at the lower portion of the jambs. I like adjustable aluminum sills with a dark bronze finish; sometimes salespeople try to talk me or my clients out of them because they can scratch, but to me they look better when new or old than mill-finish aluminum.

    When aesthetics are more important than performance, I sometimes specify Simpson doors with their energy panel, which includes a bit of foam in the panels. They are not very energy-efficient and they definitely need a large overhang, but they look good.

    Both of those doors should be in the $1K to $2K range. Passive House doors and doors by window companies like Andersen or Marvin are usually very nice, but more expensive.

    1. rondeaunotrondo | | #9

      Great recommendations Michael. I always read bad reviews on thermatru unfortunately. Install I think makes the biggest difference but if your project is small like replacing only doors it’s difficult to find someone who’s skilled to do it. There’s not a lot of Ben Bogie’s handyman services. I’d attempt it but being my first door I’m sure would take a lot of time.

  3. GBA Editor
    Kiley Jacques | | #3

    Be sure to read this article: All About Doors

    And here are some recommendations made to another NH reader looking for affordable energy-efficient doors:

    You want a door with a triple locking mechanism for a better air seal.

    Koltech makes nice entry doors and have been used on Passivehaus projects. I believe they would be within your price range. There are two places that sell these doors (and others) near NH:

    1.) Pinnacle Windows in Augusta, ME. They do a lot of work in NH. (We used them for our windows. They are excellent!)

    2.) Loewen Windows in White River Junction, VT (right on the NH border). They sell more than just Loewen but will have these doors available.

    For my pretty good house in Sunapee, NH, we went with Thermatru doors with triple locks. We paid about 3k for 2 of them. (one is 8' tall). I think they were R-5 so not too bad. (I did see a bit of sunlight peeking through the gasket in one of the corners recently. We have a blower door test coming up which will tell us how problematic this is.) We purchased these through our local lumber yard (Lumber Barn). You can order them through Lowes or Home Depot as well.

    Our installer is named Brin Keegan who is based in Vermont. He did a great job and was very fairly priced.

    1. Expert Member
      Michael Maines | | #4

      Pinnacle no longer sells Kohltech but they are good quality and available at a few locations in New England:

      Pinnacle does sell Loewen doors and they are excellent quality. The price price tag reflects their high quality and may be worth the premium, depending on the situation. (I just used Loewen on a large renovation and have another one coming up.)

  4. n2dirt | | #5

    Provia seems to be a really high rated door with decent prices.

    1. rondeaunotrondo | | #8

      I was quoted $4-8k for a provia install

    2. bongo30 | | #11

      Provia is an excellent fiberglass door. Much better than anything else on the market. Yes, they are very expensive. We are currently being quoted $6.5k for front door with sidelites (this is with installation included).

  5. charlie_sullivan | | #6

    I also like Jeld-Wen--following all of Michael's good advice about the setup. They used to be the only door I could find that I could verify did not use high GWP blowing agents in the foam fill. I imagine others are on board with that by now but I haven't looked recently.

    1. rondeaunotrondo | | #7

      Which model of jeldwen did you use Charlie?

  6. Expert Member
    NICK KEENAN | | #10

    A couple of things about exterior doors:

    1. Standard thickness is 1-3/4" thick. A piece of polyiso foam that thick would be about R10, which would be about the most you could hope for. In reality you'd be doing well to get R5 once you consider the skin of the door and features like panels. If there is glass that's probably going to be less. So the door isn't going to be a great insulator, what you want is for it to be air tight.

    2. The way that doors are typically sold in this country is that the manufacturer sells slabs to a distributor, who hangs the door and installs the hardware. The details that matter for air sealing aren't done by the manufacturer, they're done by the distributor. So the company whose name is on the door isn't the one whose work matters. And there's a good chance that all of the doors at a given retailer came from the same distributor -- so they're all finished the same way.

    1. Expert Member
      Michael Maines | | #12

      Good points, though with triple-glazed doors the glass performs better than the frame. Regarding your second point, that is true for many types of doors, such as ThermaTru, Jeld-Wen and Simpson, that's usually not the case for doors made by window manufacturers such as Marvin, Andersen and Loewen, or for European and Euro-style doors, which have a completely different jamb and sill system than North American-style doors.

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