Garage door openers allow you to open and close a garage door remotely, without the effort of having to do it manually. The opener itself is an automatic mechanism that opens and closes the door using a radio signal from a remote control, meaning no more stretching up on your tip toes to open the door fully or trying to grab it to pull it shut.
There are a few different types of garage door openers, with each one operating in a slightly different way. The purpose of this article is to outline the different types of garage door openers available to buy for anyone currently researching these useful devices, to ensure you select the right one for your needs.
So how do garage door openers actually work?
In order to explain how garage door openers work, it’s useful to understand the different mechanical parts of a garage door itself:
- Rollers – help the garage door slide along as it opens and closes, ensuring a nice, quiet movement along the tracks.
- Tracks – There are three tracks within a garage door system – two at the door edges and one in the middle
- Chain, belt or screws – your garage door will comprise of either a chain, belt or screw system and is more commonly known as the drive operator, they work with the springs to raise and lower the door
- Curved door arm – the curved door arm attaches the door to the drive operator and moves it along the tracks
- Torsion spring – connected to the drums and cables and will either wind or unwind as the door raises or lowers. It is situated in the centre, just above the door
- Drums and cables – there are two drums that turn as the torsion spring winds and unwinds. The cables wrap around the drums and wind and unwind along with the torsion spring to open and close the door
Different types of garage door openers
There are six main types of garage door openers:
Chain drive opener
These are the least expensive door openers available and have a chain that connects the trolley to the motor and can be extremely loud due to the metal-on-metal contact and vibration.
Belt drive opener
Belt drive openers are a little more expensive and work using a rubber belt rather than a chain, making them much quieter and smooth in motion
Screw drive opener
With a screw drive opener, as the motor rotates, the trolley rides on a threaded steel rod. It is the noisiest of all garage door openers, but due to its simple construction is the easiest to install and maintain
Jackshaft drive opener
These are best for very large doors and are installed on the side of the door, leaving the ceiling free to use for overhead storage. More expensive than other types of openers, they work using a 24v DC motor that drives a pulley to raise the door
Direct drive opener
Similar in cost to belt-drive openers, a direct drive opener is an expensive investment but comes with a lifetime warranty and has only one moving part which is situated in the traveling motor carriage.
DC-powered garage door opener
The gold standard of garage door openers, they are faster, lighter, quicker, smoother, and quieter than other openers. DC motors get their power from batteries (or another source of power that provides continuous voltage) and they provide more speed, torque and control than their AC counterparts.
When selecting the right garage door opener for your garage, you’ll also need to make a decision about the horsepower you want – just like the car sitting in your garage, garage door openers are measured on horsepower.
In order to ensure your garage door opens and closes smoothly and efficiently, selecting the right horsepower is essential.
1/3 horsepower openers are amongst the cheapest available but really only perform well with very light garage doors, such as one made from steel. If you’re looking for a robust opener suitable for heavier garage doors, this is not the best option for you.
½ horsepower openers perform well and are a great ‘middle of the road’ option. Able to lift around 300lb of weight, these can lift relatively heavy single or fairly light double garage doors without too much effort.
Some garage doors can be extremely heavy and will need lots of horsepower to lift and close them. The ¾ horsepower opener can easily lift up to 600lb of weight and is, therefore, the best option for heavy single or double garage doors. As a rule, any door wider than 14 feet will need a ¾ horsepower garage door opener.
Staying safe with garage door openers
Automatic garage door openers can provide a huge amount of convenience, but they can also be a source of danger. To combat this, garage door openers are usually fitted with the following safety features which are designed to help keep you and your family safe:
- A set of lasers that sit on either side of your garage door opening, if something ‘breaks’ the laser, the motor will stop automatically – check these are still working every month or so by waving a broomstick in front of the lasers. If the opener doesn’t stop then the lasers must be investigated as they could be malfunctioning or moved out of alignment
- Automatic reverse function which will come into action if the garage door hits something, like a car – check this is still functioning by placing a piece of 2 x 2 wood in the way of the garage door coming down, if it doesn’t auto-reverse then you should consult a local professional for further advice
Smart garage door openers
We’re able to connect more and more of our home through the power of technology – lights can be switched on and off, kettles boiled, baths run, and fridges talk to us, all at the touch of a button.
And garage doors are no exception to this smart revolution! Can you imagine the luxury of pulling up to your garage door, it opens smoothly and efficiently ready for you to park, and as soon as you drive in the light switches on to welcome you? No more fumbling around in the dark looking for the light switch.
Smart technology enables you to schedule your garage door to open upon your arrival, all based on your GPS signal, and it will inform you if your garage door is left open or not. You can also integrate LED lighting and alarms for complete peace of mind.
3 great reasons you should invest in a garage door opener
If the information we’ve shared so far hasn’t yet convinced you that you need an automatic garage door opener in your life, then maybe the following three compelling reasons will:
Manual garage doors are heavy, clunky, and often quite difficult to open and close, particularly if you’re in any way vertically challenged! Difficulties opening and closing garage doors are one of the main reasons they get left open, and when they’re left open for any length of time (even just a couple of minutes) they become a target for the more unscrupulous members of society.
Being able to close your garage door at the touch of a button means you can easily keep your most precious stored items safe and secure.
It probably goes without saying (although we’re going to say it anyway) that garage door openers make life infinitely more convenient, especially when it’s freezing cold and chucking down with rain. No more fiddling with keys and having to heave open a heavy metal door, whilst your best suit gets soaking wet.
If you’re considering selling your house at any point in the future, a garage door opener is a really great and unique selling point that future buyers are going to love.
Garage door openers can offer a great deal of convenience and have been designed to make life easier, better, and more efficient. However, before rushing out to invest in one, it’s important that you research these devices and only choose one that’s right for your garage.
There are so many different types, makes, and models available it would be easy to pick up one that can’t lift the weight of your door or is too noisy for your liking. Hopefully, after reading our handy guide, you’ll now pick the right one, the first time.
Is a ¾ HP enough for a garage door opener?
A ¾ HP should be enough for the majority of garage doors. Whilst it’s likely to be the most expensive option, an opener with ¾ horsepower will be able to lift doors up to 600lb, and doors over 14 feet.
How much horsepower do I need for a 16-foot garage door?
A 16-foot garage door will require a ¾ horsepower garage door without too much strain. A ½ horsepower opener might be able to cope, but it will put a fair amount of strain on the motor and will probably be fairly noisy.
Is a belt or chain-driven garage door opener better?
If you’re being driven by price, then a chain-driven opener is going to be the best option for you. These are easily available and can be picked up fairly cheaply.
However, if you’re more interested in longevity, then a belt drive will last longer than a chain-driven opener. These are more expensive but will probably work out cheaper in the long term.