Hydraulic and bi-fold doors are one of the most convenient and necessary features on many buildings. Without them, we couldn’t quickly and easily load and unload bulk materials or have access into and out of buildings with large and oversized equipment. But with large doors, as with any opening into a structure, often comes the risk of energy losses and increased heating and cooling costs. Whether it’s a door for a new educational building or a replacement unit for an existing manufacturing facility, a door that’s built and installed with energy efficiency in mind will not only save costs but will also last longer.
When looking for a hydraulic or bi-fold door, you’ll see that most, if not all, are customized options. Even so, it’s still worth noting that this is the most critical aspect of the door selection process. Just like the windows in a house, a bi-fold or hydraulic door that’s made precisely for the opening it’s intended will be one of best lines of defense against energy loss.
Work with a manufacturer that is thorough and works from the beginning to the end of the project, designing, building and installing the door. This ensures they understand the needs of the facility and expectations of the project. For example, if temperature fluctuations are unacceptable due to the door’s proximity to sensitive materials, a swing-open hydraulic door with a fast open and close time might be preferred over a bi-fold door.
Some door manufacturers offer variable frequency drives for their bi-fold doors that decrease the door’s open and close cycle times by as much as 30 percent. Some VFDs also convert single-phase power into three-phase power, which is more economical because it doesn’t require as much conductor material.
In addition to minimizing how long the door takes to open and close, choosing to insulate the door can also have a big impact on controlling energy loss. Take a look at the insulation options and choose an R-value, or how much the material can resist heat flow, that will be appropriate for the climate and building needs. For example, R-values of R-18 in bi-fold doors and R-22 for hydraulic units are ideal in climates with extreme temperatures. Insulation materials also vary and include white-faced blanket, board or spray foam. Blanket insulation is the least expensive and also has the lowest R-value of the three options. Spray foam on the other hand provides the best R-value, but costs the most. When considering windows, be sure to look for insulated glass options to maximize efficiency.
A malfunction or broken part can have a big impact on a facility’s production, especially in the dead of winter. A door that is solid, durable and built with quality components ensures optimal performance and contributes to energy efficiency day after day. Look for all-steel designs, which provide greater stability than doors made with wood and steel. Heavy-gauge steel tubing and jig-welded construction are ideal for enhancing door durability and dependability.
To expedite the installation process and minimize heating and cooling costs during replacement projects, work with a manufacturer that fabricates the door offsite and ensures materials are delivered to the site before the project. This will ensure a quick and smooth installation.
Doors are exposed to the elements every day, so it’s important to occasionally inspect them, especially before winter, to ensure energy savings year after year. Take a look at the seals and weather strip, which are the door’s only defense against air infiltration where it meets the ground and building.
Minimizing building energy loss and costs can be challenging when large building openings are needed, but knowing the ins and outs of installation and design will open the door to efficiencies and savings.
Jason Myrvik is the general manager at Midland Door Solutions, which manufactures and installs bi-fold and hydraulic doors for new and existing buildings. He has more than 17 years of industry experience. As general manager, he oversees the manufacturing and installation departments, ensuring the best customer service from the door design to production to on-site installation.