How Much Horsepower Does a Garage Door Opener Need?

The last time I bought a garage door opener, I only shopped based on how much horsepower it had.

I mean…more is better, right?

Maybe for cars, but not for your garage door opener.

So I ended up spending more money than I needed to.

How much horsepower do garage door openers need? One-car garages with steel doors only need a 1/2 horsepower garage door opener. Two-car garages or one-car garages with insulated or wooden doors need at least a 3/4 horsepower garage door opener. Garages with carriage doors require 1 HP garage door openers or higher.

Horsepower should only be the starting point when shopping for garage door openers. Manufacturers often hold back important safety and convenience features for higher horsepower models. We’ll get into some of those later on.

Hopefully, by the end of this article, you’ll know enough to avoid making the same mistake I did, buying a garage door opener based solely on how much horsepower it has.

How Much Horsepower Does a Garage Door Opener Need?

The more your garage door weighs, the more horsepower you need to open and close it.

Which makes sense when you think about it.

We’ll get more into how much garage doors weigh in the next section, but it will depend greatly on the size of the door and what material it’s made of.

I created a simple chart so you can quickly tell how much horsepower you need.

It starts with a 1/2 HP garage door opener, which is the minimum horsepower you should be looking at.

If you have a one-car garage, use the column on the left. If you have a two-car garage, use the column on the right. Once you know what material your garage door is made of, simply go down to that row and use the HP value in the corresponding box.

For example, if you have a two-car garage door made of fiberglass, you would need a 3/4 HP door opener.

What HP garage door opener do I need?

How Much Does a Garage Door Opener Cost Based on Horsepower?

1/3 HP ($?): Before I bought my last new garage door opener, I found a few articles that suggested a 1/3 HP as the entry-level. The problem is that most garage door opener manufacturers stopped making a 1/3 Horsepower door opener. You may still be able to find old stock lying around, but I’d steer clear of these.

1/2 HP ($150-$230): This price point is the new entry-level garage door opener with very few bells and whistles. The major selling point at this level is the number of remotes they include. You’ll also get an exterior keypad entry on some of the more expensive models. If you’re looking at a garage door opener over $200, I’d move to the 3/4 HP models instead.

3/4 HP ($180-$300): You’ll start seeing more exciting features like smart home integrations or smartphone apps. The more expensive models will include a battery backup or an LCD wall console.

1.25 HP and up ($250+): This is the cream of the crop. Every opener I found with over 1 1/4 HP had an external keypad included, smartphone integration, and most of them had a battery backup. You’ll also find some really cool innovations, like automatic locking.

Why Your Garage Door Size & Weight Matter

As we’ve seen, how much your garage door weighs is the biggest factor in how much horsepower you need in your garage door opener.

Wooden garage doors, insulated garage doors, or doors with windows will weigh more than your basic steel door.

Generally, a single-car steel garage door is about 8′ x 7′ and weighs roughly 80-90 pounds. Although adding garage door insulation will push that to between 100-110 pounds on average. Changing to a wooden door or adding windows will increase the weight to upwards of 130 lbs.

A double garage door is usually 16′ x 8′ and weighs between 150-210 pounds. Going with windows or a wooden garage door here and the total weight balloons up to almost 350 pounds.

Horsepower Isn’t the Most Important Factor

Horsepower gets our attention, and garage door opener manufacturers know it.

Most people don’t really care about smartphone integration or extra safety features like automatic locking.

Don’t get me wrong. They’re nice innovations, but they won’t get me to run out and buy a new garage door opener based on that alone.

Imagine you’re walking through Lowe’s or Home Depot, and you see a new garage door opened with 1 1/4 HP. Your old one has a measly 1/2 HP.

On some level, you start thinking that a larger size garage door opener will be more efficient and open your garage door faster.

Then you’re hooked.


Garage door opener horsepower

But that’s wrong.

That extra 3/4 HP doesn’t open my garage door any faster, and it’s not the motor that does most of the work.

