Status Report: Dock Doors

Reduce Energy Loss While Saving Money


Look in all the right places to save energy, achieve fast payback.

Many decision-makers are unaware of all the places they can reduce energy losses and save money—while also achieving a fast payback. Here are nine ways to gain ground on sustainability goals that aren’t always top of mind.

1. Address trailer door hinge gaps: Semi-trailers with swing-out doors create 1.5-inch to 2-inch gaps on either side of the trailer when they’re parked at the loading dock and opened for loading and unloading. The gaps are equivalent to a 2.5-square-foot hole that allows air and expensive energy to freely flow in and out.

The solution is to close the gaps with a dock seal or shelter that seals the trailer-door hinge gaps. Yet the enclosure also needs to provide full, unobstructed access to trailer loads. Both objectives can be achieved by installing a soft-sided shelter that incorporates hooks on the shelter’s side curtains to seal trailer door hinge gaps and prevent airflow in and out of a facility—while also providing full trailer access.
Depending on climate, users can gain $400 to $1,000 worth of additional savings per year per dock position, above and beyond what an ordinary shelter can provide. Typical ROI: One to three years.

2. Close the “fourth” side of the dock opening: Dock seals and shelters are used to seal three sides of the loading dock opening, including both sides and on top. Yet heating and cooling energy readily escapes through gaps where the dock leveler, trailer and dock seal or shelter all meet at the bottom of the door opening. In other words, most facilities don’t typically consider sealing the “fourth” side of the door opening. In addition to unwanted airflow, heat transfer through the steel leveler deck adds to substantial energy loss.

Install a pit-sealing under-leveler seal to seal this area on virtually any type of leveler. The simple device uses a compressible vinyl sealing curtain and other components to close off the pit area beneath the leveler as well as open air gaps in leveler corners.

A separate header curtain constantly maintains the seal when the leveler is in an above-dock position.

Savings vary based on climate, but most can save $200 to $900 annually per dock position. Typical ROI: six to 18 months.

3. Don’t put up with dock leveler and door gaps: Energy is readily lost in places like the gaps between the dock leveler, dock pit wall and sectional door bottom; gaps in the perimeter of the sectional overhead door; spaces found on the sides of dock levelers between the leveler itself and the dock pit wall; and gaps at the back of the leveler. Although they might seem harmless, the gaps represent major conduits for lost energy. The space around the sides of a dock leveler alone can equate to a hole as large as 14 inches by 14 inches in diameter.

An array of energy-efficient dock leveler and door weather seals can solve the problem with relative ease and low cost.

Depending on the climate and the number of gaps shut down, annual energy savings per dock opening can range from $2,000 to $4,000. Typical ROI: As little as three months.

4. Tighten the seal at the pit floor: The energy losses related to gaps around a loading dock opening quickly add up. A single solution that addresses them all is a vertical-storing dock leveler, which allows the overhead dock doors to close down tightly to the pit floor when a semi-trailer isn’t present. Doing so provides more control over interior humidity and temperature at the dock.

Some systems also include a “Drive-Thru Application,” which allows the truck to back up to the loading dock with its doors closed. The truck driver does not need to get out of the cab. The operator inside the facility opens the overhead door and then opens the trailer doors inside of the building. The leveler is then lowered into position in the trailer.

The result is an extra measure of climate control that helps maintain an uninterrupted cold chain, aside from efficiency and security benefits.

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