Having to make a choice between a chain and a belt drive garage door opener is hard enough let alone selecting a model with the right features.
Now, why on earth you should bother with terms that sound Greek to you and devote time of your precious life to find the right opener for either your home or business?
Aha, that’s actually the million dollar question! Because, my friends, many things depend on the opener and hence your choice. From your safety and convenience to the security of the property, everything that matters to you depends on this unit. So, not only do you need to pay extra attention before you buy a new operator but also find the best garage door opener for YOU.
Best Garage Door Opener 2017
|Chamberlain WD1000WF||Best Belt-Drive Garage Door Opener for Do-it-yourself Installation|
|Liftmaster 8500 Wall Mounted||Best Belt-Drive Garage Door Opener for Professional Installation|
|Chamberlain PD512||Best Chain-Drive Garage Door Opener|
|Sommer Direct Drive 1042V001||Best Direct-Drive Garage Door Opener|
How can we help? We review some of the best products available on the market in 2017, explain both terms & features, point out which things you must consider, and give you a good idea of what openers are all about. So, let us take a tour in the world of openers together.
Before we review some of the best garage door openers on the market today, let us just say this: not one opener fits all. After all, that’s what makes your decision so difficult! The truth is that there are many excellent openers out there. But what’s appropriate for my garage is not necessarily the best choice for yours too. So, we chose to present openers that will meet different needs. They are all tested, used, and tried out and here are our reviews.
If you want an opener that has it all and is still on a budget, this is it. With the Wi-Fi built-in, the opener connects to the router at your property and so enables you to open/close the garage door from literally anywhere. You simply use your smartphone. This belongs to the series of MyQ smartphone controlled openers by Chamberlain and is set up in just minutes. Fast and easily. No extra hardware is needed.
Now, what’s great about this smart opener is that it allows you to use an app to open or close the door remotely. Why would you need that? Let’s say you don’t know if you closed the garage door. You can use this system to check and close it. No need to return. Smart, isn’t it?
And that’s not all there is to it! It also has a very powerful DC motor. If you notice, it’s called an HPS opener. That stands for Horse Power Similar to a 1-1/4 horsepower AC motor and is used for the purpose of comparison to show you how powerful the motor is since DC motors are not measured in horsepower.
The combined features of the DC and belt drive motor make the opener’s operation very quiet. It also comes with a battery backup that can last for approximately 3 days without power, 2 three-button remotes for your convenience, and an LCD wall control panel which allows you to check the temperatures, time, & diagnostics, turn the opener lights on & off, and program the remote.
With this opener mounted on the side wall, you have no rails hanging from the ceiling. So, you save lots of space. And that’s only a fraction of its advantages. This opener from the Liftmaster Elite Series has a powerful 24V DC motor and a smooth start and stop operation.
It integrates the company’s MyQ technology and so it is a smart opener with a timer-to-close system, which allows you to program it to close the door after a few minutes. When you pair it with the Liftmaster Internet Gateway system, you can monitor the door and home lighting from anywhere. You also get alerts in case someone opens the garage door without your authorization. And you can easily download the app for free.
Liftmaster has designed the P3 motors, which equip the 8500 model and are popular for their power and durability. Just like any other product from this company, this opener provides maximum safety and security with the Security +2.0 technology. This is basically the rolling code technology which enables the transmitter and receiver to communicate with codes randomly chosen. And so nobody can hack your code and open your garage door.
The opener also comes with a backup battery, a motion light detector and a protector system, which keeps the door from closing should there is an obstruction. You can also add a power lock deadbolt. And all that at a fair price.
Pay attention though because it only works well with front torsion springs. You must also measure well to make sure you have enough clearance for its installation.
If you want a reliable chain drive opener at a very good price, this Chamberlain model is an excellent choice. It includes all the great safety and security features the company provides, like the Security+ 2.0 rolling code technology and the posilock protection system. What this system does is keep the door locked when it is closed. And that’s a great anti-theft measure.
It runs with an AC motor and has ½ horsepower. What’s convenient is its 100-watt lighting since it can illuminate well the entire garage making access and movement easy and safe.
