Open The Door To Energy Savings

Warehouses can lower energy costs by choosing the right door.


The U.S. Labor Department re-leased data showing that energy prices jumped 5.4 percent this past May, from the previous month. There's no doubt that it's becoming more and more expensive to maintain the environments in today's food and beverage warehouses-especially with freezers, where problems with a door's seals can leech thousands of dollars a year in wasted energy.

It's vital that companies be aware of the latest trends in facility door uses and the cost, as well as productivity savings, they can obtain by using the right door for the right application. However, there are a vast array of door products on the market, ranging from fabric doors to steel doors to plastic curtains to folding doors and even air doors.

These products can be manual or activated by a pull cord or automatically activated by a sensor eye. With all the different types of doors out there, how does a facility manager decide which products are best for his warehouse?

"To me, doors are like a tool kit," says Dwight Clark, vice president, sales marketing for Jamison Door Co., in Hagerstown, MD. "I just have to figure out what a customer is trying to do and match them up with the right technology."

Dock Doors

"When it comes to dock doors, you've got three things to look for-first, something that will block the opening. Next, something that is low-priced and finally something that has a higher ‘R' value (the measure of a door's level of insulation)," says Clark.

"Most people use typical sectional doors like your garage doors at home," notes Jon Schumacher, director of marketing for Rite Hite Corp. of Milwaukee.

Josh Brown, national sales manager for TKO Dock Doors, a division of 4Front Engineered Solutions Inc., agrees. "In warehouse applications, they're putting doors on that you would put on your garage."

He suggests warehouses might want to look into options for these doors that include wider tracks and bigger rollers, as these are much stronger than standard rollers. In addition, instead of using springs to lift and balance out a door, facility managers may want to opt for counterweight systems. This way, they don't have to be concerned about door springs rusting or even potentially breaking. Switching may also save money in terms of maintenance.

Rite Hite has developed a dock door with only one moving part on it.

"Basically it turns a shaft and makes the curtain go up-and-down," says Schumacher. "We've taken a lot of the maintenance out of it."

When choosing a dock door, check the available space above its doorway.

"If you have any space limitations, such as duct work in the ceiling, where you can't bring the door up into the horizontal position, you would want a rolling steel door that coils up on itself, over a barrel," notes Karen Cohen, product manager, commercial doors and operations, for Overhead Door Corp., Lewisville, TX.

Other things to look for in a dock door are how thick the door is in terms of insulation value and how well it seals.

"We are actually seeing more demand for high R value products, particularly in the ice cream business, or when you have a cold dock," notes Jamison's Clark. "It's going to benefit you from an energy standpoint, plus you can maintain your temperatures. Wherever people are really concerned about maintaining temperatures on their dock, their only solution is a higher R value product like an R28-30, which is a 4-inch thick product."

"For cold storage, the better a door seals, the more savings you'll get on cost of ownership," says TKO's Brown. "This is because you're going to be able to recoup some of the upfront cost of the door over time, due to energy savings."

Brown also notes that food and beverage facilities are subject to quality inspections of their warehouses, which entail officials examining dock doors for potential gaps that would allow insects and air to infiltrate the premises. "They'll get written up for that and fined," he explains. His company's products can help eliminate door gaps from occurring because they have a unique seal which is attached to the door itself that closes off a door's perimeter. When the door goes up, the seal goes with it. "A standard door is going to have a rubber seal attached to the door jams or the sides of the opening that will seal off the gap."

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