Everything You Need To Know About A Garage Door Opener

Everything You Need To Know About A Garage Door Opener

When you ask someone what their ideal dream home would include, many people would say they want a two or three car garage among the list of other luxuries that they may not have in their current home.

First – Check Out The Infographic

Guide to garage door openers

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To get in the garage, you could always open it manually, however the garage door opener is almost an automatic feature and you would be hard pressed to find homes with a garage without one of these magical devices.

It wasn’t too long ago that you would have to open the door manually. Much like the automobile, the garage door opener didn’t come into existence until the 1900s.

Garage door opener.

In this article, we are going to talk about a variety of topics that would be helpful to know if you ever think about upgrading or replacing your current opener.

History Of The Garage Door Opener

The concept of a garage isn’t a modern idea. In fact, the first method of storing vehicles were apparent back in the 18th and 19th centuries when a carriage house was used to store the carriage.

At the time, these carriage houses weren’t attached to the house and they were usually somewhere on the property, which meant that if you didn’t have a driver, you would have to walk from the carriage house to your home. And these carriage houses weren’t anything fancy—they were basically barns with dirt floors simplistic walls, and simple gates that acted as doors.

Fast forward to when the Ford Model-T was massed produced. People didn’t have anywhere to safely store their vehicle, so they basically parked it wherever they found a safe place to do so. It took 13 years before the very first incarnation of the garage came into existence.

Mr. C.G. Johnson saw that there was a need for a storage space for such a large object and he created a sectional overhead door to enclose the storage space.

This innovative door proved to be a popular item and Johnson’s Overhead Door Company created the electric garage door opener to their product line up in 1926. These early garage doors were able to be opened remotely, but they needed to be wired to the actual device. There was a keypad on a post outside of the garage and another switch inside.

Old-fashioned garage door opener.

Though these were invented in the early 1900s, they didn’t become a staple in homes until much later. Popular Science released an issue in 1931 that detailed how two separate groups came up with the innovative idea to have a radio-controlled opener. Both of these remotes would be built into the actual car.

One remote used an innovative pulse system, while the other used white noise set at the correct frequency that would activate the device. It was the code-pulse system that proved to be the safest option because it would stop the door the moment something got in the way of that pulsing.

Why Do I Need A Garage Door Opener?

You may be wondering to yourself why do you need a garage door opener when you are perfectly capable of opening the garage door yourself. While we aren’t doubting how strong you may or may not be, a modern opener is more for your safety and security.

As time progressed, the garage door became more advanced and intricate. Instead of being made from wood, the 1970s featured doors being made from steel, aluminum, fiberglass, and other materials that were more durable.

Today, you can find garage doors made from a wide variety of materials including glass, composite materials with synthetic insulation, and the aforementioned materials. With these new garage doors, you saw an improvement of the door openers as well. In the 70s, they used a binary switch combination that used 8 to 12 switches.

These switches created numerous combinations that would make it incredibly difficult for criminals to break through the garage at the time.

As technology advanced, so did the determined-mindedness of criminals. Though many garage door openers featured locks, criminals would hack their way into the security systems.

This is why whenever the remote control is used by the owner, a new security code is created by the system. These security features will help keep you and your family safe from break-ins, regardless if you are at home or away.

Closed garage door, outside view.

Not only are the openers for your protection, they are just a nice convenience to have. Just imagine having to get out of your car to open the garage door in the middle of a blizzard or a heavy rain storm. You’re not going to like it at all and will be cursing mother nature inconvenience!

Other than safety, security, and convenience, other benefits of these openers include:

Extra Lighting

Most garage door openers include a light that will come on so you can see where you are walking in the garage.

Automatic Closing

If you or someone in your family is forgetful or in a rush, you could forget to close the garage door, which is neither good for safety or your security. Many openers have a setting where it will close the garage door after a period of time.

Requires Little Energy

You may be under the impression that since these devices use electricity, your energy bill is going to skyrocket. That isn’t the case. In fact, they don’t require a lot of energy to function so they are worth the initial investment.

Technology

Garage Door Opener over Smartphone

When you go to sell your home and you have an automatic garage door opener, you will be able to ask for a little more money than if potential buyers had to open the heavy door manually.