What’s interesting is its remote controls. It comes with two pre-programmed 1-button garage door clickers with a Tri-band frequency which means that the remote works fine from a greater range, prevents interference, and performs well.
This garage door opener is designed for 7 feet sectional doors. It’s compatible with HomeLink but some car makes would require the special bridge device to operate the garage door.
It’s affordable, quiet, and strong! And these are three good reasons for considering to buy this European opener. Just like other direct drive openers, this model has one moving part. The motor glides along the chain, which is hosted in a rail and is fixed. Due to the stationary chain, the opener produces no vibrations and thus it is extremely quiet. That’s enhanced by the soft start and stop system.
What makes this opener unique is that its motor is actually found on the door and this minimizes wear and tear. It comes with a rail to fit 7 & 8 ft. doors height, has the required safety features, and works with the rolling code technology for enhanced security. You can find it with a ¾ hp or 1 hp motor – depending on your garage door needs. It comes with two remotes and a control panel, which has buttons that allow you to control the light and open/lock the door.
What this opener doesn’t have are a motion light detector and keyless entry keypad. And you may do with the latter but without a system to sense motion and turn on the light, it will be hard to move in the garage trying to find the light switch. All the same, this is a great bargain and a high quality opener.
Whichever opener you decide to get, it’s always useful (and interesting) to know a thing or two about the unit which runs your garage door automatically. So, we take a small break here to tell you a few words about the…
History of Garage Door Openers
Well, once upon a time there were no cars and hence no need for garages. And then came along Mr. Ford and made the first (modern) mass-produced vehicle. It wasn’t long after when Mr. Johnson decided to invent the first electric garage door opener. That was in 1926. The first electric openers worked with a keypad on a post in the driveway and a switch inside the garage.
How did they grow in popularity? That’s easy. Just consider that cars grew in demand and so family homes. The suburbs became densely populated and people loved the idea of securing their cars and using an electric opener to move the door. Soon, the duo opener/clicker became a must.
The only problem was that there was interference. What happened was that the code the transmitter sent to the receiver was fixed. So, when Mr. X pressed the remote button to open the door, his neighbor’s door opened. Hmm said the manufacturers and soon after they used the rolling code technology and so the codes were chosen randomly every single time the opener was activated.
But wait a minute! That wasn’t the only problem. Safety became an issue too. As a matter of fact, people actually died due to the lack of safety features. Who could control an automatically moving door weighing hundreds of pounds? And then the experts and manufacturers got together and passed the first federal law, which under the UL 325 (Underwriters Laboratories) requires that openers would integrate safety features for the avoidance of accidents.
And here we are today. Openers don’t only integrate safety but also security features and tend to get smarter and smarter since they can be connected to the home automation system and activated from anywhere you are in the world.
And that brings us to the real…
Benefits of Using the Right Garage Door Opener
The key word here is ‘right’. Each opener is designed to meet certain needs. So, the question is which opener is the right one for you! Today, most models integrate a handful of features apart from the necessary safety ones. But they differ in terms of motors and thus power and in turn convenience. Some are activated with your tablet or smartphone and some don’t. And it will make a difference to you only if you are interested in such high tech systems.
And then there are the different requirements between residential and commercial doors. At most businesses, you want real fast openers. At home, you might want to focus more on safety since there are children around.
What we are trying to say is that there is a handful of openers to meet everyone’s needs. And so it’s vital for you to find an opener with the right features for you.
But as an overall with an electric opener, you enjoy:
And of course, the advantages of modern openers don’t stop here. If you get smart ones, you can program the door to close automatically or get alerts when it is opened when you are away. Now, if your child returns earlier from school or you want to let the gardener in the garage, you can still activate the opener from the office and thus open & close the door. Nice, isn’t it?
Now it’s the time for the multi-million question: which are the main differences between openers?
So, here is a…
Buying Guide for Choosing the Best Garage Door Opener
Garage door opener types:
Are you looking for a commercial or residential garage door opener? Application matters. Is there such a significant difference, you ask? Well, if you consider that commercial doors are very big and used continuously, it’s easy to figure out that their openers must be very, very strong.
