Everything to Know About Garage Door Openers

On average, residential garage doors are opened and closed at least 1,500 times per year. Considering how most doors rise from the ground at seven inches per second, the mechanisms that run a garage door opener are crucial to the functionality of a home.

double garage door

Consequently, a broken garage door opener can be a major problem in need of immediate repair. The following article covers the various things you need to know when you seek out a garage door opener replacement service.

Different Types of Garage Door Openers

Choosing the right garage door openers for your needs and budget requires careful evaluation of multiple factors. You’ll need to select the appropriate drive, which is the mechanism that controls the door’s function. You’ll also want to assess the various control and operational devices available, such as LED lighting and battery backup systems, that enable you to use the door safely during power outages.

Another area you’ll want to explore is whether you want an opener equipped with smart technology, which enables you to operate and control your garage door remotely via your smartphone or tablet.

While there are four basic types of garage door openers, all have one thing in common — they all consist of a motor that moves a trolley. The trolley, in turn, is connected to the door. When the trolley is activated, it causes the door to move up or down. The main difference between the four garage door types is the driving utility. Simply put, some openers run on chains, while others use belts or threaded parts.

Here’s a look at the different types of garage door openers:

Chain Drive

LiftMaster chain drive garage door opener

On a chain-driven garage door opener, a metal chain drives the trolley that elevates and lowers the door. Of all the different types of garage door openers, the chain drive option is generally the lowest priced, making it a popular choice among many homeowners. However, chain drive openers can also be noisy due to the movements of the chain. Therefore, chain drive openers can be an inconvenience for noise-sensitive people. Basically, the chain drive is known to be:

  • Inexpensive
  • Noisy

Chain drives are best for properties where the garage is detached from the house. If you live in a home where the garage is situated directly under a bedroom or living area, you’re probably better off with one of the other options.

Belt Drive

LiftMaster belt drive garage door opener

On a belt-driven garage door opener, a rubber belt is used to slide the trolley when the door is activated to open or close. Since the trolley moves over rubber instead of metal, the motions are smoother and quieter. Likewise, a door that runs on a belt drive will produce less vibrations than a door that opens and shuts via chains. Thanks to the reduced number of moving parts, belt drives require less frequent maintenance than chain drives. Essentially, belt drive openers are ideal because they’re:

  • Quiet
  • Low Maintenance

Belt drive openers are good for any type of house, but they’re especially recommended for homes that feature a garage directly below or beside a bedroom or living area.

Screw Drive

3 car garage doors

On a screw-driven garage door opener, a threaded steel rod is responsible for the movement of the trolley, which lifts and lowers as the rod rotates. As with the belt drive, a screw drive consists of fewer moving parts, which means fewer problems over the long run. Screw drive openers are also smoother and quieter than chain drives. Like the belt drive, the screw drive opener is known to be:

  • Quiet
  • Low Maintenance

Also, like belt drives, screw drive openers are ideal for all types of houses. On any property where the living and sleeping quarters are adjacent to the garage, screw drive openers are an especially good option due to the vibration-free smoothness and overall quietness of the whole operation.

Direct Drive

2 car garage

A direct drive opener is the least complicated of all opener types simply because the motor itself is what moves the trolley. Therefore, there’s no belt, chain or threaded piece in the whole operation. Not only does this simplify the process of moving a garage door up and down, but it also results in a smooth, quiet operation that rarely requires maintenance. As such, the direct drive opener is a good option for properties of any size or layout.

The Importance of Horsepower for a Garage Door

Horsepower (HP) is the driving force behind the up and down movements of a garage door. The size and weight of the door can be used to determine the necessary level of horsepower for a particular garage unit. For garage openers, horsepower ratings typically range from 1/3 on smaller, cheaper models to 1 1/2 on higher-end systems. The correlation between HP ratings and door sizes generally works as follows:

  • 1/3 HP. A single-car garage door can generally operate on 1/3 horsepower. However, a slightly higher HP will mean usually result in less strain on the opener.
  • 1/2 HP. On homes with dual-vehicle, sectional-door garage units, 1/2 HP will usually provide sufficient power for regular opening and closing functions.
  • 3/4 — 1 1/2 HP. On larger homes that feature more high-tech garage door openers, horsepower at or above 3/4 is often recommended, especially if the door is used more frequently than average.

The motor of a garage door will run on one of two currents — alternating current (AC) or direct current (DC). The latter is generally the preferable option because DC-powered garage door openers can turn AC into DC power. Moreover, DC motors are smaller in size, as well as smoother and quieter in terms of performance.

Besides the size and weight of the door, consider whether any additional components will increase the strain on the motor and demand more horsepower. Over time the springs may relax, increasing the weight the motor has to move.

Life span is another determining factor when assessing your horsepower needs. If you select an opener with a low rating, you’re more likely to burn out the motor faster and need to replace the device sooner, which is inconvenient and increases your ownership costs.

