Garage Door Opener Guide: Everything you need to know

Garage Door Opener Guide

There are a variety of garage door openers to choose from when selecting a new garage door opener. Each one offers its own unique advantages and disadvantages which is why it is best for homeowners to research and identify the components of each so they can best choose a garage door opener that fits their needs and lifestyle. 

In today’s market, there are essentially four garage door opener types that are available to residential homeowners seeking a new garage door opener. Of the four, some of these openers are best for homeowners seeking controlled noise levels while others are more interested in dependability and value. Below we discuss the different types of garage door openers including options that increase convenience and security.

Why Replace a Garage Door Opener

Most garage door openers last for years without issue, however over time, it is common for the opener to require some repair service, especially if the door has not been maintained regularly. While we understand repairing your garage door opener is often the ideal solution, there comes a time when it is simply best to replace the entire system. Common reasons to replace your garage door opener include increased noise levels, malfunctions, outdated, and installation of new doors. 

Increased Noise Level

As mechanisms of your garage door opener begin to wear out, it is not uncommon for the door to become noisier during operation. Especially older chain drive systems that have not been maintained properly during their lifetime. New chain drive models have improved their mechanics to offer a quieter solution to their operation. 

Door Operation Malfunctioning 

As garage door openers begin to wear out they become less and less reliable. It’s not uncommon for commands to be delayed as the system begins to reach the end of its lifecycle, especially if it has not been cared for properly. As this begins to occur more and more often, the cost to repair will begin to outweigh the cost to replace your entire garage door opener operating system, and is best to simply invest in a new one. 

Garage Door Opener is Outdated

Old garage door openers are vulnerable to thieves due to their fixed code remote function. These openers are easily hacked, putting you and your home at risk. New garage door openers utilize proper security functions such as rolling codes to ensure thieves can no longer duplicate the code and gain access to your home through your garage door. 

New Garage Door Opener Installation

Homeowners installing new garage doors on their homes often replace the full garage door system including the garage door opener. Many times replacing their old garage door opener with a new smart technology garage door opener. 

It is not uncommon for homeowners to purchase or build a new home without any understanding of what type of garage door opener has been installed in their home. Typically garage door openers are given very little thought or attention until it stops working or has become so loud upon opening that it is a major disturbance. It’s often then, or when the homeowner decided to replace their garage door, that the opener is taken into consideration. During this time, homeowners are faced with the challenge of deciding what type of garage door opener is best for them. Although it’s not the most important question among homeowners it could make the difference in determining cost, convenience, and durability. Below we will cover the different options available including Belt drive garage door openers, chain drive garage door openers, screw drive openers, and jackshaft drive openers. We will also discuss smart garage door options and how they can improve the convenience of your garage door. 

Types of Garage Door Openers

Not too many years ago only one type of drive component was available for garage doors. This drive was a reliable source that utilized simplicity which made it affordable and easy to fix in the event something wore out or became damaged. This drive is known as a chain drive and is still around today. However, as technology has advanced, more options became available for drive mechanisms providing homeowners with a variety of options that best fit their needs. 

Belt Drive Vs Chain Drive

The two most common types of garage door openers, belt, and chain drive take up 95% of all garage door opener sales in the United States. Belt drive and chain drive both have advantages and disadvantages, identifying these will allow homeowners to discover what type of drive is best for their home. Is it a matter of quality, or personal preference? Let’s take a look below to compare the industry’s most common garage door openers.  

Belt Drive Garage Door Opener

Belt and chain drive garage door openers are almost identical in their setup and function, the major difference between the two garage door openers makes it clear as is stated in each of their names. Belt drive openers differ as they utilize a belt instead of a chain. Belt drive garage door openers provide homeowners with many advantages and are often highly recommended by the specialists at OGD™.

Utilizing a belt garage door opener manufactured of steel-reinforced rubber, fiberglass, or polyurethane instead of a metal chain drive opener offers many benefits. Of all the advantages belt drive garage door openers offer, the quietness of operation tends to land belt garage door openers at the top of many homeowners’ lists. Belt garage door openers tend to be by far the quietest openers in comparison to chain and screw drive openers as they operate with fewer components and provide a smoother transition while opening and closing. It’s no question why belt drive garage door openers land at the top of the list for best garage door openers as they not only provide quiet operation but also strength, durability, and little to no maintenance. 