Also, many garage door openers can be controlled through your smart phone, which is an additional convenience so you don’t have to carry a bulky remote on your keys.

Maintenance

When you follow the manufacturer’s instructions, you can be certain that your device is going to last for many years.

Cost

Although there are many useful and innovative features that will keep your family safe, these devices are relatively affordable.

Peace Of Mind

If ever you are in a situation where you cannot manually open the garage door yourself, you can breathe easy knowing that you can just press a button and it will open for you. This is a blessing for those who are unable to lift heavy objects or have a narrow range of movement.

Different Types Of Garage Door Openers

When you are looking for a garage door opener, you may have noticed that there are more than one type of opener. In this section, we are going to talk about the different types so you can have an idea of what type will work best for your home.

Chain Drive

Chain drive door openers work like a bike chain. They push (or pull) a carriage along a metal bar called a J-Arm.

This bar is attached to the garage door. These are reliable openers and they tend to more affordable than other options.

Though they are reliable, they are noisy. This can be a problem if you have a bedroom over the garage.

Chain drive garage door opener.

However, if your garage isn’t attached to the house or there is no living space above it, it isn’t going to be an issue.

Belt Drive

A belt drive opener works much like a chain drive model except that instead of a chain, it uses a notched rubber belt that is going to move the carriage.

These are equally as reliable as the chain option, but they are going to be much quieter. The trade-off for these reduction in noise is that it is going to cost a bit more money than the other unit.

Screw Drive

This type of overhead garage door opener uses a threaded steel rod to move the trolley. This design has fewer moving parts and manufacturer’s claim that they require less maintenance than other devices.

These openers do have some trouble in locations where there is a large temperature difference from summer to winter. Also, these tend to be noisier than belt drive openers and they are often much slower to open/close.

We do want to mention that in recent years, manufacturers have made great strides in improving the temperature sensitivity, the speed, and the noisiness of these units.

Jackshaft

The jackshaft opener is a side mount garage door opener that attaches to the wall next to the garage door. These units use a 24v DC motor that will sets the pulleys and cables into motion that will turn the torsion bar, which then raises the garage door.

Jackshaft Garagedoor

As you would assume, when you want to close the door, the cables are loosened and the door will lower. These are good options for garages that are short on space and you want to use the overhead space for storage.

Direct Drive

These units are considered to be the most quiet opener on the market because there is just one part that moves. These types of openers were developed in Germany and they feature a design where the motor runs along a stationary chain that is attached to a rail on the ceiling of the garage. With the traditional design, the motor is stationary.

However, with this design, the motor is what moves. Although these seem more advanced, they are typically priced the same as a belt drive opener.

Battery Backup

Most modern garage door openers will feature a battery backup system.

This system will allow you to get in or out of your garage without any problems if your electricity goes out for whatever reason.

Depending on the make and model, the batteries for the system (which is located in the housing for the motor) will last 2 to 3 days, depending on use and other features like lighting, safety and garage door security features.

Garage door opener battery pack.

AC Vs DC Motors

Older openers used to run on an AC motor, however newer models will use a DC motor. DC motors are usually preferred because they are quieter, smaller, faster, and lighter, but they also operate more efficiently and smoother than an AC motor.

Do be mindful that if you have a DC motor with brushes, it isn’t going to have the same life expectancy as an AC motor. If your DC motor is brushless, then you are good.

Garage Door Safety

Like with anything new that you install in your home, you’re going to want to make sure that it is going to be safe to use. There have been laws set in place that require garage door manufacturers to create safety measures to keep their consumers safe while using their products.

In 1982, there was an industry standard created voluntarily that required there be a reversing mechanism on the door. This mechanism is supposed to stop the opener from continuing to lower the door if there is something obstructing the way.

Under US federal law (UL 325), all manufacturers who make garage doors for the country since 1993 have to include a secondary reversing system, such as an invisible beam of light that goes across the opening of the garage, or a photoelectric eye that is six inches above the ground, or an electric safety edge that is mounted to the bottom of the door which will cause the door to go back up if something touches it.

To test the safety reverse of your garage door opener, make sure the door is open completely. Then place a piece of wood flat on the ground in the middle of the entry way. Then press the button for the door to go down. When the door touches the piece of wood, it should stop immediately and start going back up.

Garage door opener safety sensor.

