Choose the Best Garage Door Opener

If you've spent years opening your garage by hand because you have been waiting to buy the absolute best garage door opener, stop waiting around. The many brands, features and price points might be daunting, but a little research will help you find the garage door opener that's perfect for your home.

Drive Systems
Garage door openers come in three basic varieties, based on the type of drive used to raise and lower the garage door. Each drive type has advantages and disadvantages, and you should get to know them before buying a new device.

Belt Drive: Belt drive garage door openers use flexible rubber belts to raise and lower the door. These belts reduce vibrations and eliminate metal-on-metal noise. Belt drives are usually the most expensive of the three choices, but also the quietest.

Chain Drive: Garage door openers with a chain drive use a metal chain to raise and lower the door. They are the least expensive and most common of the three drives, but also the noisiest.

Screw Drive: A screw drive raises and lowers the garage door using a lifting mechanism that moves along a threaded steel rod. Screw drives have few moving parts and require the least maintenance of the three drive types. Many of these garage door openers come with a plastic-lined track to reduce the noise produced by metal-on-metal contact.

Noise, or its absence, is a feature of each of the three garage door opener systems. If quiet is important to you-consider the bedroom above or adjacent to your garage-you  should choose a garage door opener with a belt drive or look for a unit with a vibration isolation system (VIS) to reduce noise.

Opener Power
The second feature to consider in a garage door opener is power, in terms of both the size of the motor and the type of electrical current that runs it. Your choice of motor size is partly dictated by physical constraints such as the size and composition of your garage door. The bigger or heavier the door, the more power that's required to open it.

The three standard garage door opener motor sizes are 1/3 horsepower (Hp), 1/2 Hp and 3/4 Hp. A garage door opener with 1/3 Hp usually works for a single garage door, while a 1/2 Hp motor will open a double door. Oversized doors might require a 3/4 Hp motor, but this size is usually required only for commercial facilities. It's a good idea to get a garage door opener that's a little more powerful than you need. This will prolong the life of the motor and may even save energy since the garage door opener will not have to work as hard.

Motors on most garage door openers raise the door at a standard speed of seven inches per second. Some higher-end units include a motor that can raise the door faster, but for safety, all garage door openers close the door at the same slow speed.

Some higher-end garage door openers have a feature usually referred to as "soft" starting and stopping. The motor runs more slowly at the beginning and end of a cycle, allowing the door to start gradually, reach full speed and slow down again just before stopping. This eliminates the "bang" usually associated with the starting and stopping of the door, allowing for quieter operation.

Some of the highest end garage door openers operate on direct current (DC) power rather than the standard alternating current (AC). If keeping the device quiet is your primary concern, and you can afford the premium, DC units operate in near silence.

Safety and Security
U.S. laws require that all new garage door openers stop closing the door and reverse direction when encountering an obstacle in its path. This is frequently controlled by an electronic beam that, when broken, triggers this safety mechanism. Better garage door openers include an additional sensor that attaches to the door and stops it if it comes in contact with something that has eluded the electronic beam.

Another safety feature of new garage door openers is a manual release that allows the door to be opened in the event of a power failure. DC-powered garage door openers may also include battery backup, a nice feature in areas prone to electrical outages.

All garage door openers today use a system of rolling codes, meaning that every time the door is opened or closed the system generates a new code. This prevents the theft of your code and stops your door from opening if your neighbors open theirs. A good security feature to consider is a timer control that lets you lock the garage door and disable the remotes when you go on vacation.

Most garage door openers now incorporate a security light into the ceiling motor unit. This light comes on whenever the garage door opener is activated and usually stays on for a short period of time to allow you to get out of your car and into the house.

Controls
Garage door openers are basic electronic devices with two controllers: the remote control that you use from the car and the fixed control that you mount inside your garage.

A remote control can have one or several buttons. A single button operates the door; multiple buttons can operate several doors or turn on lights.

Fixed control units are usually mounted on a wall inside or outside of the garage. Keyless entry pads outside allow you to program a code to open your garage door. This comes in handy when you forget your remote and is an easy way to let children or neighbors into your garage when you're not around.

Some garage door openers include a delay feature that allows you to close the door and exit the garage without having to run and dive between the electronic beam and the descending door.

Not all garage door opener packages offer the full variety of controls, so be sure the ones you want are included before you buy. If not, consider moving on to another unit or plan to buy them as accessories later.

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