Covered patio featuring Elevate Sliding French Doors

Patio doors are essential components of indoor-outdoor living, connecting some of the most important spaces in our homes. These large glass doors create a seamless transition between indoors and outdoors during temperate seasons, and let in natural light all year round. Most patio doors are characterized by expansive panes of glass, which makes energy efficiency a key factor in choosing the right door. Read on to learn about the best types of patio doors for energy efficiency.

What makes a patio door energy efficient?

Sitting room featuring Marvin Elevate Sliding French Doors leading to patioSitting room featuring Marvin Elevate Sliding French Doors leading to patio

Modern innovations in door and window designs have resulted in patio doors that can truly be called energy efficient – in spite of large panes of glass that pose a challenge. Various components contribute to a glass door’s energy efficiency, including the glass design, frame material, door style, and the quality of installation.

Glass Door Efficiency Rating Terms

In addition to the ENERGY STAR rating system implemented by the Department of Energy (DOE), there are a few factors developed by the National Fenestration Rating Council (NFRC) that are important for homeowners evaluating the energy efficiency of a particular door. Every NFRC door label will feature the following terms:

Solar Heat Gain Coefficient: SHGC measures how well a product insulates against incoming heat from the sun. A lower SHGC indicates better insulation and less heat gain – ideal for preventing energy transfer in warm climates or during warm seasons. A higher SHGC would help warm your home during cold months. Range = 0-1

U-Factor: U-factor measures the product’s ability to retain non-solar heat. A low U-factor indicates better insulation and minimal heat loss. Range = 0.00-2.00


High-Performance Glass

The most energy-efficient patio doors feature glass designs with a low SHGC and U-Factor to prevent overheating in summer. (Alternatively, homeowners in cold climates might consider doors with a higher SHGC to let sunlight heat rooms in the winter). Premier window manufacturer Marvin achieves high-performing glass by combining features like double or triple-paned glass, low-emissivity (low-E) glass, and gas filling between the panes.

  • Insulated Glazing: Combines two or more panes of glass which are spaced apart and hermetically sealed to create insulating air space and reduce heat transfer
  • Low-E Coating: Nearly invisible metallic oxide coating applied to the glass surface to control heat transfer without significantly reducing light; protects furnishings from ultraviolet (UV) rays and reduces energy loss by 30%-50%
  • Spacers: Separates layers of glass to create an insulating gap with sealants that prevent moisture, water infiltration, and gas leaks; accommodates expansion and contraction during extreme temperatures
  • Gas Fill: Non-toxic, odorless Argon and Krypton gas sealed between glass layers to improve thermal performance by slowing heat transfer

Door Frame Material

The frame material is a significant determining factor in a door’s energy efficiency. The most common materials used to construct door frames include wood, vinyl, fiberglass, and aluminum. Fiberglass is the most energy-efficient choice, followed by wood – which is a naturally energy-efficient choice but requires more upkeep and/or exterior cladding to protect against the elements.

High-Quality Hardware & Installation

Illustration of main parts of a door: glazing, head jamb, side jamb, mullion, threshold, sill, casing, and sidelight

Even the most energy-efficient materials won’t perform well if the hardware is cheap or it’s improperly installed. Uneven framing, poor weatherstripping, jamb and threshold gaps, and other installation issues are likely to result in strong drafts and other performance problems that will drive up energy costs. To ensure your patio doors perform up to their potential, hire a highly-rated door and window installer to do the job – or consult with home improvement experts before starting a DIY door replacement project.

Patio Door Type

The quality of glass, framing, hardware, and installation play the biggest roles in a door’s energy efficiency – but the style of patio door can also affect its performance. The most important design factors to consider are the size of the glass panes and the mechanisms the door uses to open and close. Some opening mechanisms create more gaps and possibilities for air leakage than others, and larger panes of glass typically result in more energy transfer than smaller panes. Keep reading for more details on the energy efficiency of various patio door styles.

The Most Energy-Efficient Patio Door Frame

Marvin Essential Sliding Patio Door made from Ultrex® fiberglassMarvin Essential Sliding Patio Door made from Ultrex® fiberglass

The best energy-saving frame material is composite fiberglass such as Ultrex® featured in Marvin windows. Ultrex fiberglass expands and contracts at virtually the same rate as window glass for maximum stability. Fiberglass is more resistant to temperature variation than vinyl, provides superior insulation to aluminum, and maintains its appearance longer than wood. But for homeowners who appreciate the classic look of authentic wood doors, extruded aluminum cladding is another durable and energy-efficient option.

The Most Energy-Efficient Types of Patio Doors

Thanks to modern advancements in home energy savings, patio door designs from top-tier window and door manufacturers like Marvin achieve a high level of energy efficiency. However, some door styles naturally tend toward slightly more energy loss than others. For example, the overlapping sashes of a sliding door can actually help to seal in the air better than a traditional hinged door, when installed properly. Read on to learn about some of the best designs for patio doors and their energy-efficient qualities.

Sliding Glass Patio Doors

Modern kitchen featuring Marvin Elevate Sliding Patio Doors Modern kitchen featuring Marvin Elevate Sliding Patio Doors

You might associate sliding glass doors with winter drafts and cold back rooms, but don’t let those memories keep you from considering this highly energy-efficient option. Old sliding glass doors may suffer from gaps created by a shifting home or poor installation, but modern, high-quality gliding doors benefit from advancements in energy-saving technology and are a fantastic option for energy-conscious homes. Premier manufacturer Marvin offers a variety of sliding glass doors – including multi-slide doors, and lift-and-slide doors – each crafted for effortless operation and weather-tight performance.

Swinging Patio Doors

Indoor-outdoor dining spaces featuring Marvin Elevate Swinging French DoorsIndoor-outdoor dining spaces featuring Marvin Elevate Swinging French Doors

Swinging glass doors, also known as hinged doors, are a traditional door style with a simple design. As long as your hinged door features insulating materials and is installed properly to create a tight seal, you can expect it to perform with a high level of energy efficiency. High-quality hardware will be particularly important if you choose a swinging French patio door, as double doors that open in the middle create more opportunities for air leakage than other door styles.

Bi-Fold Glass Doors

Living room with Marvin Elevate Bi-Fold Doors leading to outdoor pool areaLiving room with Marvin Elevate Bi-Fold Doors leading to outdoor pool area

With multiple, large glass panes and many moving parts, there are theoretically many places for a folding door to become misaligned or for its seals to become compromised. But while a low-quality or single-pane bi-fold door would result in energy loss, a bi-fold door from a premium manufacturer will incorporate the best hardware and materials for saving energy.

For example, a bi-fold door from Marvin is installed with a multi-point hardware system at the folding panels for smooth and effortless operation and features Marvin’s standard dual-paned glass with low-E coatings and argon insulating gas. This top-hung folding door allows for expansive views and seamless outdoor-indoor living without compromising energy performance.

Shop Energy-Efficient Patio Doors at Ring’s End

Every patio door crafted by Marvin is engineered for both beauty and energy efficiency, across all product lines and regardless of style. Browse the Ring’s End guide to Marvin’s extensive door options for more details on available designs and materials. Or talk to our window & door experts for personalized assistance with your home improvement project! You can chat with our team online or text us at (203) PRO-HELP.

Buyer’s Guide to Marvin Exterior Doors

Energy Efficient Patio Door FAQs

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