What’s Up In The Garage?

Jan 14, 2011 by

You’ve contacted your local Dr. Energy Saver franchise and signed up for a home energy evaluation. The day has finally come, and you’ve been watching as the Doctor and EMT (energy management technician) conduct a blower door test, assess attic insulation, evaluate HVAC system efficiency and inspect ductwork.

But why are these guys spending time in the garage? After all, your main concern is how to improve your home energy efficiency and comfort in the main living area of your home. What’s up with this focus on the garage?

It’s true: The garage doesn’t qualify as living space. But when the garage is attached to the house, there are a number of details that affect not just energy efficiency but comfort, safety and building code compliance as well. So that’s why it’s smart for energy technicians and homeowners to pay attention to this part of the house.

Here are some of the improvements that are often recommended for the garage following a home energy evaluation:

Air sealing and insulation

The common wall shared by the house and garage is like an exterior wall because it separates exterior temperatures from conditioned living space. This fact is often ignored when a house is built. As a result, the common wall can be both leaky and uninsulated; in short, a significant source of energy loss. Air sealing the wall and installing insulation (if necessary) are important upgrades to consider.

If the house has living space above the garage, the garage ceiling needs the same air sealing and insulating as the common wall. If this work wasn’t done when the house was built, the living space above is certain to be uncomfortably cold in the winter and needlessly overheated on hot summer days. To make the living space above the garage more comfortable and energy efficient, it may be necessary to remove some of the drywall ceiling in the garage.

The reward for these air sealing and insulation upgrades goes beyond improved comfort and energy efficiency. Air sealing also prevents carbon monoxide and other harmful car exhaust gasses from entering the house, and the added insulation will also reduce noise transmission.

Duct sealing & duct insulation

If there are ducts for the home’s HVAC system in the garage, it’s smart to have this ductwork sealed and insulated. Sealing leaky ducts will save energy and also prevent car exhaust from being sucked into the living space. Insulating the supply ducts will save energy and help the HVAC system to deliver conditioned air more effectively.

Door replacement

During an energy evaluation, many homeowners discover that the door connecting the garage to the house needs to be replaced –and not just for reasons that relate to energy efficiency. Most building codes require this door to have a 20-minute fire rating. If a builder has installed an inexpensive, hollow-core door here, it’s a code violation that needs to be corrected.

The right door to install in this location is an insulated, fire-rated exterior door. Replacing a leaky, unattractive door with the proper new prehung door is an upgrade that family members will appreciate every day. After all, the door between the garage and the house usually serves as the main entry door. A quality prehung exterior door will upgrade a home’s appearance as well as its energy performance.

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