If you own a home with a walk-out garage, you likely enjoy the small luxury of being able to travel all the way to work, the grocery store, or a friend's house without having to leave climate control behind. However, if your garage doors are poorly insulated (or not insulated at all), they may be allowing cold air to flow into your garage to cause drafts or heat loss in the rest of your home. How do you know when you should insulate or replace your garage doors? Read on to learn more about the best ways to insulate your garage door on a budget, as well as some situations in which replacement is the better option. 

When should your garage door be insulated?

Many modern steel or aluminum garage doors come pre-insulated with sleek thermal panels placed on the interior of the door. Assuming the exterior framing around your garage door is in good shape, a factory-insulated garage door should be enough to keep any cold air outside where it belongs. While there are some additional steps you can take to provide even further insulation, doing so shouldn't be necessary unless you live in an exceptionally cold climate. 

However, if the interior insulation panels are damaged, or if you have a wooden or aluminum garage door without much insulation, you may need to take some steps to help make your door more energy-efficient. Not only will this keep your garage at a constant, cool temperature year-round, but it can also help reduce the load on your heater or air conditioner (extending its lifespan) by preventing outdoor air from flowing into the rest of your home via the vents closest to the garage. These panels also serve as acoustic buffers, helping prevent street noise from bothering you while you're working on a project in your garage (and helping prevent irritated neighbors if your garage project is fairly loud).

How can you inexpensively insulate your garage doors?

There are some simple ways to insulate your garage door that shouldn't cost you more than around $200 in materials and an afternoon of light labor. While the finished project may not be the most aesthetically pleasing part of your home (as insulation rarely is), it should get the job done for much less than the cost of purchasing and installing a new set of garage doors.

For those who don't want to deal with the itchiness of fiberglass insulation, polystyrene foam insulation may be the best option. This insulation comes in solid blocks (similar to styrofoam) and can easily be glued or taped in place on each of your garage door panels. You'll be able to choose your own thickness for this foam, although a simple 1 inch panel should be sufficient for most purposes.

Another insulation option is reflective foil insulation. This insulation isn't as thick as polystyrene but has a reflective surface to stop the entering heat (or cold air) and direct it back outside as quickly as possible. You should be able to tape or glue this film on the interior of your garage door in a single uniform layer.

When should you replace your garage doors instead?

In some cases, replacement of your doors is the option that makes the most sense. If your current doors are warped, bent, or drafty, insulation may not prevent the influx of cold air from around cracks where the doors are ill-fitting. These issues can be difficult to repair, and installing insulation on a door that is dealing with structural issues may not be the best use of funds. Because your new insulated doors should be ultra-energy-efficient, over time the new garage door installation may pay for itself in the form of lower heating and cooling bills.