Another thing that won’t matter is whether or not you have a high-lift garage door. Whether you have a standard track or high-lift track, that won’t change what size garage door opener you need.

So if garage door opener horsepower isn’t that important…then what is it good for?

More Horsepower = More Features

Manufacturers know that people (men especially) buy more horsepower because they think it’s automatically better.

To really make their products stand out, they’ll need to add some new features as well: things like extra remotes, smart-home integrations, or safety features.

That’s what we should be focusing on instead of HP.

So using horsepower as a guide, let’s look at what else is included in those models first. Then we’ll talk about how much horsepower you really need to lift your garage door.

5 Garage Door Openers Features More Important Than Horsepower

OK…so adding more horsepower to a garage door opener is a marketing gimmick.

What should you look for instead? Here are five of my suggestions:

Mobile App

Have you ever left home and wondered if you forgot to close the garage door? Wouldn’t it be great if you could open and close your garage door from your smartphone?

More and more companies are jumping on that bandwagon and offering mobile integration with their higher-end models.

Smart Home Integration

Similarly, integrating your garage door opener into your smart home has benefits.

Imagine your door opening automatically as you pull into the driveway or integrating with your Google Assistant or Alexa to open or close the door from anywhere in your house?

Battery backup

If you lose power in your home, you don’t want your car stuck inside the house. In some states, like California, battery backups are required by law. Still, a battery backup is a great safety feature, even if it’s not required.

I made sure that my elderly mother had a battery backup for her garage door opener because she can’t lift the garage door by herself. Now I don’t have to worry that she’ll be stuck inside the house in case of an emergency.

Auto-close for safety

Have you ever forgotten to close the garage door at night? Some garage door openers will automatically close after a specific time so that your family and belongings are safe.

Wall mountable

I mentioned this one earlier. Some garage door openers mount on the wall next to the door, removing that ugly center rail down the middle of your garage. That gives you more space for overhead storage or even a ceiling fan to help cool down your garage.

How Important is the Torsion Spring?

The more the door weighs, the more horsepower your garage door needs. Easy right?

Not so fast.

Horsepower isn’t everything.

Believe it or not, the garage door opener doesn’t do most of the work. The torsion spring does the heavy lifting – literally.

With a properly balanced garage door, the torsion spring and garage door opener work together to raise and lower the door easily.

If the spring isn’t calibrated correctly (too tight\too loose\wrong size\etc.), or you have an unbalanced door, then the entire system will suffer.

You’ll also want to keep your garage door properly clean and lubricated. For a quick guide, check out this article I wrote about how to spend five minutes once a year to lubricate your garage door.

Think about how the opener actually pulls the garage door up and down. 

Chain drive and belt drive garage door openers are the most common – and least expensive. Chain drive garage door openers are usually less expensive than belt drive units but are much louder.

There are a couple of other innovative options as well.

Sommer makes Direct Drive garage door openers that move along the track while it’s working. Because the unit is moving and not the chain, there should be almost no noise. This type of garage door opener is a little pricey, so I’d like to see this one in person to better understand how it sounds.

The one I’ve got my eyes on for my garage renovation is the Liftmaster 8500W, one of the new Jackshaft garage door openers. The design is common in commercial applications but less so in residential homes.

Instead of being on a track hanging over the center of your garage, it is mounted directly to the wall next to your door. Just imagine what you can do with all of that extra space!

Final Thoughts

Most people, especially guys, put a lot of emphasis on horsepower. Too much in this case.

Hopefully, this helps you choose the right new garage door opener.

I know it did for me.

Photo of author

Tim Wells

Tim Wells, the founder of Garage Transformed, has been featured in dozens of home renovation publications, including, Home Stratosphere, House Digest, Livingetc, and SFGate. Since 2018, he has helped over two million people transform their everyday garages into something they can be proud of. He lives in Central Florida with his wife and bulldog.