Choosing a Garage Door Opener: Three Considerations

My 30-year old garage door opener died, and I was sent to the home improvement store to find a new one. The choices were overwhelming, and the prices ranged from $150 to over $300. Charts with various product features tried to help me choose, but by the number of people standing around scratching their heads, I could tell they didn’t help much. But choosing the right automatic garage door opener can be as simple as keeping three important questions in mind.

1. What kind of opening mechanism do you need? Chain drives are the most common and least expensive, using chains like you would find on a bicycle. Chain drives are also the noisiest, and most suitable if your main living space is separate from the garage, or at least well insulated. Think twice about a chain-drive if there are children sleeping above or next to the garage, as using the door could wake them from even a deep sleep. Screw drives operate with a mechanical screw that eliminates clattering chains, but tend to be more expensive than the chain drive systems. Belt drive systems are the most expensive, using a heavy-duty belt to swiftly raise the door. The key to picking the opening mechanism, though, is easily determined by budget and how much noise you can tolerate.

2. Most garage door openers are manufactured with either a 1/2 hp motor or a 3/4 hp motor. The smaller, less expensive 1/2hp motor will do an adequate job opening standard one- and two-car sized garage doors. However, if your garage door is sized larger than average or features heavy reinforcement, you may need the larger size motor.

3. Do I need a keyless entry pad? If you regularly have guests, babysitters or other household workers who need access to your house, a keypad offers the security of allowing people temporary access to your home without the risk of loaning them a key that they might loose or copy. The codes to a keyless pad are easily changed. Some models even offer a temporary “guest code,” allowing you to keep your personal code and not worry about having to change that and accidentally forget it. Of course, if your garage does not connect directly to your home, a keypad is unnecessary.

These are the three most important considerations. However, as you shop, you will see several other features. The first three are the most important in selecting a system, but you need to be aware of a few more to help refine your choice.

1. Some garage door openers offer additional features that may be useful depending on your budget. A Battery Back-up in the motor allows the user to open the garage door with the opener even if the power is out. This may seem necessary unless you remember that all garage door openers feature a release device to open the garage door by hand in an emergency. The battery back-up is most useful for those who may not be able to lift large or heavy doors.

2. Another useful feature is the ability to “lock out” all remote garage door openers. If you will be away from your house for an extended period, locking out all openers will ensure that no one will be able to guess your keypad code or operate your garage door with a remote opener. This feature simply ensures another level of security if your budget allows it.

3. How many openers do I need? The final consideration is how many door openers you need. Having one for each car in your household is essential, though you may consider purchasing a kit with an additional opener. However, additional openers can generally be added to an existing system with little effort.

With the three main considerations in mind, you will be able to easily narrow down your affordable choices. Then you can compare those models for other features you may need. The last choice you will need to make is whether you want to tackle installing it yourself or to let the pros do it. Don’t plan on doing it yourself unless you are an inexperienced do-it-yourselfer or have a solid eight hours to spend in installation and troubleshooting.

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