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Freedom Pet Pass – energy efficient pet doors?

rhallen645 | Posted in Energy Efficiency and Durability on

Our dog has had one too many accidents on our living room carpet while we’re away at work. My other half tells me either to a) install a dog door so our pooch can go outside to do his business…or b) bring him to doggie daycare at ~$20/day. While I don’t like the idea of a dog door (every one I’ve seen leaks like crazy), $20/day would quickly cover the cost of a PV system I want to install.

I found one pet door from Freedom Pet Pass (http://energyefficientdogdoors.com/) that claims air leakage of 0.03 cfm/ft^2 & U factor of 0.30 (http://energyefficientdogdoors.com/air-leakage-u-factor-test-results), making it the only dog doors that meet the California Energy Commission requirements for pet doors. They also claim to have installed one on a Passive House that achieved a 0.2 ACH50 (http://energyefficientdogdoors.com/insulated-dog-doors#airtighttesting).

Questions:
1. Does anyone have any data or experience on actual energy efficiency & durability from Freedom Pet Pass or other energy-efficient pet doors?

2. Can you suggest any alternate strategies other than a pet door to the house? To my other half’s chagrin, I’ll consider building a insulated doghouse with a small HVAC (http://www.climaterightair.com/applications/outdoor-dog-house-air-conditioner-and-heater.html) and leaving our dog outside during the day. I haven’t tried to run the numbers on this option, however I don’t imagine that would be a very good solution.

Thoughts greatly appreciated,
Rob
Zone 2A

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Replies

  1. Andrew_C | | #1

    Alternative approach - when we had a conventional pedestrian door into our attached garage, we bought a cheap steel door, installed a doggie door in that, and just pulled the original door off the hinges and substituted. When we sold, we put the original door back on. Putting the doghouse in the garage made it significantly warmer and dryer than outside, so it was a refuge in crummy weather, but the dog had the option of staying in the yard if he wished. The house remained locked, so it's a slightly more secure arrangement than a conventional doggie door that goes directly into the house.

    Zone 2A - can't believe a dog needs anything other than straw bedding inside a doghouse, plus shade. But I do understand that dogs can exert a strong hold over their owners.

  2. Chaubenee | | #2

    I always suggest crate training early on. The dog will rarely soil his own bedding. However if the dog cant, then you have the option of attaching a second crate to the first with an open passage so the dog can use the other crate's plastic tray as a potty area. But once a dog is older, it is more difficult to crate train. But if he is treat motivated you may be aboe to do it.

  3. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #3

    Robert,
    A few comments:

    1. I'm a big fan of dog doors. You can't make energy savings a fetish. If your dog needs to go outside, by all means install a pet door. If the pet door ends up raising your energy bill somewhat, don't obsess over the energy use. If a house needs a pet door, then a house needs a pet door. (If you feel guilty, start saving money for a PV system.)

    2. The specs on the Freedom Pet Pass door are impressive.

    3. The last time I wrote an article on energy-efficient pet doors was over ten years ago, before the Freedom Pet Pass door was developed. (My article, "Energy-Efficient Pet Doors," was published in the January 2005 issue of Energy Design Update.) I reviewed pet doors with energy-efficiency claims from six manufacturers; the one that rose to the top was the Endura pet door from Patio Pacific. It is still available; here is a link to the company's web site: Endura pet door.

  4. charlie_sullivan | | #4

    If you figure out where your neutral pressure plane is, and you install the pet door there, you'll only have wind and diffusion driven infiltration and no stack effect driven infiltration. It's probably roughly halfway up your conditioned space. So if you have a door out to a somewhat raised porch or deck, that's probably better than going out at ground level.

    Roughly aiming for the neutral pressure plane is plenty, especially if the door you identified is as good as its specs (in which case it's overkill), but if you want to get obsessive about it finding where it is (more for fun than for energy saving), experiment on a very warm or cold day (big difference inside vs. outside). First try cracking open windows or doors and see whether air leaks in or out. If it's clearly one or the other, you know you are well above or below the neutral pressure plane. Where you can't tell, you are close. You can quit at that point, or proceed to tape a sheet of plastic into an open doorway or window spanning where you think it is. If the neutral pressure plane is in the middle of that doorway, the top of the plastic will bow out and the bottom will bow in (on a cold day; vice versa on a warm day). The line between is the neutral pressure plane.

    If you want to get really obsessive above every BTU, you should encourage your dog to spend more time outside on warm days and more time inside on cold days, so that the heat his metabolism generates helps your heating system and doesn't fight your cooling system. And play fetch with him inside on cold nights :)

  5. Chaubenee | | #5

    Please, whatever you do, just make sure that the outside space that the dog goes out to is well secured and contained, like with a six foot tall chain link fence in a contained section of yard. Yesterday by coincidence I met two people who had dogs get run over in traffic when they got loose from the yard (both very recent) and being involved in dog rescue I am aware- there are many instances that occur every week where police enter yards for one reason or another and shoot any dog (this has happened even to miniature breeds) that is loose in the yard immediately, in fear of their lives (apparently this is now included in their training.) ...so whatever you do about leaving your dog at home and letting him in the yard, just be very careful about what can happen to your best friend when you are not there to protect him.

