Garage door openers are one of the hardest working appliances in most residential homes across the country. But how much do homeowners really know about garage door openers?
We’ve compiled a wide range of garage door opener facts and information that give some insight into garage door opener history, mechanics, products, services, and more.
Let’s explore a little bit of garage door opener history.
History Of The Garage Door Opener
With the introduction of the automobile, it was commonplace for homeowners to add garages to their property in an effort to keep their cars protected. Quickly people were becoming frustrated with the need to exit their vehicles any time they wanted to enter or exit their garages.
C.G. Johnson of Hartford City, Indiana took it upon himself to solve this problem. In 1926, C.G. successfully invented the electronic garage door opener, the first major home automation device of its kind. Although invented early in the 1920s, electric garage door openers did not rise in popularity until the 1970s.
C.G.’s invention solved the basic need of opening and closing the garage door homeowners were still required to exit their cars to activate the garage door opener. Over time different applications were applied to provide conveniences such as running wires to a remote with a mounted pushbutton and even key-activated switches placed along the driveway.
Although a step up, a better application was on its way.
In 1954, a company called Alliance Manufacturing Co. now known as Genie Co. introduced a remote radio control transmitter that changed the game for residential home automation.
No longer would homeowners have to exit their cars or take the time to install a complicated system along the side of their driveways.
As we stated earlier garage door openers didn’t become popular until late in the 1970s largely in part because there were no standards for mounting garage doors, garage door sizes, or openings.
With the new split rail approach, opportunities opened up for mass retailers of garage door openers to expand the market, making garage door openers a standard in most garages across the country.
Garage door openers brought great convenience, homeowners were concerned about the safety of these new appliances almost immediately due to the many cases in which many young children were struck by descending doors resulting in injuries and even death.
Beginning in the 1980s, engineers began working on a system that would help prevent injury and death. Led by Colin Willmott, the director of engineering at the Chamberlain Group took note of the infrared technology that was being used in remotes for televisions and created a sensor that was able to detect when an object was in the line of the garage door.
Unfortunately, this project was shelved as the technology was expensive and somewhat unreliable. It wasn’t until 1988 when two children were killed on the same day, in separate garage door accidents that lawmakers started discussing the need to create stricter safety requirements for garages.
In 1990 Congress passed the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act recommending IR sensors however in 1993, the government amended the mandate requiring the use of safety sensors, preventing doors from closing on any objects including children, animals, and cars.
In 2021, global sales of garage door openers exceeded $1 Billion and are standard among most residential homes across the U.S.
How Do Garage Door Openers Work?
So how does the door actually open? Once the command on the remote has been pressed, a signal is sent to a receiver, once received it tells the motor to begin. Depending on your operating system, a chain, belt, or screw will provide enough motion to begin twisting or extending the torsion or extension springs installed either above or beside your garage door.
These garage door springs act as a counterbalance absorbing the weight of the door. Although important the garage door springs do not work alone. Cables placed alongside the springs work with the springs to open and close the door.
As the door raises, panels attached by hinges allow the door to bend as it is raised above the opening. To do so, rollers run along tracks on each side of the door, smoothly guiding the door up and down.
Garage Door Remotes
Simply put, garage door openers operate by radio transmitters. When activated, the transmitter sends a code to a receiver that is tuned to the frequency that the transmitter is using.
In the early days of garage door openers, transmitters were extremely simple sending only one single signal to open and close the door.
As garage doors gained popularity this simple structure caused quite the security issue as all garage door openers operated on the same frequency allowing anyone with a garage door opener transmitter to open any door.
By the 1970s the technology of garage door opener transmitters had grown in sophistication offering a DIP Switch. DIP Switches allowed a custom code to be set in the transmitter allowing the garage door to only open if the receiver’s DIP switch was set to the same code.
Unfortunately at the time, there were only 256 possible combinations, enough to keep the average homeowner out but not enough to provide true security.
In 1995, Genie introduced Intellicode Rolling Code Technology forever changing garage door opener security. Rolling code technology changes the access code every time the opener button is pressed.
With billions of combinations possible, it had become nearly impossible for hackers to steal the code to garage door openers and gain access to the home. After 27 years, rolling code technology has only grown in popularity.
Parts of A Garage Door Opener System
Garage door opener remotes would be worthless if it weren’t for the other parts of the garage door opener system. These parts include:
- Door arms
- Chains, belts, or screws
- Safety reversing sensor/photo eyes
- Torsion/Extension Springs
While the exact part list differs depending on the type of garage door opener you have – which we will go over shortly- typically garage door opener systems will require these parts in order to open and close the garage door.
The operator itself includes its own set of parts that are consistent across all types of garage door openers. These include:
- Electric Motor and Gears
- Height Adjustment
- Inverter and Battery
- Drive Guide
While garage door opener operation seems simple, several pieces of hardware must work together simultaneously to ensure the garage door opens and closes on command safely.
