Shopping for the right garage door opener can be tricky. There are just so many options, and they all look alike.
This article will discuss the seven features you should consider when choosing a new garage door opener. Then we’ll discuss some standard features common to all brands and unique features only available in select garage door openers. We’ll also discuss some new smart home features you might not know about.
Finally, we’ll answer the common question of whether you should have a professional install your garage door opener or if you should do it yourself.
Let’s get started.
Features to Look For
# 1 Motor Options
Other than price, the feature that has the biggest impact on your garage door opener is what type of motor it uses.
There are four main types of garage door opener motors: belt drive, chain drive, screw drive, and jackshaft. Each type of motor operates differently and has unique advantages and disadvantages.
- Belt Drive: Belt drive garage door openers are the quietest and most expensive of the three main types (belt, chain, & screw drive). They use a rubber belt to open and close the door, which reduces the noise level. Belt-drive garage door openers are typically the most reliable and require the least maintenance. They are best suited for homes with bedrooms adjacent to the garage.
- Chain Drive: Chain drive garage door openers use a chain to open and close the door. They are commonly found in low-cost, entry-level garage door openers. They can be noisy, so they are best suited for detached garages or garages far away from living spaces.
- Screw Drive: Some of the earliest garage door openers were screw drive units. They use a threaded steel rod to lift and lower the door, giving them the highest lifting power of any type of garage door opener. They are best suited for garages with heavy, oversized garage doors.
- Jackshaft: Jackshaft garage door openers are mounted on the wall beside the door instead of the ceiling. This eliminates the center track, opening up more ceiling storage space in your garage. They are the quietest garage door opener type and are best suited for garages with high ceilings or limited space.
When choosing what type of motor your next garage door opener will use, consider your budget, noise tolerance, and maintenance requirements.
# 2 Horsepower
Horsepower (HP) is one of the most heavily advertised features in a garage door opener. It determines the ability of the opener to lift and lower the garage door.
When determining what size garage door opener you need, you should match the horsepower to the weight and size of the garage door. Typically, most residential garage doors require a motor with a horsepower rating between ½ and 1 ½ HP.
The amount of horsepower (HP) needed for a garage door opener depends on several factors, including the weight and size of the garage door, the frequency of use, and whether the garage door is insulated.
A ½ HP motor is typically sufficient for a standard single-car garage door that is not heavily insulated and does not weigh more than 350 pounds.
A ¾ HP motor can handle heavier garage doors. This includes fiberglass or heavily insulated doors, as well as doors that are larger than the standard size.
Extremely large or heavy garage doors, such as those in commercial or industrial settings, require a 1 HP or 1 ½ HP motor. These motors are designed to handle the extra weight and frequent use associated with commercial or industrial environments.
# 3 AC vs. DC Power
The choice between AC (alternating current) and DC (direct current) power for garage door openers will affect the opener’s efficiency, noise level, and cost.
AC-powered garage door openers are more common and typically less expensive than DC-powered openers. They use a standard electrical outlet and convert AC power into the DC power needed to operate the motor.
DC-powered openers can often be connected to a portable generator, allowing the opener to function even in a power outage. This is an important benefit for homeowners who live in areas with frequent power outages.
DC-powered garage door openers are typically more expensive than AC-powered openers. Still, they may be worth the investment for some homeowners.
# 4 Garage Door Height
Yes, the height of your garage door can make a difference when purchasing a garage door opener.
Not only does the height of the garage door affect the horsepower required to lift and lower the door, but it can also determine which type of motor is most appropriate.
Standard residential garage doors are typically 7 or 8 feet tall. However, some homes have taller doors, up to 10 or 12 feet.
Taller garage doors typically weigh more than standard doors and require more power to lift and lower. If you have an oversized garage door, it’s worth upgrading to the next highest-horsepower garage door opener.
Additionally, the height of the garage door can affect the type of drive system you should choose. Belt drive and screw drive openers are generally better suited for taller doors than chain drive openers.
# 5 Brands
Genie, Chamberlain, and LiftMaster are three of the major brands of garage door openers on the market today. Each brand offers a range of models with different features and specifications to meet the needs of homeowners.
Genie is part of the Overhead Door Company and is one of the world’s oldest garage door opener brands. They offer a range of openers with Wi-Fi connectivity, battery backup, and integrated camera systems. Genie also offers a variety of drive systems, including belt drive, chain drive, and screw drive.
Chamberlain and LiftMaster are the other two most popular garage door opener brands. They’re both owned by the Chamberlain group and have similar product offerings.
Generally speaking, Chamberlain is aimed at individual homeowners. Their products are found in most big-box retail stores and are known for their durability and reliability. Like Genie, they offer Wi-Fi connectivity, battery backup, and smartphone control features.
LiftMaster is marketed towards professional garage door installers, so they’re difficult for a DIY’er to find and purchase on their own.