To test the photoelectric eye, make sure your door is completely open. Then it the button to make the door come down. Use a stick to cross the path of the photoelectric eye sensors. When the eyes are working properly, the second there is something crossing the sensor, it should stop the door and make it go back up.

If you do experience any safety concerns or malfunctions, contact the manufacturer immediately.

How To Install A Garage Door Opener

Installing a garage door opener may seem like a big task that is going to be hard to do. The truth is, it isn’t that difficult. To install the opener, follow these tips (of course, always consult the instruction booklet that comes with your particular device):

Tip 1: Check the door to make sure all the working parts are functional. This includes looking for broken springs and being aware of how the door opens. Look for broken or wobbling rollers and brackets. These will need a professional to fix them, but it’ll be worth it.

Tip 2: Test the balance of the door. Open your door halfway and let it go. If your door is able to go up and down on its own, then that means the torsion spring needs adjustment, otherwise your opener is going to work harder and you’ll need to fix it sooner.

Tip 3: Choose the correct opener. If you have a double door, you’ll want a 1/2 hp motor. If your door is made from wood or has a faux wood overlay, opt for a 3/4 hp motor. You will then want to choose the type of opener (chain, belt, screw, etc.). 

The type of opener you choose will depend on what is over the garage. If there is a living space above it, you’ll want a quiet device like a belt drive.

Tip 4: Position the opener on a ladder so that you can install it easier. The ladder will help you bring the opener up to the height that you need to install it. You’ll then want to align the rail for the opener with the center of your garage door. Make sure you follow the manufacturer’s instructions for precise directions.

Tip 5: Purchase a heavy duty angle iron instead of using the weak strap that usually comes with the openers. When you have a solid mount system, you are going to get less vibration when it is in motion and it’ll last longer.

Tip 6: Replace all the components from the old opener. You may be tempted to use old parts, but they are not designed to work with your new unit and you could mess up the way the new opener functions.

Garage door opener replacement.

Tip 7: Check the force of the door when it opens. You can do this by resting your foot on the bottom of the door and hit the button that will open the door. You should be able to apply just a little pressure to the door and it will stop. If it doesn’t stop and continues to open, you will have to adjust the opening force.

Tip 8: To adjust the opening and closing force, you will want to do that by adjusting the screws that control the force. Sometimes, all you need is an 1/8 inch turn and it will work perfectly.

Tip 9: Install light bulbs that can handle vibration. These bulbs are usually labeled “rough service” bulbs. With these, they aren’t going to exceed the wattage that is listed on the opener. Be mindful to never put LED or CFL bulbs in the unit because they aren’t designed to handle vibration, but also because they could interfere with the frequency of the remotes.

For Maintenance

  • To ensure the life of your garage door opener the most important thing you could do is to listen to it as it is moving. Look to make sure the door moves smoothly on the tracks and it is quiet. If it grinds or snaps, there is something wrong.
  • Over time, the hardware on your door may become loose. You’ll want to make sure the roller brackets and the bolts with a socket wrench so that it is good and tight.
  • Test the balance of the door to ensure that it isn’t working too hard. You will want to disconnect the opener by pulling on the red cord (or the release handle) and manually move the door until it is half way open. If it doesn’t stay in place, it isn’t balanced. If this is the case, it will have to be balanced by a professional.
  • Inspect the rollers, be they steel or nylon, at least twice a year. They should be replaced every six or seven years, sometimes sooner if you use the garage doors frequently.
  • Replace the weather stripping (the rubber seal on the bottom of the door) if you notice that it is brittle or cracked. This is going to help keep the elements out of your garage.
  • Make sure all moving parts are lubricated to ensure that they glide smoothly on the track.

Conclusion

Owning a home is something people dream about, but owning a garage (especially a two car garage!) is something that can be seen as a sign that you are a successful adult. With these garage doors, you don’t have to worry about getting in and out of the car to open the garage door manually.

Opened garage door.

This is especially useful when the weather is less than pleasant (rain and snowstorms, we’re looking at you!). All you have to do is press a button on the remote or use the app on your smartphone and you can come and go as you please.

If you’re interested in upgrading your garage door opener but you aren’t sure what to look for, check out our buyer’s guide for some of the top rated garage door openers currently on the market.

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