Garage door openers are motorized devices that open and close overhead doors. Generally, they are operated by a permanently mounted switch or a portable remote control. Some new installations are even equipped with wi-fi connectivity for use with automation systems and very remote operation.
On average, garage door openers in residential applications are opened-and-closed about 1,500 times per year. In commercial applications, the number can be much higher. Knowing this, a high quality, reliable garage door opener in any installation is a must. Each installation has its own requirements for cost, maintenance and noise and there are a variety of openers available to suit each application. It is also important to understand the weight of the overhead door involved and choose an appropriate power rating when selecting a new garage door opener.
Types of Garage Door Openers
There are several different types of garage door openers available on the market today, that can be grouped into 4 basic categories. Although there are notable differences, and some may suit specific applications better than others, all of them serve the same basic function of transferring power from a motor to a trolley, which in turns moves an overhead door. Below is a brief overview of each category.
Chain drive garage door openers have been around for a long time. They work by using a metal chain drive system to transfer power from the motor to the trolley. They are usually the least expensive choice, but also generate the greatest amount of noise.
Similar to chain drive garage door openers, belt driven openers use a rubber belt to transfer power from the motor. Because of this, they are generally much quieter than chain drive openers. The rubber belt system also has fewer moving parts than the metal chain drive system, so while the upfront investment may be higher by comparison, the maintenance cost is often lower.
Screw drive openers use a linear screw – a threaded rod that the that turns in place with the trolley attached to it. Screw drive systems, like belt drive systems, are generally considered to be quieter than chain drive systems. Similarly, they also have fewer moving parts and can generally be expected to have lower maintenance cost than chain drive systems, though the upfront cost is often higher than that of belt drive systems.
Unlike the other types of garage door openers mentioned, direct drive openers do not rely on a chain, belt, or screw drive system to transfer power from the motor. In these units, the motor directly powers the trolley. Direct drive openers have even quieter operation than previously mentioned categories, and the fewest moving parts, making unplanned maintenance a rare occasion.
A quick search on the internet may result in the idea that installation of a typical garage door opener will take somewhere between 4 and 6 hours. If everything goes as planned, this figure is reasonably accurate. If there are mishaps and problems during the installation, it could take much longer than that to complete. Although there is a wealth of available information and online videos detailing the installation of garage door openers, the process can be a tremendous undertaking and installation by a qualified professional should be considered.
Overhead doors normally weigh several hundred pounds, and if the opener is not properly installed, there may be a risk of all that weight crashing down without warning. Installing a garage door opener requires precise alignment of the motor to the drivetrain and trolley – and especially due to the fact that most of the work being done is overhead, it is not an easy task for one person.
If a new garage door opener is replacing an older one from the same category, the installation may be a little bit easier because some of the existing drivetrain may be able to be re-used. If not, for example, if upgrading from a chain drive opener to a screw drive opener, installing the garage door opener is likely to require installing a new drive train system as well. This requires a significant amount of additional time and effort – as well as invites more opportunity for error.
When installing a replacement garage door opener, the rest of the garage door system should be checked as well. Make sure to check the existing tracks, springs, and torsion cables for any wear or damage (or have them checked by a professional) and check that manual operation of the door is smooth before connecting it to a motorized opener.
Also note, when replacing a garage door opener, it is a good idea to replace all of the associated components (everything that comes in the box with the garage door opener). Although it may reduce the time and effort required to install the new opener, re-using these items from a previous system is likely to cause problems down the road. It is also a good idea to install light bulbs in the garage door opener that are rated for handling vibration. Even the smoothest garage door openers generate quite a bit of motion and vibration, and sensitive light bulbs will not last long in this environment.
After successfully installing and aligning a new garage door opener, any remote controls that were not included with the system will probably need to be programmed to work with the new opener (remotes for residential systems that are built-in to cars, keypad openers, etc.); instructions for programming these devices should be provided by the companies that manufactured them, not necessarily the same company as the new garage door opener. The opening and closing force of the new garage door opener is also likely to require some adjustment and fine tuning for proper operation. Any new garage door opener should come complete with instructions on how to perform these adjustments.
Garage door openers, like all electromechanical systems, will probably fail at some point during their useable life. As with installation, there is plenty of information available regarding the diagnosis and repair of common problems with garage door openers, as well as a broad and readily available selection of spare parts for just about every garage door opener on the market. However, also similar to installation, it may be best to hire a professional when a garage door opener needs to be repaired. Garage door openers are powered by electricity, and trying to make repairs to internal components or the motor itself without proper training can present serious safety risks.
Garage door openers can fail in a variety of different ways, a handful of the most common failure methods, as well as basic steps to confirm the diagnosis and begin troubleshooting are included below. If the help of a qualified professional is needed, going through the basic steps below before a service call can save time and money.
The Garage Door Does Not Move When the Button is Pressed
In the case of a remote control, this may be as simple as a dead battery. Try a hardwired button (if available). If the hardwired button also doesn’t work, make sure there has not been a power failure (are the lights on? Also check circuit breakers). If the power is on and none of the buttons are working, consider consulting a professional to further diagnose the problem.
The Garage Door Does Not Close All the Way
This may be a sign that photo eyes are out of alignment. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to check the alignment. If the issue persists after checking the photo eyes, an adjustment may be needed to the close-limit switch. The manufacturer of the garage door opener should have instructions available for making this adjustment. If these steps do not resolve the issue, consider consulting a professional to further diagnose the problem.
The Garage Door Opener Does Not Open All the Way
The photo eyes are only involved when the garage door is closing, they do not need to be checked in this case. The up-limit switch (similar to the close-limit switch above) may need to be adjusted for a door that does not open all the way.
If problems with a garage door opener do not fall into one of the above scenarios (for example, the motor keeps running after the door is opened or closed), the diagnosis and troubleshooting steps are likely to be more involved. In such cases, enlisting the help of a professional is advised to make sure that the repair is done quickly, correctly, and safely.