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Replace just the glass, or the entire sliding door?

ankitgu's Avatar

Join Date: Sep 2013
Posts: 7

11-18-14, 12:21 PM   #1  
Replace just the glass, or the entire sliding door?

I'll post a photo later tonight, but a room in my home with a sliding glass door isn't insulating well. It's not as if you feel an air leak bringing air in, but rather feels cold almost anywhere you touch it.

The home was constructed in the mid 80's and so it is a little bit older to begin with and these haven't ever been replaced.

How do I figure out if the lack of insulation is due to the frame and materials or just the panes of glass?

The reason it matters is that the glass is relatively inexpensive to change, maybe $200 or so. The entire sliding door is expensive, closer to $2,000 to change.

Luckily, in another room, I have the same sliding door, facing the same side of the home, but I had the panes of glass replaced just a year ago. It was replaced because of stains on the inside from condensation getting in there after the gas inside of it leaked out over time. After 30 years, I'd be surprised if the sliding door in question still has its gas between the panes.

Should I just use an infrared gauge to see the temperature difference between the two panes of glass and the two metal frames? Is there a better way to measure the insulation properties?

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johnam's Avatar

Join Date: Jan 2000
Posts: 1,915

11-19-14, 04:12 AM   #2  
There is no gas in a 30 year old insulating glass unit. The air space between the glass is what determines how much insulation you get. By replacing the glass with the low-E and the newer gases, you will gain some added insulation, but is it worth the cost.

XSleeper's Avatar
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11-19-14, 05:49 AM   #3  
metal frames?
I think this part probably says it all. If you know for a fact that the frames are metal, metal frames conduct heat away from the house faster than a wood, fiberglass, or vinyl frame would. That's why something feels cold... it all has to do with its conductivity. Aluminum frames would be the worst in a cold climate.

Unless there is something terribly wrong with the IGU in your door, you probably won't see a noticeable difference just by changing the glass, no matter how energy efficient that glass is. The metal frame of the door will likely negate almost all of the energy benefits of the glass.

That being said, I have seen some double pane IGU's where the inner glass has actually separated from its spacer bar, and if your IGU was that bad, there would probably be benefits to replacing it. If one identical door is much warmer than the other there could also be other factors at play. All things must be the same for the doors to be identical in temperature, and that would include the curtains, blinds, placement of heat registers, depth of door within the wall, airflow, temperature of room, etc. Any change in any of those things could give you a different reading that would actually have nothing to do with the door and more to do with the conditions around the door which are affecting the temperature of the door on a cold day.

johnam's Avatar

Join Date: Jan 2000
Posts: 1,915

11-20-14, 04:18 AM   #4  
ankitgu, I missed the word "metal" in your post. The aluminum frame and doors conducts heat and cold and so follow XSleeper's suggestions.

marksr's Avatar
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11-20-14, 04:33 AM   #5  
Many around here replace the sliding glass door unit with a set of french/patio doors. They seal a lot better than sliding glass doors and are more secure although they do limit the view some.

retired painter/contractor avid DIYer

Capable_Wife's Avatar

Join Date: Apr 2009
Posts: 102

12-04-14, 11:25 AM   #6  
I'm in the same boat as you, my aluminum sliding patio door doesn't even pretend to be energy efficient. Personally, I second the suggestion of french doors.

Well, that's not completely true, I was looking at something that was more like an entry door with wide sidelights that opened up and gave some airflow, but it's pricey. You can see it here: Ashworth Pro Series White Full Lite Wood Entry Door with Venting Sidelites-PE1WL at The Home Depot

That gets you right back up to your $2K mark, but it sounds like you might be committed to that regardless, so it's all in what look you prefer.

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