All the same, openers are distinguished as follows:
Trolley openers glide on a rail and are the most popular ones. Now, in this category, there are four main sub-categories:
Chain drive openers are very popular for two reasons: they are the cheapest options and still very durable. And that makes sense if you consider that they basically consist of a metal chain which drives the trolley to open and close the door. Due to the metal chain, this type of opener is noisy. And that’s its main disadvantage. Another drawback is its high maintenance. But if you are on a budget and want a reliable & durable opener, this is an excellent choice – unless your bedroom is right above the garage.
Belt drive openers work like their chain counterparts with the difference that they utilize a rubber belt, which makes movement quiet. This is actually an excellent choice for those who want a strong but silent motor. Their disadvantage is their price. Not that there is a huge difference between chain and belt drive motor prices but still you will have to pay a tad more. But if you want smooth operation without the rattling of the chain & don’t mind the extra buck, this is the best opener type for you.
Direct drive openers are the European approach to garage door opening. At a first glance, you might mistake them for screw drive openers. But they have their own way of operating. They actually have one moving part, which is the motor. So, the motor glides along a stationary chain. And this is what makes this type of opener the quieter on the market and maintenance free. These types of openers are made by the Sommer company in Germany but they have offices in the United States too.
Screw drive openers work in a completely different way. These types utilize a threated rod, which rotates to move the trolley to open/close the door. In terms of cost and noise, they stand between the chain and belt drive openers. They are often fast and don’t have too many parts and so they don’t need too much maintenance. But they don’t work well with all doors and are not ideal for all weather conditions. And these are the reasons why we haven’t reviewed any screw drive garage door openers.
Genie is one of the manufacturers which still makes screw drive openers. But they are not very popular. With the latest improvements on belt & chain driven systems, the demand for screw drive types tends to decline even more.
Might not be as popular as the trolley ones but they are life-savers if you lack ceiling space. After all, what makes these openers special is that they are wall mount models. Hence, they are great if you have a high or cathedral ceiling. They are also a good choice if you want to install storage rails in the ceiling and don’t have space for the opener too. But you must have enough clearance and the right door type to install these openers. They are quiet and very durable.
Commercial doors are heavier, huge in size, and often run non-stop. So, what you need is a very strong opener. Besides trolley and jackshaft operators, you can also get:
- Slide openers which are like the trolley systems but particularly designed for heavy-duty commercial, fire, and industrial doors.
- Hoist openers with a torque motor and a chain designed for medium and heavy duty industrial rolling doors.
Things to consider:
Before you get a new opener, you have to consider plenty of things starting with the door. As a rule of thumb, when you choose new parts for your garage door, you must always take into account the door’s size and thus weight as well as its application and thus day-to-day requirements.
It’s one thing choosing a residential opener and another thing choosing an operator for a heavy duty commercial door. But more often than not, residential doors are insulated or large too. So, the combination of the door’s characteristics and your personal needs will help you find the right garage door opener.
What you should consider includes:
How much power do I need?
The power of the opener has to do with its motor. Up until recently, openers utilized only AC motors. Lately, DC motors tend to become the dominant options.
So, what’s the difference between the two?
They both take electric power and turn it into mechanical power. But each is made differently and works differently too.
- AC (Alternating Current) motors are bulky, noisy, and heavier. They require several components to control the power transferred and also need more maintenance.
- DC (Direct Current) motors occupy less space and so manufacturers can make the openers smaller or fit more components in the unit. They work perfectly with the latest technologies and backup batteries, support the soft start and stop operation, run smoothly, make less noise, and last longer.
Now, when we talk about opener power, we actually refer to the motor’s horsepower. Standard doors will need ½ or ¾ hp AC motors or the equivalent DC motor. But it has to do with the door’s weight. The heavier the door, the more powerful the motor. You can get even 1 hp motors.
We can’t really make an exact ration of motor horsepower : door weight. And that’s because the door’s weight depends on its material, size, and thickness. But its performance is also affected by the springs.