Liftmaster chain drive garage door opener
The belt is attached to a trolley system that runs through the motor as it moves down the track pulling the trolley with it.

Chain Drive Garage Door Opener

At one point in time, chain drive openers were the most popular garage door openers installed in residential homes across the country. As the garage door industry improved their products over time and chain drive openers started to get phased out, being replaced with its quieter counterpart, the belt drive garage door opener. While chain drive garage door openers are still available in today’s market it is recommended to consider a belt drive garage door opener instead due to its strength, durability, and smooth operation. 

In the event that a belt drive garage door opener is not available, a chain drive opener is typically the next best choice for your home. Chain drive garage door openers operate utilizing a chain similar to what you would find on a bicycle. This chain is used to push the trolly that is connected to the garage door, pulling the door on the track. Due to the material of the chain, the vibration of operation, and the many moving components used to move the door, chain garage door openers typically have increased noise levels, and require regular maintenance throughout the year. These disadvantages are typically deal breakers among homeowners as belt garage door openers offer the same benefits of a chain drive garage door opener without the noise and maintenance requirements.

Liftmaster belt drive opener
Garage door opener guide: everything you need to know 4

As the chain implies, chain drive garage door openers open and close using a chain, similar to that of a bicycle chain. 

Screw Drive Opener

Screw drive garage door openers take up only a small portion of the garage door openers that are installed. Of all garage door opener drive systems, screw drive garage door openers are the most complex. Similar to their counterparts, (chain drive opener and belt drive opener) screw drive systems work with a trolley system. This system is then attached to the threaded rod and extends an arm to the door. When the door is ready to open or close, the motor turns the rod and the trolley moves along the rod either toward or away from the motor. The arm then raises and lowers the door. 

Screw drive garage door openers do not find themselves at the top of the garage door opener list as they are often used for very specific door designs such as wide and heavy doors, as well as for garages that require compact systems as the garage headroom space is limited. However, power is not lost due to its size, a comparably sized screw drive opener can often lift more weight than its counterparts, chain, and belt drive openers. These openers are also a great choice for homeowners seeking a virtually maintenance-free mechanism, lowering lower long-term costs. However, these openers are not recommended in climates that experience major fluctuations in temperature as the components are sensitive to temperature changes. 

Screw drive garage door openers operate by utilizing a threaded rod that attaches to the track and runs from the opener to the door.

Jackshaft Drive Garage Door Opener

Jackshaft garage door openers, also known as a side mount, or wall mount garage door opener are great for specific circumstances where a traditional belt, chain, or screw drive opener does not work. Jackshaft drives were not an option for many years leaving only belt drive, screw drive, and chain drive openers for homeowners to choose from. It wasn’t until recently that jackshaft drive garage door openers started to become popular among homeowners. Jackshaft drive openers are different in a couple of different ways including the placement of the opener. Traditional garage door openers are located on the ceiling of garages while jackshaft openers are mounted to the wall. Jackshaft garage door openers operate by connecting directly to the torsion bar above the door. These garage door openers are ideal for garages that have low headspace, especially high ceilings or vaulted ceilings. 

Jackshaft garage door opener
Garage door opener guide: everything you need to know 5

Jackshaft garage door openers are not one of the most common among residential homeowners as they are traditionally more expensive than their counterparts and are only needed for very specific circumstances. 

Smart Garage Door Openers

Although we have discussed the many garage door opener types and styles, smart garage door openers find themselves in a different category, rather than a type or style of opener, smart garage door openers are an option available to improve the overall functionality of the opener itself. Smart garage door openers function just like traditional garage door openers; however, they have the ability to connect to wifi networks allowing homeowners to control and monitor their garage door operations remotely, from an app on their smartphone. Utilizing smart garage door openers in your home improves the overall convenience and security by allowing homeowners to check the status of their door from wherever they are while also having the ability to open or close the door.

Smart garage door openers come in two forms, those you can add to your own garage door opener device and those that are full system garage door openers. Add-on devices are a great choice for homeowners who are not ready to fully replace their current garage door opener but are looking to increase convenience and security. Full system garage door openers are the entire operating system, including the motor, drive system, mounting brackets, and hardware. These full systems are meant for a full garage door opener replacement and are best for homeowners whose current system is aging and is needing replacement. 

