If you’re like most of the US population of homeowners, your garage door is a simple steel door with little to no insulation. This style of garage door has one redeeming value; it is cheap. One selling point you won’t hear mentioned is that thin metal doors are great at insulating. In fact, this type of garage door turns into a massive radiator in the summer and a massive heat loser in the winter. Living in San Diego, where winters don’t truly exist, my concern was more with the giant radiator-effect our door has. It doesn’t help that our door is brown and subject to direct sun exposure in the afternoon. Last month, while prowling the countless exhibits of the 2012 National Hardware Show, a booth showing off a radiant barrier garage door insulation kit caught my attention.
Reach Barrier’s booth had a portable radiant heater pointed at one of their radiant barrier panels. Just a foot or two away from the heater, I put my hand behind the thin barrier and couldn’t feel the heat at all. I was impressed. I also thought our brown, completely uninsulated, San Diego-sun-exposed garage door would make for an ideal test case. Reach Barrier agreed, and they sent us a double order (our door is a two car width) of their Reach Barrier Silvertanium radiant barrier garage door insulation kit to test out in real-world conditions.
Installing the Reach Barrier garage door insulation kit is definitely a DIY-friendly job that just about any able-bodied homeowner can pull off.
Step 1: Prep the Surface
Since installation relies on adhesive that needs a clean surface to adhere to, cleaning the inside of your garage door is essential. If you have a really dirty or greasy door, this step might be the most time-consuming. Our door was relatively clean, so rather than relying on a degreaser or acetone, I simply wiped down the door with a towel and some warm water. Once your door is clean and dry, it’s time to move on to prepping the adhesive.
Step 2: Apply the Adhesive Tabs
Although the Reach website still shows installation using a roll of double-sided tape, our kit came with dozens of velcro adhesive squares. Reach recommended I install the tabs in the configuration shown above, although the included instructions showed a slightly different configuration. Since I had some extra tabs, I actually added an extra middle tab to the top of each panel. Applying these adhesive tabs is the most time-consuming and difficult portion of the process. Since I was dealing with 16 panels, I had to remove the protective cover from 100+ tabs, adhere them to the door, and then remove the 2nd protective cover from the adhesive side that would be contacting the barrier.
Having fingernails helps with getting the adhesive protective barrier off the velcro tabs, but unfortunately, I’ve never been one to cultivate long, fashionable nails. As a result, getting these tabs prepped and in place required some patience. The nice thing about the velcro vs. double sided tape is that once I installed the panels, I could do a little adjustment by carefully moving the velcro in a particular area. That’s handy flexibility given the rather permanent feel of the adhesive on the Silvertanium material.
Step 3: Test Fit a Couple Panels
Here’s a key point, test fit a couple panels BEFORE YOU REMOVE THE OUTER PROTECTIVE ADHESIVE COVERS. By doing a test install before the adhesive is ready to grab hold of whatever material gets near it, you’ll be able to get a feel for how the panels will fit. Keep in mind not all your panels are necessarily the same size. Our four lower panels were significantly taller than the rest. It was during the test run that I realized all but the four bottom panels would need to be trimmed to the proper height.
Step 4: Trim Only if Needed
Having some overlap on the edges of the barrier insulation can actually be useful. It makes installation less finicky, and the extra material can in some cases hold the garage door insulation in place. Even so, the insulation panels were simply too tall to fit without trimming on our particular door. Prudence would suggest measuring the panel, adding several inches to tuck in and then carefully cutting. Instead, I found it more efficient to expose only the top row of adhesive squares and install the top of the insulation. I then cut the panels in place leaving several inches extra at the bottom to tuck into the garage door panel supports. If you follow this riskier, less precise cutting approach, just be sure you don’t accidentally cut any of the panels too short.
Step 5: Install the Radiant Barrier Insulation Panels
As mentioned in step 4, I liked to just expose the top row of adhesives and carefully install the top portion of the panel in place first. I found stretching the material taught before pushing it onto the adhesive tabs helped eliminate a wrinkly install. Once the top portion was in place I held the lower part of the panel out of the way and exposed the adhesive on the remaining lower tabs. I then gently stretched the lower portion into place and applied pressure to the adhesive squares to make sure they were properly adhered.
General Installation Tip
Ergonomics is key, why crawl around on the floor or strain if you can bring the work to you? I partially opened my garage door to enable me to work at a comfortable level for all but the top row. Once I completed a row (working from the bottom up), I lowered the garage door to bring the next row to a comfortable working height.
Total Time Spent
Somewhere in Reach Barrier’s promotional material I saw a claim of 10 minutes to install. I have to say, if you haven’t installed garage door insulation like this before, that is a very optimistic claim. If you’re hopped-up-on-meth after a Starbucks espresso bender, you might be able to pull off a 10 minute install. Including prep, cleaning the doors, applying the adhesive squares, trimming to fit and installing the actual panels, my install took about two and half hours working at a comfortable pace. Since our door is a two car width, you can cut that estimate in half if you’re just installing it on a single garage door. I definitely got better and faster with practice, but I would budget at least an hour for a one car garage.
This is the time of year when our garage becomes absolutely sweltering in the afternoons. Full sun just beats on the brown door and turns the entire door into a very effective radiator. The result is a garage that’s downright unbearable to work in mid-summer. I have even had occasions where I opened the garage door and found I was still being radiated with a blast of melting heat from the door overhead, just from the residual heat left in the door.
However, once I had the Reach Barrier insulation panels installed (all but one panel for testing purposes), I could already feel a huge difference in the temperature of the garage. It was no longer sweltering, and was actually very comfortable to work in. But comfort is all subjective right? So, to really test the actual difference, I used a DeWalt infrared thermometer to test the difference in temperature. To dramatize the point further, I captured the test in this brief video:
As you can see in the video, the panels with the radiant barrier garage door insulation panels on them registered a temperature just over 70 degrees. The one panel left uninsulated, registered at around 120 degrees! That’s almost a fifty degree difference, in case you weren’t already doing the math. You don’t need to be a numbers genius to recognize this simple, thin, easy to install radiant barrier garage door insulation has a dramatic and impressive end-result. The barrier insulation is so light and thin, it won’t in any way interfere with the function of your garage door and door opener. Once in place, it even has the benefit of making your garage brighter thanks to light reflecting off the panels.
REACH Barrier Benefits
· Reduces radiant heat by up to 95%
· Reduces Heating and Cooling loss
· Saves Energy and Money
· Class-A Fire Rated
· Highly Durable, Lasts Longer
· 95% Reflective (< 0.05 Emissivity) · Stronger & Lighter Weight · Higher Quality & Lower Cost · 100% Made In The USA · 100% Recyclable
You can find the Reach Barrier garage door insulation kit (with 8 panels designed for a one car garage door), for right around $70. If you’re looking to work similar radiant barrier magic in your attic, Reach Barrier also carries larger continuous rolls of radiant barrier material which promises to keep your attic warmer in the winter, and up to 40 degrees cooler in the summer. Based on our experience with the Silvertanium garage door insulation, we don’t doubt it a bit.