Off of our kitchen, there is a little entry vestibule that leads to the backyard. We had no plans to ever replace that back door, but when we changed the locks, we realized it may have to happen.
(Sidenote: this past weekend, we knocked out all of those shelves on the left, and got rid of those weird cabinets on the right, and we can’t believe how much larger the space feels!).
While trying to decide what kind of door to replace it with, one of our favorite options was something like this (but stained to match the existing woodwork):
What we loved about this door is that it would maximize the amount of light in the vestibule/kitchen, but I had two concerns. Being that we live in Minnesota, which has exceptionally cold winters, I was concerned that having a glass door would be a huuuuge source of heat loss. Additionally, I was worried about people being able to see directly in to our house when we weren’t home.
Now I know there are options to prevent people from looking inside, but I didn’t like any of them. We used a window film on the front door of our last home, but I don’t like that option for this house because then we can’t see Roxy when she’s out in the backyard. Sure, we could hang a curtain/shade, but that would be so annoying whenever we open and close the door, not to mention the fact that it would look really weird. So as I was wracking my brain for a solution, I remembered something Noel and I saw on the Parade of Homes: blinds that are built in to the door between the glass panes.
Well, this seemed like the perfect solution to my “how do I keep people from looking in our big glass door” problem because their seamless design was stunning, the blinds wouldn’t bang around when you open the door, they wouldn’t be clumsy/bulky/awkward, the glass would be easier to clean, and kids/pets wouldn’t be able pull on them/destroy them. I was completely sold on the idea, so off I went, searching for the right door.
Truth be told, I actually had heard about these doors awhile ago, and from what I knew, they received mixed reviews. So, about a half hour into my search, that little voice in my head chimed in, insisting that I read some reviews before I fell in love with the idea and there was no turning back. And boy am I glad I did.
After reading countless reviews, I concluded there were three major drawbacks about these doors:
Drawback #1: They aren’t as energy efficient as a normal glass door.
Glass itself is a terrible insulator, which is why majority of windows are double paned. By doing this, the glass sandwiches air in between it. To make a window more efficient, a gas called argon is often sealed between the two panes, and a low-e coating can be applied to the glass to reflect heat.
Well, when you put blinds between the two window panes, you can’t have the argon sealed inside, which dramatically reduces the efficiency of the window. It’s also important to note that the blinds themselves don’t add any significant insulation. So, by buying a window with blinds, your window is far less efficient than just buying a double paned window.
There are companies that make triple pane windows so that there can still be argon gas between two of the panes, and then the blinds can be in the other cavity. However, if you go this route, you’d get a lower U-factor* (more efficient window) if you just bought a triple pane window without the blinds, because then you’d have two layers of argon gas. Plus, triple pane windows are expensive, and the ones that have the blinds in them are even more money.
Drawback #2: The blinds still get dusty and are hard to clean.
One of the major misconceptions with these doors is that the blinds don’t get dusty. And that’s completely false. There are tiny holes that allow dust to enter the space between the glass, so the blinds will in fact get dusty. With some of the windows, you are able to remove one of the panes of glass to clean the blinds, but it is quite the process and the instructions are quite elaborate.
Drawback #3: If the blinds break, they are hard (if not impossible) to fix.
If it so happens that the blinds between your window panes break, you are in quite a sticky situation. If you are lucky enough to have the kind where you can remove one of the panes of glass, you will be able to fix them. However, I wouldn’t consider yourself too terribly lucky, because the replacement blinds are NOT cheap. Furthermore, if you don’t have the kind where you can remove a pane, you are stuck with broken blinds, and the only way to fix it is to replace the door. Whomp whomp.
So, with all of that being said, what’s the verdict for us? There are a lot of great features, but in the end, they just aren’t for us (at least not for us in this house). Right now, I can’t justify spending that kind of money for a triple paned version, and I don’t want a window with no insulating properties. With that being said, even though they aren’t for us, doesn’t mean they can’t be for you. Just please make sure that if you do buy them, you don’t buy them because you think they are more energy efficient. :)
*In homes, a product’s insulating capabilities are measured by either an R-value or a U-factor. An R-value measures heat resistance, so you want your R-value to be as high as possible. U-factors are just the opposite. They measure the rate heat is transferred through a material, so the lower the better. U-factors are generally associated with windows, and they usually range anywhere from 0.2 to 1.2 (with anything under 0.4 being “energy efficient”).