What Are The Types of Garage Door Openers?
While all garage door openers provide the same basic goal of opening and closing the garage door allowing you to enter and exit, the varied mechanisms all work a bit differently. To get a better understanding of what sets each system apart, let’s look at them all individually.
The main types of garage door openers are:
- Chain Drive
- Belt Drive
- Screw Drive
So what is the difference? As suggested by the names, each opener type operates by a different driving utility. These include chains, belts, and threaded parts. Let’s dive in a little deeper.
Chain drive garage door openers offer one of the oldest technologies of openers. Although they’ve been around for quite some time, this opener is still a common choice for homeowners today.
These openers use a trolley system with a chain that is connected to the garage door and moves along a track to raise and lower the door – basically, it’s a simple pulley system.
There are many benefits of a chain drive garage door opener including its durability which allows heavy doors to be easily lifted. These openers are often inexpensive and long-lasting if maintained properly. While there is a lengthy list of pros the few cons may be deal breakers for many homeowners.
Most notable is the noise it makes during operation. These openers tend to be a bit shakier during operation and do require more maintenance than their counterparts. Chain drive garage door openers are often best for detached garages or those far from the living quarters in a home.
- Generally More Affordable
- Requires More Maintenance
Belt drive garage door openers have gained popularity over the years due to their durability, silence, and speed. What’s the difference between chain drive and belt drive garage door openers?
Chain drive garage door openers use a chain to move the trolley whereas the belt drive opener moves the carriage with a rubber belt. Aside from that, both garage door openers work the same.
Although slightly more expensive than a chain driver opener, belt drive openers offer long lifespans and require less maintenance. Motor and drive systems in any garage door opener will generate noise and vibration however the one major difference with belt drive openers is that they do not have metal-on-metal contact allowing them to be much quieter than other garage door openers.
- Virtually Noise Free
- Less Maintenance
- Slightly More Expensive
- Not Great For Heavy Doors
Screw Drive Garage Door Openers
Screw drive garage door openers aren’t quite as popular among homeowners however they do offer great advantages for specific projects.
Screw drive garage door openers have fewer components than other garage door openers. Without chains and belts, screw-drive garage door openers do not need readjustment due to use.
To operate, a threaded steel rod moves the carriage which lifts and lowers the garage door as the rod rotates. With limited moving parts, screw drive garage door openers offer smooth operation but do require maintenance to lubricate the screw twice a year.
- Fewer Moving Parts
- Smooth Operation
- Sensitive to Temperature
Garage Door Opener Brands
Genie is a well-known, reliable, and trusted brand in the garage door opener industry. Since the 1950s, the Genie Brand – formerly known as Alliance Manufacturing, has been inventing and developing a wide range of garage door openers including the very first direct-drive screw opener.
Genie garage door openers come standard with motion-detecting lights, frequency scanning, WIFI monitoring, and ultra-quiet performance. They are also compatible with HomeLink® and Car2U systems.
Chamberlain Group is one of the largest companies among the garage door opener brands as they own Chamberlain, LiftMaster, and Craftsman as well as other popular companies outside of the U.S.
In 1989 Chamberlain made its first mark in the garage door opener market with the introduction to the first wireless, keyless entry system. Now with over two dozen garage door openers that are compatible with myq® Smart Home System, Amazon Key, HomeLink®, and more, it’s no surprise that many homeowners choose chamberlain.
Standard features of chamberlain garage door openers include automatic locking, battery backup, safety sensors, and ultra-bright LED lights.
Established in 1967, the LiftMaster brand, with the support of the largest dealer network helped transform the garage door opener into a fundamental access solution that people relied on.
LiftMaster was the first to develop rolling code technology and was instrumental in legislation being created requiring photo eyes to be included with every garage door opener sold. LiftMaster was also the first to offer Battery Backup allowing homeowners to access their homes through the garage during a power outage.
With the development of myQ® technology, LiftMaster revolutionized access control, enabling control from any smartphone. With more than 20 openers, and compatibility with myQ®, HomeLink®, Amazon Key, LiftMaster is a great choice.
The Craftsman brand is a well-known brand that has been around for more than 100 years. Craftsman garage door openers are private label devices made by Chamberlain.
Like all garage door openers manufactured by Chamberlain, Craftsman garage door openers come standard with safety sensors and battery backup as well as compatibility with HomeLink® and Amazon Key.
Benefits of Garage Door Openers
Garage door openers offer great convenience for entering and exiting your home however there are many other perks to consider.
The number one benefit of installing a garage door opener is the security they offer. Security features for many garage door openers include:
- Rolling Code Technology
- Vacation Mode
- Automatic Closure
Rolling code technology as stated earlier in the article prevents hackers from accessing your garage and property within by implementing codes that are constantly changing.
Vacation mode on many garage door openers provides homeowners with the ability to lock their garages for extended periods of time.