Although there are similar models in both the Chamberlain and LiftMaster lineup, LiftMaster units typically have heavier-duty motors and slightly better construction.
All three of these brands are known for their quality and reliability and offer a range of features and specifications.
# 6 Smart Features
Garage door openers have come a long way in recent years. Many now feature smart home integration that allows you to control the opener using a smartphone app, voice commands, or a smart home hub.
Here are some ways garage door openers have become “smart”:
- Wi-Fi Connectivity: Many garage door openers now feature Wi-Fi connectivity, letting you receive notifications on your smartphone when the door opens or closes.
- Voice Control: Some garage door openers are compatible with Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, allowing you to control the opener using voice commands.
- Smart Home Integration: Other garage door openers are compatible with smart home hubs, such as Apple HomeKit or Samsung SmartThings. This allows you to integrate the opener into a broader smart home ecosystem.
- Automatic Opening and Closing: Some garage door openers can be set to automatically open or close the door at certain times or under certain conditions. No more forgetting to close the garage door at night!
- Remote Access: Smart garage door openers allow you to control the door from anywhere using your smartphone or a web browser, providing greater convenience and peace of mind.
- Integration with other Smart Devices: Many garage door openers can be integrated with other smart devices in your home, such as smart thermostats or security systems. This enables you to create customized automation routines and control multiple devices with a single command.
Overall, smart features have greatly enhanced garage door openers’ functionality, allowing homeowners to integrate them into a broader smart home ecosystem.
# 7 Lighting
Garage door opener lighting has significantly improved over the past few years.
Here are a few of the major upgrades:
- Brighter and More Efficient: Even basic LED lights are brighter and more efficient than traditional incandescent bulbs. This provides better illumination in the garage while using less energy.
- Longer Lasting: LED lights last much longer than traditional bulbs, spanning up to 25,000 hours or more. This means you won’t have to replace the bulbs as frequently, saving you time and money.
- Scheduling: Some garage door openers allow you to schedule when the lights will turn on and off. For example, you can set the lights to turn on automatically when the door opens and stay on for a certain period after the door closes.
- Motion Sensors: Many garage door openers feature built-in motion sensors that can detect movement in the garage and automatically turn on the lights.
- Corner-to-Corner Lighting: Newer models from Chamberlain, LiftMaster, and Genie feature additional lighting powerful enough to illuminate the entire garage. This means you may not need additional garage lighting.
Overall, the move to LED lighting has provided many benefits for garage door openers, including better illumination, greater efficiency, and longer-lasting bulbs. Adding motion sensors and customizable settings have further enhanced the functionality and convenience of garage door opener lighting.
Garage Door Opener Features vs. Price
Generally speaking, garage door openers offer more features as you increase in price. These features may include better performance (more horsepower) but often include additional security or safety features.
Some of the features you can expect to find on higher-end garage door openers include:
- More Horsepower: Higher-end garage door openers typically have more powerful motors, which allow them to lift heavier doors more efficiently and operate more smoothly and quietly.
- Advanced drive systems: Higher-end garage door openers may use more advanced drive systems, such as direct drive or jackshaft drives.
- Enhanced safety features: Higher-end garage door openers may offer additional safety features. However, many of these safety features have become standard across all models.
- Smart home integration: Many higher-end garage door openers have Wi-Fi connectivity or proprietary apps. This lets you control the opener using a smartphone, voice commands, or a smart home hub.
- Battery backup: Some higher-end garage door openers come with a backup battery. This allows the opener to function even during a power outage.
- Improved lighting: Recently, some higher-end garage door openers have begun to feature brighter, longer-lasting LED lights that better light up your entire garage.
- Better warranties: Higher-end garage door openers occasionally come with longer and more comprehensive warranties. This offers greater peace of mind and protection against defects and malfunctions.
Of course, the features and benefits will depend on the particular model and brand of garage door opener you choose.
Standard Features Common to All Garage Door Openers
Some garage door opener brands will hype up features that have become standard across all garage door opener models.
Let’s discuss a few here:
A “rolling code” is a security feature used in modern garage door openers to prevent unauthorized access to the garage.
A unique code is generated each time the garage door opener opens or closes. Since the code changes every time the door is used, it is much more difficult for someone to intercept and replicate the code.
Rolling code technology makes it much more difficult for someone to access your garage using a stolen or copied remote control. Because the code changes every time the door is used, it is virtually impossible for someone to replicate the code.
This is an important security feature for garage door openers. It provides additional protection against unauthorized access and helps keep your home and property safe.
“Automatic reverse” is a safety feature required by US law since 1993. It is designed to prevent injuries or damage to property when the garage door closes on an object or person.
This system uses a beam of light to detect an obstruction in the garage door’s path. If the beam of light is interrupted, the garage door opener will automatically stop the door and reverse it back to the open position.