The Features of a Garage Door Opener

During the course of a garage door opener installation, there is an assortment of features you’ll see. Some of these features could be considered essential and are, therefore, included with most openers.

garage door opener remote

Other features are generally considered nice to have rather than necessary, so they are only included by request. For modern homeowners, most of the following features can make a garage door opener more convenient in numerous ways:

  • Remotes. One of the most convenient things about an electric-operated garage door is that you can activate its movements via remote control. Garage doors are generally controlled via wall-mount buttons or keypads, where you enter a private code that activates the door to open or close. There’s also usually a remote to allow opening and closing from the inside. Additionally, most homeowners use handheld remotes to activate the door externally. Most wall mounts are compatible with single as well as multiple garage door units.
  • Manual release. There might be times when you want to raise and lower the garage door manually rather than via remote control. For times like these, there’s the manual release feature, which allows you to disengage the door from its electric mechanisms. This way, you can raise the door to whichever height you need it to be at any given time. For example, if you’re doing work inside your garage that calls for ventilation, the manual release button can allow you to raise the door a couple feet off the ground.
  • Security light. Whether you’re coming or going, it’s good to have light from overhead as you walk or drive your vehicle through an open garage door. For added convenience, modern garage doors are usually installed with security lights that automatically power on whenever the door is activated. This way, you can easily see your way inside when pulling your car into the garage after dark. Unlike regular garage lights, the security light will also power off after a few minutes of inactivity.
  • Rail segments. The parts of a garage door that comprise its driving functions are attached at a 90-degree angle between the door and the garage ceiling. Most garage door openers include rail segments that fit doors with heights of seven feet. Rail segments generally last for a number of years – as long as corrosion or mishandling doesn’t occur.
  • Keychain remote. For remote activation of your garage door from your car or from inside your house, most door openers come with miniature remote devices that can fit into your keychain. When you’re pulling into your driveway, you don’t have to hop out of your car to activate the door — you can use the control attached to your keychain instead. If you don’t enjoy waiting for your garage door to go up, you can even prompt the door to open up from down the block.

garage door opener

  • Home automation system. Modern homeowners are increasingly adopting home automation systems, which allow you to control a multitude of prompts, including the garage door, simply by voicing a request. This way, if your kids have been out playing and you want to let them enter the house through the garage door, you could simply say something like, “Alexa, open the garage door,” and the door will open.
  • Wi-Fi integration. Another feature that can be added to many of the newer opening systems is Wi-Fi, which makes it possible to control a garage door from anywhere with just a touch of the screen on your smartphone or tablet. Arguably, this is better than a home automation system because Wi-Fi allows you to control and monitor things from anywhere. You don’t even have to be within a certain radius of your property to make this work. If you’re at work and want to check on the status of the door, you can access that information on a mobile app.

wi-fi symbol

  • Vehicle compatibility. Certain newer cars are being manufactured with built-in smart technology. As such, these vehicles operate much like smart homes, where lights and doors can be activated by simple touch prompts or voice commands. When you have the prompts for your garage door integrated with the smart technology of a vehicle, you don’t even need a keychain remote because door activation can be prompted from the smart system within your car.
  • Auto-close. An auto-close function allows you to pre-program your garage door to be lowered at a certain time, be it five, 10, or 30 minutes later. For example, on hotter days, you might keep your garage door open for a select period of time after you’ve parked and gone inside.
  • Soft-activation motors. If you are concerned about the wear that garage door openers endure over time, a soft motor can make operations easier. With a soft-start/stop motor, the door activates with less noise or vibration, which results in less wear and tear as the years go by. As is usually the case, a soft-activation motor can make your garage door last longer and ultimately require less maintenance over time.
  • Battery backup. When power lines go down, the experience is more than annoying. When you consider all the electrically powered equipment in your house, a blackout can be a scary prospect. With a battery backup to your garage door opener, you don’t have to worry about the door becoming inoperable if and when the power goes out. If a storm hits your area and a power failure occurs when your door is only half-lowered, the battery backup will complete the closing function. Many of the LiftMaster garage door products we offer include built-in battery technology featuring advanced power management systems and powerful batteries you can trust during emergencies. They will prevent you from having to lift a heavy garage door by hand, reducing the risk of injury.
  • LED lights. On certain remote control units, LED lights will activate when problems arise with your garage opener. This allows you to stay on top of any maintenance issues that might develop with the system. Therefore, instead of being caught off guard by failing mechanisms, the problem can be remedied at an early stage – before any damage or repair costs spiral out of hand.
  • Rail extension. If you live in a taller-than-average house, an extension can be added to the rail segment that will extend up to eight inches off the ground. This way, a larger garage door is no problem at all. A rail extension can be useful if your house features high walls in the garage, too.
  • Jackshaft operators. Designed for use in residential and industrial garages, jackshaft operators work on rolling grilles, doors, and shutters. Produced in light, medium and heavy models, the jackshaft operator can be installed by means of wall mounting, shelf mounting or bracket mounting, preferably just below the door shaft. The jackshaft can be placed on either side of the door, where it allows for maximum headroom. Jackshaft operators are ideal for large garages and for garages where conventional installations would be difficult. These side-mounted openers offer numerous benefits. It won’t obstruct the ceiling, which opens up more overhead room for larger vehicles. You also won’t need to install rails. Maintenance is a breeze, and the side location eliminates worries about lubricant dripping on your vehicles. Finally, you will have more storage space in your garage, which is advantageous for many homeowners. 