Ultimately, each garage door opener has its advantages and disadvantages, it really comes down to the style of door, size of the door, and personal preference. For most homeowners, a belt drive garage door opener system is the best and most recommended garage door opener system. The strength, durability, and quiet operation are major advantages to what its counterparts have to offer. 

Garage Door Opener Features to Consider

Regardless of the type of garage door opener chosen for your home, it is important to consider the many safety and security features that are offered for your garage door opener. In recent studies, it has been estimated that nearly 20,000 people have suffered injuries as a direct result of their garage doors. Some of the injuries included but were not limited to, falling garage doors, improper installation, broken garage door springs, and do-it-yourself injuries. These results just further emphasize the importance of working with a garage door specialist to prevent damage and injury to you or your home. While some of the risks are depleted by working with a garage door specialist, garage door openers have worked to improve the overall safety of garage door openers by providing new safety features. 

Automatic Reversing

Over time garage door opener manufactures have improved the overall safety of garage door operating systems by including safety features such as automatic reversing. As of January 1, 1991, CPSC ( Consumer Product and Safety Commission) required all garage door openers manufactured or imported for sale in the United States to have automatic reverse systems. 

Until 1991, injuries and even death by garage door openers began growing rapidly as automatic garage door openers began to grow in popularity. In 1991 a law was passed to include safety features such as automatic reversing to prevent such injuries from occurring. Today, automatic reversing is standard among garage door openers in which the opener switches the direction of a closing door any time the sensors of the door detect an object in its path. 

The most common automatic reversing detectors are electronic sensors and photoelectric eyes. Electronic sensors are most commonly installed at the bottom of the door and detect any movement or object in the direct path of a moving garage door. Photoelectric eyes are mounted at the threshold of the garage door and detect when an object is obstructing the garage door path. In the event that an obstruction in the path has been detected, the automatic reverse feature on the garage door opener will immediately reverse the direction of the door and prevent contact between the object and the door. 

Rolling Code Technology

As technology has advanced so have the features that garage door openers offer. One advancement in garage door opener safety is the change in rolling code. Rolling code technology offers increased safety and security to you and your property by generating a new security code for your garage door opener every time the remote control is used. Before rolling code technology it was discovered that there were devices that were easy to acquire that could hack garage door opener codes. With rolling code technology, stolen codes are useless to intruders. Those with older garage door openers should strongly consider replacing their opener with a newer one that comes standard with rolling code technology.

Garage Door Backup Battery

Garage door openers are powered by your home’s electrical system. When your home loses power, so does your garage door opener. In 2017 it was reported that at least 5 people died due to their garage door openers not having power and them becoming stranded during the northern California wildfires. Due to this, the state of California introduced California SB-969, requiring garage door openers to have a battery back up in the event of an emergency. Although not all states require backup batteries for garage door openers the topic itself has raised awareness and it is becoming more popular among homeowners to include this safety feature for their garage door opener. While some new garage door openers come equipped with backup batteries, older models require add-on batteries to their system.

Garage Door Opener Horsepower

The amount of horsepower needed to raise and lower your garage door properly depends on a few factors and is best determined by working with a garage door specialist. Garage door specialists will take the weight and size of the garage door to determine the horsepower needed for your garage door opener. Traditionally, if the garage door is over 20’ in width a garage door opener with at least ½ horsepower will be recommended. Horsepower is also a determining factor in how quickly your garage door opens and closes. Best practice in deciding how much horsepower your garage door opener should have is to choose a garage door opener that may have a little too much power versus a garage door opener that does not have enough power. 

How much horsepower does my garage door opener need?

  • ½ Horsepower
    • Most common among traditional garage door openers
  • ¾ Horsepower
    • Most common for insulated garage doors 
  • 1 Horsepower
    • Best for solid wood garage doors

Garage Door Opener Installation Company

All of the features listed above are of great importance to the operation, safety, and security of your garage door opener however without proper installation, safety and security features may not function properly. That is why it is important to work with a garage door specialist to ensure the garage door opener installation is done properly. With over 20 years of experience, OGD™ has been working to repair, replace, and install a wide variety of garage door openers. When looking for a garage door opener installation company, look no further than OGD™. As an authorized Liftmaster dealer, we bring only the highest quality garage door openers paired with the industry’s best and most reliable installation.

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