  6. Expert Member
    MALCOLM TAYLOR | | #6

    Robert,
    Pet doors are a lot easier to make airtight if they are mounted in a wall not a door. That allows you to use two in series with a space between them doubling their efficiency.

  7. Donald_Love | | #7

    All - as disclosure, I work for Freedom Pet Pass

    Robert - Thanks for doing your homework and checking us out. We absolutely do meet the specifications that we report, verified by independent testing at Architectural Testing, Inc. (I'm sure many here are familiar with this lab). Just to clarify, though, the U-factor that you are reporting (0.30) is actually the total U-factor for a human door that had a U-factor of 0.27 prior to installation of our dog door plus our medium dog door. The U-factor of our dog door itself is ~0.6, but its area is small compared to that of a human door, so the math makes the "adder" only about 0.03. In case it's not obvious, these are all Imperial units.

    Regarding the use of Freedom Pet Pass doors on Passive House application, this has actually been done multiple times. The most recent is in the Wayland, MA house where NESEA been giving Pro Tours. The one to which you are referring is documented in a book.

    Malcom brings up a suggestion about wall vs. door installation regarding the "multiple flap" concept. Most flaps leak air like crazy, so conceptually two leaky flaps slow down the air infiltration more than just one leaky flap. In practice, however, it doesn't make significant difference. An air leakage test (not performed at ATI, but at a local lab following ASTM E283 protocol) showed that a 3-flap "extreme weather" pet door leaked 19 cfm/sq ft. I know that the test exaggerates differences (most houses don't often experience 75 Pa difference in the real world), but that result is frankly little better than a hole in the wall.

    The greenwashing in the pet door industry is as bad as I've seen it anywhere. It's a small enough space where there aren't a lot of calls for standardization / testing, but it's big enough where manufacturers still see financial benefit from trying to fool people on bogus or exaggerated energy efficiency claims. We're working hard to be part of the solution by using standardized testing, independent labs, and accepted protocols, but it's customers who take the time to educate themselves (like Robert) that will really help rid our industry of false green claims.

  8. Expert Member
    MALCOLM TAYLOR | | #8

    Donald,
    Manufacturers often come to GBA to defend their products - usually those with dubious claims. Your post is a breath of fresh air. No hyperbole, just useful answers. Thanks.

  9. exeric | | #9

    I own and installed one of their wall pet doors and it's a very high quality product. But they aren't kidding when they say the wall installed doors require good carpentry skills. It's best to pay to have the wall type pet door installed if one does not have the skills. Surprisingly, it's a major undertaking. Think of it like trying to install a new non-prehung normal size door in an exterior wall where no door previously existed. Not for the faint of heart if you want it to look good afterwards. It takes planning.

  10. Expert Member
    MALCOLM TAYLOR | | #10

    Eric,
    Very true. My cat door isn't a part of my house I'm particularly proud of.

  11. Chaubenee | | #11

    I am using the unheated mud room (breezeway if you will) between the garage and house to add a kennel area that has a pet door in the plain flat fiberglass door. This pet flap will lead to a fenced in run along the back of the garage with a six foot chainlink fence with a concrete strip under the bottom horizontal rail so that a dog can not dig out. However, the unheated space can be warmed with a quartz radiant heater on the coldest days. Also it is wise to include a ventilation fan that runs on a timer for any dog kenneling space. Fresh air is essential, like water, toys and a place to potty.

  12. rhallen645 | | #12

    Thank you everyone for the responses!

    Andrew - our concern are far more about our pup staying cool in summer than warm in winter, especially since we're talking about daytime hours (90+ all summer long).

    Andrew & Joe - Using garage & mudroom are both great ideas, however unfortunately we have neither.

    Joe - The back yard will be fully fenced-in shortly, so he won't be able to escape.

    Donald - echoing Malcolm's comments, thank you for feedback & correcting my misreading of the specs. Freedom Pet Pass sounds like a great option for our situation.

    Malcolm/Eric - The through-wall install would be a great, however I don't think we have a place that will work...we'll likely go through our back door...installed by someone with better carpentry skills than me.

    Will report back,
    Rob

  13. Chaubenee | | #13

    Robert, most people dont get that most dogs are very comfy at thirty or forty F. I see you do. It is the heat that gets to them as you mention. My mudroom is to be a slab over an unconditioned basement. I expect it will be a happily cold concrete floor for my rescue dogs in summer time.

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