If you’ve sat in your car in the pouring rain or driving snow, wishing the garage door would open by itself, now’s the time to get that garage door opener you’ve been promising yourself. You certainly wouldn’t be alone: An estimated three million people buy garage door openers annually. They’re a hot item, and that means you have a number of brands, styles, prices and features to choose from. Pronto’s Garage Door Opener Buying Guide will give you all the information you need to make a choice you’ll be happy with for years to come.
There are three types of garage door opener drive systems: chain drive, generally the cheapest and noisiest; screw drive, generally mid-priced but still subject to metal-on-metal noise; and belt drive, the most expensive but the quietest. Note that all three can be modified to run more quietly.
Power refers to both the size of the garage door opener’s motor and the type of power used to run the motor. Motors come in 3 sizes: 1/3 Hp, good for single garage doors; 1/2 Hp, preferred for double doors; and 3/4 Hp for unusually large or heavy doors. “Soft” stopping and starting reduces noise. DC-powered garage door openers use less electricity and may include battery backup for power outages.
The U.S. government requires that all garage door openers sold today be able to stop a closing garage door and reverse its course whenever it meets an obstacle in its path. Look for a garage door opener with a pressure sensor that mounts on the door and a manual release feature that allows you to open the door if the power fails.
Garage door openers incorporate a system of rolling codes, meaning that each time the opener is activated, the code changes. This prevents code theft and accidental opening by neighbors or passersby. Look for a timer function that will lock the garage door and disable the remotes while you’re away for extended periods of time.
Remote controls can have one button for opening and closing the door, or multiple buttons for operating several doors or turning on lights. Keypads allow access to children and visitors and let you back in if you forget or lose your remote. Consider fixed controls with a delay feature that will let you get out of the garage without running past a descending door.
A garage door opener system that uses flexible rubber belts to raise and lower the door. This is the most expensive choice but also offers the quietest operation.
A system that uses a chain traveling through a motorized gear to open and close the garage door. Although inexpensive, the heavy contact of metal on metal makes these the loudest garage door openers.
A feature on a garage door opener’s fixed controls that gives you a few seconds to enter or leave before the door starts to descend.
A garage door opener control that is mounted on an interior or exterior wall. Fixed controls may include keypads or additional functions that control garage or home lights.
A digital, alphanumeric garage door opener control mounted outside the home that lets you provide secure access for children or visitors through a programmed security code.
A feature that resets the operating code each time a garage door opener is used. This prevents code theft and stops your door from operating when neighbors use their garage door openers.
A garage door opener that uses a threaded metal rod to raise and lower the door. These drives can be modified for quieter operation, but they typically create more noise than belt drives.
A feature that slows the motor of a garage door opener at the beginning and end of opening or closing, eliminating the “bang” sounds that occur when garage doors are used.
The first feature of a garage door opener, and the one in which you have the most individual choice, is the drive system. This is the mechanism that raises and lowers the garage door. Most new garage door openers have one of three types of drive systems: chain drive, screw drive, or belt drive.
Belt Drive-Belt-drive garage door openers use flexible rubber belts to raise and lower the door. These belts reduce vibrations and eliminate metal-on-metal noise. Belt drives are usually the most expensive of the three choices, but also the quietest.
Chain Drive-Garage door openers with chain drives use a metal chain to raise and lower the door. They are the least expensive and most common of the three drives, but also the noisiest.
Screw Drive -A screw drive raises and lowers the garage door using a lifting mechanism that moves along a threaded steel rod. Screw drives have few moving parts, therefore they require the least maintenance of the three drive types. Many of these garage door openers come with a plastic-lined track to reduce the noise produced by metal-on-metal contact.
Noise, or lack thereof, is a feature of each of the three garage door opener systems. If quiet is important to you—there is a bedroom above or adjacent to your garage—you should choose a garage door opener with a belt drive or look for a unit with a vibration isolation system (VIS) to reduce noise.
The second feature to consider in a garage door opener is power, in terms of both the size of the motor and the type of electrical current that runs it. Your choice of motor size is partly dictated by physical constraints such as the size and composition of your garage door. The bigger or heavier the door, the more power that’s required to open it.
The three standard garage door opener motor sizes are 1/3 horsepower (Hp), 1/2 Hp and 3/4 Hp. A garage door opener with 1/3 Hp usually works for a single garage door, while a 1/2 Hp motor will open a double door. Oversized doors might require a 3/4 Hp motor, but this size is usually required only for commercial facilities. It’s a good idea to get a garage door opener that’s a little more powerful than you need. This saves energy because the garage door opener doesn’t work quite as hard, and it can also prolong the life of the motor.
Motors on most garage door openers raise the door at a standard speed of seven inches per second. Some higher-end units include a motor that can raise the door faster, but for safety, all garage door openers close the door at the same slower speed.
Some higher-end garage door openers have a feature usually referred to as “soft” starting and stopping. The motor runs more slowly at the beginning and end of a cycle, allowing the door to start gradually, reach full speed, and slow down again just before stopping. This eliminates the “bang” usually associated with the starting and stopping of the door, allowing for quieter operation.
Lastly, some higher-end garage door openers operate on direct current (DC). DC motors are quieter and use less electricity than standard alternating current (AC).
U.S. laws require that all new garage door openers stop closing the door and reverse direction when encountering an obstacle in its path. This is frequently controlled by an electronic beam that, when broken, triggers this safety mechanism. Better garage door openers include an additional sensor that attaches to the door and stops it if it comes in contact with something that has eluded the electronic beam.
Another safety feature of new garage door openers is a manual release that allows the door to be opened in the event of a power failure. DC-powered garage door openers may also include battery backup, a nice feature in areas prone to electrical outages.
All garage door openers today use a system of rolling codes, meaning that every time the door is opened or closed the system generates a new code. This prevents the theft of your code and stops your door from opening if your neighbors open theirs. A good security feature to consider is a timer control that lets you lock the garage door and disable the remotes for a period of time, such as a vacation.
Most garage door openers now incorporate a security light into the ceiling motor unit. This light comes on whenever the garage door opener is activated and usually stays on for a short period of time thereafter to allow you to get out of your car and into the house.
The remote control is the big reason you’re buying your garage door opener, but there are fixed controls too. A remote control can have one or several buttons. A single button operates the door; multiple buttons can operate several doors or turn on lights.
Fixed control units are usually mounted on a wall inside or outside of the garage. Keyless entry pads outside allow you to program a code to open your garage door. This is useful if you forget your remote, or if you have children or others who need to gain access to your house in your absence.
Some garage door openers include a delay feature that allows you to close the door and exit the garage without having to run and dive between the electronic beam and the descending door.
Not all garage door opener packages offer the full variety of controls, so be sure the ones you want are included before you buy. If not, consider moving on to another unit or plan to buy them as accessories later.
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