Battery Backup (California Only)
In 2017, California passed a law requiring all garage door openers sold or installed in the state to include a battery backup system. This law is to help ensure that homeowners can still open and close their garage doors in the event of a power outage.
California is currently the only state that legally requires battery backups. However, battery backups are available as optional extras in other states.
Special Features Available in Some Garage Door Openers
In this section, we’ll discuss some innovative new features that have come out since the last time you shopped for a garage door opener. Many of these are found exclusively in higher-end models, which may limit your options.
Amazon Key is a service that allows authorized delivery drivers to access your home or garage to deliver packages, groceries, and other items, even when the customer is not home.
It integrates a smart lock and a compatible camera, such as the Amazon Cloud Cam, into the customer’s home or garage. When the delivery driver arrives, they can use a one-time code to unlock the smart lock and gain access to the customer’s home or garage. The customer can then monitor the delivery in real-time using the compatible camera.
Several new models of garage door openers are compatible with the Amazon Key service.
Customers with a compatible smart garage door opener and a camera linked to the Amazon Key service can allow delivery drivers to open the garage to deliver packages.
This provides convenience for customers who may not be home to receive a delivery. It allows them to receive packages securely while monitoring the entire process via the camera.
Even if your garage door opener doesn’t support Amazon Key, an integrated camera allows you to monitor your garage in real-time, whether at home or away.
Cameras are typically integrated into the garage door opener rather than needing to be installed separately on the garage ceiling or wall.
These cameras can be accessed through a compatible mobile app, which allows homeowners to view live video feeds and recorded footage. Some cameras also feature motion detection and can send alerts to the homeowner’s smartphone when movement is detected in the garage.
Homeowners can monitor their garages in real-time and receive alerts if any suspicious activity is detected. This can help prevent break-ins and theft and provide evidence in the event of a crime.
We’ve already discussed the battery backup requirement for California briefly. However, they’re also available as options in other locations.
Battery backups are designed to provide power to the garage door opener during a power outage. When the power goes out, the battery backup automatically activates and provides power to the garage door opener, allowing the homeowner to open and close the garage door in an emergency.
Another benefit of garage door opener battery backups is increased convenience. Homeowners can use their garage door opener normally during a power outage, minimizing disruption to their daily routine.
Typical battery backups can provide power for several hours, depending on the model and the amount of use.
Integrations: HomeLink, Aladdin, and Car2U
HomeLink, Aladdin, and Car2U are all platforms that allow drivers to control their garage door opener using buttons integrated into their car’s interior.
HomeLink is a system integrated into the vehicle’s overhead console or visor. It can be programmed to control up to three different garage door openers or other compatible devices. Once programmed, the driver can open and close the garage door by pressing a button on the vehicle’s console.
Aladdin Connect is a similar system that allows drivers to control their garage door opener using a smartphone app. Compatible with various garage door opener brands and models, it can monitor the garage door and receive alerts when it is opened or closed.
Car2U is another system that allows drivers to control their garage door opener using buttons integrated into the car’s interior. Similar to HomeLine, this system can be programmed to control up to three different garage door openers or other compatible devices.
Each system provides increased convenience and ease of use for homeowners who want to control their garage door opener from their cars. When choosing a garage door opener, verifying that it is compatible with your preferred system is crucial. Not all garage door openers are compatible with all three platforms.
Professional Installation vs. Installing Your Garage Door Opener Yourself
After you purchase your new garage door opener, trying to install it yourself is tempting.
However, there are several reasons why it’s better to have your garage door opener installed professionally:
- Safety: Garage door openers can be dangerous to install, involving electrical wiring and heavy lifting. Professional installers have the knowledge and experience to install the opener safely and correctly, reducing the risk of injury or damage.
- Warranty: Many garage door openers come with warranties that are only valid if the opener is installed by a professional. Having the opener installed professionally ensures that your warranty is valid and that any repairs or maintenance will be covered.
- You Can Be Sure It’s Installed Correctly: Improper installation can result in the opener malfunctioning or breaking down prematurely. This may cost you time and money in repairs or replacement.
- Customization: Professional installers can help you choose the right garage door opener. They can also give you advice on additional features and accessories that can enhance the functionality of your opener.
- Saves Time: Having your garage door opener installed professionally saves you time and effort. Professional installers can typically complete the installation in a single visit. This allows you to start using your opener right away.
Buying and installing a garage door opener can save you money.
Still, having your garage door opener installed professionally provides many benefits, including safety, warranty coverage, proper installation, customization, and convenience. It’s an investment that can help you get the most out of your garage door opener and ensure that it operates reliably and safely for years.
If you are not confident in your ability to install the opener correctly or want to ensure that your warranty is valid, it is usually best to hire a professional installer.