How to Select a Garage Door Opener for Your Home
When it comes time to buy a new garage door opener, you might be surprised at the number of options you face. Here are some guidelines on how to make the best choice for your garage.
Type of Drive
Garage door openers come with three different types of drive: chain, belt and screw.
- Chain-drive openers are the oldest style, and they continue to be very popular and a good value. They can be noisy, though, and may not be a good choice if the garage is under a bedroom or adjacent to a room where quiet is appreciated. On the other hand, some people appreciate being warned (through the garage door opening) that someone is about to walk into the house.
- Belt-drive openers are identical to chain-drive openers except that they operate with a rubber belt. They are the quietest type of garage door opener, and they tend to cost a bit more than the others. They require the least maintenance.
- Midway in cost and noisiness are screw-drive openers. They have the most moving parts and require a lot of maintenance as you must degrease the entire rail every 2-4 years. By a slim margin, they are probably the hardest to install for a do-it-yourselfer.
A standard two-car garage door is best served with a 1/2-horsepower garage door opener. I would only use a smaller motor on a one-car garage with a light door. Operator horsepower really doesn’t come into play except for the amount of cycles a door gets daily. If you do use your door 10-15 times per day, consider a DC-powered unit as they require less power to operate and output greater torque. These DC-powered units are more powerful than the standard ½ horsepower AC units. If you have an extremely large door, be sure to consult a dealer. Some of the wood or 2” thick steel-on-steel doors 16’x8’ and large may require ¾ horsepower units.
The standard door garage is 7-feet tall, and most standard garage door openers will accommodate doors up to approximately 6 inches taller than that depending on your door and radius of track. On the retail side for taller doors make sure an extension kit is included where from a professional dealer it will have a solid rail that is the correct size.
All garage door openers sold since 1993 have been required to have a safety mechanism that stops and reverses a closing door when some object passes beneath it (thereby blocking a beam of light across the opening). This reversing mechanism can save damage to cars, people, and pets, and it should be maintained and tested regularly.
Make sure to buy a garage door opener with a rolling code feature. This has become a pretty common feature, and for good reason. It makes it much harder for a potential burglar to access the code that will open the door.
Not something you may give much thought to but remember the garage door opener often functions as the primary, if not only, light source in the garage. Standard units can handle two 60-watt bulbs, but you may want to consider one that can handle two 100-watt bulbs. Always reference your manual when replacing the light bulbs as an incorrect bulb in the operator can cause damage to the unit.
Battery backup is not a standard feature, but it is available on some models. When your electrical power is knocked out, the backup kicks in and allows you to use the garage door opener. Without it, you can find yourself locked out of your own house.
Keyless Entry Pad
A keyless entry pad is mounted just outside the garage door. Enter the proper code and the door will open, a handy feature if you lock yourself out or if you appreciate the ability to let yourself in without having to carry a key. Newer units can be activated by reading your fingerprint.
Two remote control units are standard on new garage door openers. Some remotes have a single button and do nothing more than open one door. Others have multiple buttons and can operate more than one door.
A wall-mounted control pad is a standard feature. Use it to open and close the door and to turn the light on and off. Control pads have been expanded in recent years; some have features which may enhance your experience such as the ability to program remotes, timers, and clocks as well and temperature and motion light control.
Pro vs. DIY Models
Garage door manufacturers make separate products for professional installers and do-it-yourselfers. Retail units are what they call DIY models. Pay close attention to motor warranties and other specific details as most units sold by professionals carry a manufacturer’s lifetime warranty. In addition, a professional line is a solid rail system, which helps against wear and tear of rail components and operation of the door. If longevity is a priority, it is advised that you go to a local distributorship versus a retail shop.
Warranties vary from model to model. I've seen motors with lifetime warranties and with 10-year warranties. Separate components, such as belts and chains, will usually be covered for shorter periods of time. Some manufacturers have surge protection accessories that can extend the electronic warranties.
As stated above, some manufacturers have surge protectors as accessories, and whether you decide to do that and extend your warranty, my advice is to purchase one. Garage door operators have too many electric components not to have some type of protection.