As an overall, this is a typical chart:
|Garage Door Weight||Opener’s lifting force|
|Up to 150 lbs||1/4 or 1/3 HP|
|Up to 350 lbs||1/2 HP|
|Up to 600 lbs||3/4 HP|
|Up to 750 lbs||1 HP|
|More than 750 lbs||1 ¼ HP|
Do noise levels make a difference?
Trust me when I say that noise levels make a difference, especially if you have teenagers driving in late at night or you have the nursery over the garage. Many parts can make the garage door noisy. But when it comes to openers, it has to do with the drive type and the motor you choose. DC motors are the quietest even with chain drive types. But the less noise they make, the more expensive they are. Though, they worth the extra buck – it’s not a lot anyway.
What’s the size of your garage door?
If your garage door is larger than 7 ft. height, you will need an extension kit or the help of a tech. Always remember that the size of the door will also determine its weight. And that’s important when you choose an opener.
Want DIY or professional garage door opener installation?
It’s good to know that some manufacturers have a DIY and professional line of openers. It’s also vital to know that some openers (like jackshaft types) are best to be installed by pros. Although garage door opener installation is not rocket science, it still requires attention and some knowledge. If you can afford it, we’d recommend professional installation. You don’t want to play dice with your safety! Do you?
Is internet connectivity important?
Smart openers are more expensive. So, if you don’t really need them, there is no need to spend more. On the other hand, if the smartphone has become the extension of your hand, it won’t be a bad idea. If you often forget to close the overhead door or have people coming over at your absence, internet connectivity will be very helpful.
Remote vs. keypads
They are both convenient. But if you have kids in the house and they tend to play with the clicker, a wireless keypad will be a good idea. The disadvantages with clickers are that they can be stolen or broken and children use them to play with the door. The latter has led to many accidents.
Most openers nowadays use rolling code technology. But DO make sure of it. It’s always good if you can add a lock. The good thing with internet connected openers is that they include extra security features, like timer-to-closer, auto locking etc. It’s vital to invest in security features so that no one will have access to your garage and thus to your home or business. When it comes to commercial doors, they often serve as the main entry doors and must safeguard goods too.
The opener must comply with the UL 325 regulations and thus integrate photoelectric eyes to ‘see’ obstructions and reverse the door. Enhance safety with door edge sensors. They will reverse the door if there is anything blocking the door at the edges. Since safety is critical, make sure:
- The sensors are installed six inches over the floor
- The sensitivity of the opener is adjusted well
- The door reverses when the beam is interrupted
- The door reverses upon contact with an object
One more thing about safety features: the opener must have an emergency release rope. This is used when the power is out but don’t get confused if you get a backup battery. The rope is also necessary in the case of an entrapment. That’s why it’s called ‘emergency’. It will help you to disengage the opener and open the door manually to help someone entrapped.
Interested in a backup battery?
With that said, yes a backup battery is very useful. But you will need a DC motor. Although these batteries must be replaced every few years, they are worth the extra cost. They run for a few days and thus will enable you to use the door automatically during long power outages.
Want extra light?
Openers have lights. But if you can get an opener with a motion light detector, even better. This means that you won’t have to search in the dark for the switch when the regular opener lights turn off – they can be adjusted but remain on for only a few minutes. With the motion detector, you will have light as long as you get your groceries out of the car.
Help & support
Having help & support not only during installation but also when something goes wrong is important. So before you shop, make sure you get the support you need. Today, you can find manuals for opener installation, remote programming, and opener troubleshooting online. It’s best to trust the manufacturer’s instructions.
Each opener comes with a warranty for the motor and sometimes for parts too. The best warranty so far is offered by Sommers.
Why should you replace the opener?
- You want to control the noise
- It was manufactured before 1993 and thus doesn’t include the required safety features
- You need extra security features
- You want to get an internet connected opener
You just want to upgrade the electric operating system
Whatever your reasons for getting a new opener are, pay attention to details. As they say, the devil hides in details. And that’s true here because your safety, convenience, and security all depend on your decision. So, do yourself a favor and focus on the most important features along with the power of the motor to buy the best garage door opener for you and thus have complete peace of mind.