The 7 Best Garage Door Openers
5. Chamberlain PD510
- 5-piece rail system
- patented anti-theft protection
- instructions are confusing
|Rating||4.2 / 5.0|
4. Decko 24300
- 3-function wall panel
- withstands extreme temperatures
- limited operating range for remotes
|Rating||3.9 / 5.0|
3. Sommer Direct Drive
- backed by a lifetime warranty
- internal object detection system
- works with homelink wireless systems
|Rating||4.7 / 5.0|
2. Genie SilentMax
- comes with a wireless keypad
- opening speed of 9 inches per second
- easy to install
|Rating||4.6 / 5.0|
1. Chamberlain B970
- steel-reinforced belt drive system
- very quiet operation
- lifting capacity over 1 horsepower
|Rating||5.0 / 5.0|
A Brief History Of Garage Door Openers
Garages have been around for a long time. Exactly how long depends on what you consider to be a garage–is a stable a garage? A shed large enough to park a car? These are the questions that keep me up at night.
Fortunately for our purposes, the history of garage door openers is much more clear-cut. A gentleman by the name of C.G. Johnson invented the electric overhead garage door opener in 1926. Unfortunately, demand for the new product wasn't very high, largely due to the fact that the only way to open it was via a switch located on a pole at the end of a driveway.
This shortcoming was quickly noticeable, however, and two teams of inventors separately created remote-controlled openers using technology that had become available, thanks to World War Two. These new models had to be installed in the cars themselves, and used radio bursts on specific frequencies to activate the system.
As these units became more popular, a glaring problem became readily apparent: the openers were all using the same frequencies. This meant that when you opened your garage, your neighbor's door might come up as well. This was fantastic news for home invaders, but less welcome by the average American.
In the 1970s, fixed-code openers hit the market, with varying degrees of encryption. This meant that your opener would be specific to your door, like a combination to a safe. Of course, criminals are always up on new technologies, and in recent years they have created a device that can hack a door in seconds. As a result, most modern openers use a rolling system in which a new code is generated every time the door is used, so even if a criminal gets his hands on your code, it will already be useless.
This, of course, raises a very important question: there are hackers out there who devote themselves to garage door openers? Really?
How Do Garage Door Openers Work?
A common misconception about automatic garage doors is that the electric motor does a lot of pulling to raise and lower the door. In fact, most doors are manufactured using a counterbalance system, similar to that of an elevator. Gravity does most of the work - the opener just has to get the ball rolling.
The powerful rolled torsion springs above the door do the heavy lifting. When tightened, they apply torque to the shaft, which then rolls up the cables or chains attached to the door, pulling it open. To close, the springs simply release the pressure, and the shaft turns the opposite direction. These springs are under extreme amounts of pressure, and if they ever snapped, they could easily kill someone.
The motor is attached to the chain or cables, and its main function is to start the raising or lowering process as well as dictate how much the door will open or close. For most modern units, it also acts as a lock, with the only key being the remote that comes with it.
There are several different types of opening systems. Some use chains or belts, as mentioned above, while others use a screw drive to increase or decrease the torque on the springs. An increasingly popular option is the jack shaft, which attaches directly to the torsion bar with no need for railings. This gives you more space and is extremely quiet, but also more expensive.
Regardless of which one you end up purchasing, the springs should give you 10-15 years of work before they need replacing. When that time comes, hire a professional, because seriously, those things are terrifying!
The Future of Garage Door Openers Is Now
We've come a long way from the switch-on-a-pole days of garage door openers. Today's models have more bells and whistles than C.G. Johnson ever would've thought possible when he invented them (although he might have considered putting literal bells and whistles on his).
One of the biggest game-changers for the industry is the ubiquity of smartphones. There are apps for opening and closing the door, turning lights on and off, and even regulating the temperature inside the garage. These apps are fantastic for those times when you get on a plane to begin your two-week vacation, only to immediately start to panic over whether or not you closed the garage.
Safety features have also gotten more sophisticated. While the sensors that detect motion underneath the door have become more sensitive, it's also possible to completely turn off the remote access if you like. This keeps thieves at bay while simultaneously eliminating the chance that something will get struck by the door, like a neighborhood kid, or worse, your car.
Many now have carbon monoxide detectors that open the door if levels become dangerously high, preventing poisoning. Additionally, you can get options with fingerprint access, so kids can get into the house safely after school without needing a separate remote. It's reassuring that all of these features combine to help keep your family safe, but it's also somewhat troubling to think of how dangerous garages must have once been.
Some companies are even trying to turn garage door openers into entertainment centers. Certain models come with the option of connecting Bluetooth speakers and Wi-Fi antennas, allowing you to turn your carport into a man cave almost instantly. Laser-assisted parking is also available, which is great if you've ever taken out a door or a wall after a long day of work.
There's no telling what the future holds for these devices, but one thing is clear: it's high time they invented a garage door opener that can clean my garage for me, too.