Not all that many years ago, garage door openers were something just for the affluent, people who could afford to have someone wash their cars and clean their houses for them. That's all changed because these days a new home isn't considered complete if it doesn't have an automatic garage door opener installed in it.
I'll have to say, garage door openers are a great convenience, at least for those who keep a car in their garage. My garage is my workshop, so about the only way my cars see the inside of it, is looking through the door. But if you can actually park your car inside your garage, then you'll appreciate being able to open the door at the push of a button, especially if it’s raining or snowing out.
Garage door openers are actually fairly simple devices. A geared motor is connected to a drive, which is in turn connected to the garage door. When the button is pushed, power is applied, the motor turns, lifting the garage door. Once the door is lifted all the way, a sensor tells the motor that it's time to turn off. Closing the door is just the opposite.
Older garage door openers used a chain, similar to a bicycle chain, as the drive. This made for noisy garage door openers. While these still exist, many of todays "quiet" garage door openers use a rubber belt instead. There are even a few that use a screw thread to transmit the motor's power to the door.
When selecting a garage door opener, the first thing to look at is the motor's size. Consumer garage door openers come with motors ranging from 1/2 HP to 1-1/4 HP. A 1/2 HP garage door opener will manage to open a single garage door just fine, but really doesn't have enough power for a double door. For that, you'll need a 3/4 HP unit. If that double door is made of wood or the design is heavier than the typical aluminum garage door, a 1 HP unit should probably be used.
Most garage door openers come with three controllers; two for use in the car and a simple push-button switch to mount inside the garage. Some have a little more complex controller for inside the garage, as well as a keypad to allow you to open the door from the outside. This addition makes it possible for the kids to put their bikes in the garage; right in your way for when you want to park the car. The latest control they are starting to make for these is one where you can control it from your smart phone.
A few models are now coming out with battery backup systems installed in the unit allowing you to open the garage door, even if there is a power outage. It’s a much better option than the old emergency system of a rope disconnect for the drive.
Speaking of that disconnect, make sure that you take the plastic handle off of it. Thieves have learned that they can use that disconnect to open the garage door. All they have to do is put a wire with a hook on it (like a clothes hanger) through the crack at the top of the door and snag the release, opening it. If the handle is removed, they can't snag the cable and open the door, but you can still use the disconnect, if you need to open the door manually.
This is the garage door opener for someone who wants everything. A battery backup ensures that you'll be able to use it, even when the power goes out. Integrating into your home's network, it allows you to control the door from your computer or smartphone. Read Full Review
This garage door opener has it all. To start, it's the most powerful home garage door opener you can find, with a 1-1/4 HP motor. The drive mechanism is a steel-reinforced belt, providing both strength to keep it from breaking and quiet operation, so you don't disturb sleeping family members. The opener comes with two remote controllers, as well as wireless keypad. Chamberlain goes one step further though, allowing you to open this unit from your smartphone, via your home's internet connection. The onboard lights have a motion sensor, so they'll turn on if you go into your garage while sensors are easily accessed for replacement, easing the most common maintenance task.
Genie uses a unique screw drive which is both very fast and very quiet. Opening the door as fast as 12 inches per second, this one takes the prize for the fastest garage door opener around. Read Full Review
Genie is one of the oldest and most trusted names in the garage door opener business. This is their most powerful homeowner unit, with a 1 HP motor. The drive system on this opener is a screw drive, making it quiet and maintenance free. There's no reason why the drive won't last the lifetime of your home, allowing you to concentrate on matters other than repairing your garage door opener. It's also fast, raising the door at 12 inches per minute. That's only seven seconds to raise the average garage door.
A motion sensor illuminates the lights if you enter the garage and the system also comes with a Safe-T-Beam system, which senses if anything crosses under the garage door while it is closing. Should anything be sensed underneath, it will reverse immediately. Superior encryption technology using rolling codes helps prevent piracy of your radio signal and keeps your home secure.
The DC motor on this belt-driven unit is backed up by a battery, allowing the unit to operate, even when the power is out. An on-board timer automatically closes the door, just in case you forget it. Read Full Review
ListMaster and Chamberlain are actually the same company, although they do market two separate lines of garage door openers. This is LiftMaster's top of the line unit, packed with features, as they say in the product's name. The DC motor is backed up by an onboard battery, allowing you to use the unit, even when the power goes out. It's belt drive, making it a quiet unit that won't disturb your family.
An on-board timer closes the door a pre-programmed number of minutes after it is opened for those times when you forget to close it yourself. Like the Genie unit, it has a lighted safety system, to reverse the motor is anything passes under the door while it is closing. It also comes with the same access system as the Chamberlain, allowing you to access the unit from your computer, tablet or smartphone. Additionally, both the motor and belt carry a lifetime warranty.
Sommer makes a unique unit, with the motor and drive gear mounted to the door. This makes it possible for this unit to raise a 1,000 pound door; quite impressive. Read Full Review
The Sommer unit is unique in that the motor and drive mount to the garage door, not to the track, producing much more force as the gear pulls the motor and door along the chain. In fact, this unit is rated as being able to lift doors that weigh as much as 1,000 pounds. The unit requires very little space and can be installed with only 1.5 inches of clearance and the motor is self-locking, preventing people from forcing it open. Rolling code technology keeps others from stealing your code and getting into your home. This unit is HomeLink compatible, allowing it to be controlled by your home's central controller.
For those who just want a simple garage door opener, try Craftsman. While this chain-drive unit may not have all the whistles and bells of some of the others, it does provide you with the same security features they do but in an inexpensive unit. Read Full Review
This unit is a little smaller than the others, with a 1/2 HP motor, limiting it for use with single-wide garage doors. It is a simpler unit, but also carries a lower price tag than the others we've looked at. Two wireless controllers come with the unit for use in your cars, as well as a wireless keypad for opening the garage door securely from outside your garage. The rail system is designed to be quick and easy to install, requiring minimal tools. A light beam protects your family and pets from having the garage door close on them. Like the other units, rolling codes are used to prevent others from picking up your code and getting into your home.