Safety Features on Garage Doors

With all the advances in garage opener technology, you can get a newly improved system with your next garage door opener replacement. Essential features for any new garage door include motion/object detectors and advanced locking protocols:

  • Motion sensors. As the heaviest moving part of your house, the garage door can be dangerous if it lacks motion sensors, which detect when objects pass under the door. That way, you don’t have to worry about the garage door being lowered accidentally onto the hood of your car because the sensor will detect the presence of the vehicle and suspend all motion. More importantly, a motion sensor will protect small children and pets from the dangers of a closing garage door. The functions of a motion sensor are simple. When the door is raised, a laser scans the ground exactly where the door would stand in the closed position. If anyone or anything crosses that path, the motion sensor will activate and stop the door from moving further. Therefore, if a child or dog runs across the door’s path just as the door is closing, the door halts its decline so no one gets injured and nothing gets damaged.
  • Locks. Remotes are a convenient thing to have on hand, until you lose them. Whether a miniature remote device slips from your pocket or gets stolen by a stranger, the locking feature of modern garage doors allows you to prevent a missing remote from being used to gain entry into your house. The locking feature will disable whichever access code has been programmed into your remote and can help keep your house safe from potential burglars.
  • Rolling code technology. Recent advances in coding technology have made it possible to program garage door openers with rolling codes, which change from one code to another every few seconds. This way, the code within your key fob is fresh every time you use it. This prevents thieves from hacking your fob and gaining access to your house through the garage door.
  • Reset features: You can also reset the opener’s code manually. If you have a newer model, the process involves pressing and holding the “learn” button on the central unit, which deletes the old code. You can then test the opener via a handheld remote or another device. An older opener may require using a set of switches located on the central unit and remote.
  • Force guard control. If garage door safety and preservation are more important to you than speed, force guard control will slow the door’s movement down to a minimum of force. This means the door uses less energy to raise and lower, and the door also impacts the ground with less force. This can help ease wear and tear along the rail segments and minimize the brunt the door might otherwise face through daily usage over a given span of years.
  • Vacation settings. When you’re away from home for days or weeks, it’s good to have the peace of mind in knowing that your garage door is secure. On modern garage door openers, certain settings can ensure the door is locked completely, without exceptions, for the duration of your absence. This renders it impossible for burglars to gain entrance into your home with stolen remotes or hacked codes because all sensors are deactivated while you’re away.

modern wood garage door

As a further act of precaution, a zip tie can boost the security of the garage door handle. This can prevent thieves from opening your garage door with coat hangers, which could otherwise compromise a door lock within seconds.

When Is It Time to Change the Opener?

Like many mechanical objects, a garage door opener will start to experience issues before it fails. Examples of the warning signs to watch for include:

  • Slower movement and eventual detachment
  • Loud/unusual noises during operation
  • Random garage door opening and closing
  • Vibrations
  • Garage security issues

Why you Should Hire a Professional for Garage Door Opener Installation

Whether you’re a first-time garage owner or you’re having a broken garage door opener replaced, the installation of an opener can be a huge undertaking. Therefore, it’s important to know what you might be getting into if you consider doing a garage door opener replacement or installation yourself.

That said, it’s always best to hire a professional — someone with experience in handling and testing opener systems — to handle the installation work for you. Here’s why:

  • The DIY approach. A residential garage door can weigh as much as 600 pounds, making it crucial to have sufficient manpower to get a door standing properly and synchronized with the tracks. Furthermore, the alignment of rail segments can also involve complicated handy work.

Hypothetically, the only way to successfully carry out an installation as a novice would be to read the instructions thoroughly, several times over, and then take each step slowly with constant double-checking.

professional garage door opener repair

Realistically, unless you’re an experienced handyman who easily adapts to various home improvement projects, garage door opener installation work is best left to the professionals.

  • The pro approach. The professionals who perform garage door opener repairs and installations on a daily basis know everything there is to know about the fitting and setting of new openers in garage units of all sizes. Whether you request the installation of a single or double-door, seven-foot, or eight-foot opener, they have the proper equipment as well as the experience to safely and correctly install your garage door opener.

Hire Custom Door & Gate for Garage Door Opener Repairs and Replacement Work

The garage door is the largest and often the most vulnerable entrance to a residential home. When you’re dealing with a broken garage door opener, it’s best to have the matter fixed as soon as possible. In North Carolina, residents have long relied on the garage door opener replacement and repair services of Custom Door & Gate.

inside of garage

With over 25 years of experience handling garage door opener installation work, our team has placed new openers into garage units of all sizes. To learn more about what we can do for your garage, contact us today.