New storm door can be worthwhile

Your Money

October 29, 2006|By Gregory Karp | Gregory Karp,Morning Call

Many tips for saving home energy that are doled out this time of year cost more money than they will ever be worth in heat savings. Replacing all the windows in your house is one example. But adding a storm door might be money well spent.

A storm door saves energy in two major ways. It creates a first barrier to weather, reducing the effect of air leaks through the primary door, and it reduces heat conduction through the primary door by creating an insulating air pocket between the two doors.

Many storm door windows can be replaced with insect screens in the summer, allowing better air flow through the house and possibly limiting the need for air conditioning.

A storm door also protects the primary door, reducing maintenance costs, and can bolster security against break-ins.

"There's a nice payback, as well as other benefits from a storm door besides the energy savings," said Bruce Thomas, product development manager at Larson Manufacturing, the largest maker of storm doors.

The storm door industry sells an estimated 5.2 million doors a year, Thomas said. At an average price of $140 each that puts sales at about $730 million annually.

But storm doors are not for everyone. From strictly a money-saving point of view, the heat loss is the foremost factor. And it is a good investment only if the primary door is old but in decent condition, federal authorities say.

Adding a storm door to a newer, insulated, foam-core door is not usually worth the expense because little energy will be saved in cold weather.

Storm doors typically cost $100 to $300. Professional installation might run $130 to $150, which could double the cost of the door and eat into your savings.

Consumers handy with a screwdriver and drill should be able to install a storm door in two to four hours as a weekend project, Thomas said.

Never add a full-view glass storm door if the exterior door gets more than a few hours of direct sun each day, unless the storm door has vents. The glass will trap too much heat between the doors and could damage it, according to the Energy Department.

The federal government will help pay for certified storm doors installed this year and next.

U.S. consumers are eligible for a one-time tax credit of up to $500 for installing qualifying storm doors and making other energy-efficiency home improvements on their primary homes.

The tax credit will pay for 10 percent of the storm-door cost, but not installation.

You will need to keep a receipt and file the appropriate tax form to receive the credit. The credit is likely to be worth only $10 to $30, but it's worth filing a form.

Gregory Karp is a personal finance writer for The Morning Call in Allentown, Pa.

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