Automatic Closure garage door openers are fitted with sensors that can detect how long the garage door has been left open. If left open for too long, the opener activates and the garage door is automatically closed.
Many garage door openers now offer temperature control monitoring sensors that alert homeowners if the garage door is left open and whether the temperature in the garage is too hot or cold.
One of the main benefits of installing a garage door opener is convenience. With today’s technology, homeowners no longer have to worry about getting out of their cars to open or close their garage doors. Some even have sensors on the car opening the garage door as the car drives up. No need to stand out in the rain, snow, or heat to simply get your car in and out of the garage.
Enhances Home Value
One of the most important benefits is how a new garage door opener enhances home value. Old openers that are noisy or inefficient can be a major deterrent for potential buyers. New garage door openers, especially smart technology are a great investment that will improve your overall home value.
How Much Horsepower Does My Garage Door Opener Need?
Garage door horsepower refers to the listing power. The type of horsepower required depends on the material of your garage door and how heavy it is as well as if it is a one-car or two-car garage. The heavier the door, the more horsepower you will need.
To ensure your garage door opener will last, it is recommended to not go with the minimum horsepower required but one that falls somewhere in the middle.
⅓ Horsepower – Gone are the days of ⅓ horsepower garage door openers. Most manufacturers stopped producing these as the weight of garage doors increased.
½ Horsepower- ½ horsepower garage door openers are now considered to be the new entry-level garage door openers. These openers do not typically offer many features. These garage door openers offer the bare minimum and should be chosen only for specific projects.
¾ Horsepower – Most garage doors operate well under ¾ horsepower garage door openers. Working with a ¾ horsepower opener will provide more features such as smart home integrations and battery backup.
1 ½ Horsepower & Up – If you’re looking for all the bells and whistles, a 1 ½ horsepower garage door opener is likely the right choice.
Can a Garage Door Opener Be Too Powerful?
A garage door opener that isn’t powerful enough is clearly an issue but what about one that has too much power? To answer the question, yes, garage door openers with too much horsepower can cause significant issues to your garage door including raising the door too high, too fast and causing the door and components to break.
What Is the Lifespan of a Garage Door Opener?
On average a good garage door opener will between 10-15 years if maintained regularly. It is important to note that even with proper maintenance, a garage door opener’s operating performance will decrease after ten years. Due to the advancement in technology many homeowners are choosing to upgrade early.
However, many factors contribute to the lifespan of a garage door opener.
- Frequency Of Use
- Type of Motor
The lifespan of a garage door opener also depends on the frequency that the door is open and closed per day. If a garage door is only opened and closed twice per day, an opener may last twice as long as one that is operated multiple times per day.
Type Of Motor
Different types of garage door openers have different life expectancies.
Belt Drive: ~15-20 years – Smoothest and Most Quiet
Screw Drive: ~10-15 years – Noisiest but Easiest to Maintain
Chain Drive: ~10 -15 years – Least Expensive But Requires Most Maintenance
The lifespan of a garage door opener is depicted greatly by how well the components are maintained. Garage Door openers that are maintained regularly will have a longer lifespan than one that has little to no maintenance.
When Should I Replace My Garage Door Opener?
Garage door openers rarely fail without significant warning. If you are finding your opener increasing in noise, has become less responsive or unresponsive, is over ten years old, or has required ongoing costly repairs it may be time to replace your garage door. Garage Door Opener Maintenance
Garage Door Opener Cost
The cost of garage door openers varies depending on a few factors. Some of these factors include the type, model, horsepower, and accessories you select impact the price.
Depending on the type of garage door opener you select you can expect to spend with OGD® between $749-1299 on a new opener (including labor) and any adjustments needed to the door, tracks, springs, and rollers.
Things to Consider When Looking For a Garage Door Opener Quote
When seeking a garage door opener quote from different companies it is important to note that many companies pull a bait and switch approach and do not disclose all costs associated with a garage door opener installation upfront.
Many companies will provide a quote significantly less for a garage door opener install however these quotes only include installing a garage door opener and not identifying and resolving the issue that caused the garage door opener to go out in the first place.
Often these companies quote low and charge high as they charge per hour of labor and per service needed on the garage door. It is important to have them give a best-case scenario quote, and a worst-case scenario quote to ensure you know what to expect.
At OGD® our quotes include the device installation, labor, warranty, and any adjustments needed to the door.
Do I Need To Hire A Garage Door Professional?
It is highly recommended to work with a garage door professional for an installation due to the many benefits it offers, including safety. Installing a garage door opener offers great risk to those without the proper training, tools, and experience.
Working with such specialists will ensure a quick installation, quality service, and an investment that will last.
Ready to Upgrade Your Garage Door Opener?
Looking to upgrade your garage door opener? OGD® has more than 10 years of experience. Our family-owned and operated business have been exceeding expectations by providing the industry’s best and most reliable garage door opener installations. If you’re ready to learn more about our garage door openers and installations talk to one of our specialists.