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Garage Door Opener Buying Guide

Garage Door Opener and Accessories Buying Guide

Tired of getting out of the car into the bone-chilling night air to open the garage door? Imagine how much easier it would be to be greeted by an opening door at the touch of a button. Install a garage door opener and enjoy the comfort and safety of automatic access to a safe, well-lit garage.

When deciding on a garage door opener, there are several factors to take into consideration:

Drive System

Screw Drive Garage Door Opener
Screw-drive mechanism
  • A screw-drive system uses a lifting mechanism that moves along a threaded steel rod. These units are powerful and, because they have few moving parts, they require the least maintenance. The body of the opener rests in the center of the garage ceiling.
Chain Drive Garage Door Openers
Chain-drive mechanism
  • A chain-drive system uses a metal chain to lift the door up and down along its tracks. Chain-drive systems are the most common and usually the least expensive, but they sometimes make more noise than screw-drive units. Like screw drives, chain drives sit in the center of the garage ceiling.
Computer-controlled Garage Door Opener
Computer-controlled mechanism
  • At least one manufacturer now offers a computer-controlled drive mechanism that uses no chain or screw. The body of the unit sits directly above the door, rather than in the middle of the ceiling. This is particularly helpful in garages that have limited headroom, and it leaves more garage ceiling space open for storage.


Choose a motor with power adequate to lift your door. If you have a double door, look for at least ½ hp. Even on a single door, a larger motor is likely to last longer.

Look for a unit with "soft" starting and stopping, which operates more quietly and with less wear and tear on the door.


Higher-end openers operate more quickly, reducing the time you have to wait in the driveway. For safety's sake, the faster-opening models still close at a standard, slower speed.


Mandated by federal law, all garage door openers include features that stop the doors from crushing objects in their paths and cause the doors to reverse direction if they strike something. In most cases, this is controlled by an electronic beam that, when broken by a person or object, triggers the safety mechanism.

The computer-controlled system measures the normal operating speed and time of the door and can sense and compensate for changing conditions — such as a door closing too quickly or making contact with an obstruction.


All garage door openers produced today use "rolling codes" for the greatest security. Each time the door is opened (using the remote transmitter), a new, random code is generated. This prevents code theft and ensures that a neighbor's remote control will not open your garage.

All models also include a manual release that will allow you to open the door if the power is out. Some higher-end models include a function that opens the door just a little bit so the cat or dog can get out.

Remote Control

Some models use a one-button remote control transmitter, and others include a remote (transmitter, clicker..) with two or more buttons that can control multiple garage openers. Multiple buttons are useful if you have more than one garage bay, each with a separate door.

Some brands offer mini-remotes that are small enough to fit on a keychain.

Garage door opener remote control transmitters
One, two and three button remotes, keychain remotes, and a fixed keypad remote all allow secure access into your garage.

Fixed Control

Fixed Wall Control Button
Fixed control button

Doorbell-like buttons or keypads can be mounted to the wall — interior or exterior — near the door to allow it to be opened without a remote. Look for this as an accessory if it does not come as part of the standard opener kit.

Some keypads allow you to lock the door electronically for a specific amount of time, such as when you are going to be away on vacation. Another popular function is delayed closing — a pause between the time the button is pushed and the door is closed. You have plenty of time to exit through the door on foot without having to run through, dodging the lowering door and the electronic beams.


Most openers include a security light that comes on as you activate the system and stays on long enough for you to get out of the car and go into the house. Many remotes include buttons that turn on the light without activating the door.

Choosing a Garage Door Opener

Learn about the three main types, their costs, and how to install them
By Patrick Mileham

If opening your garage door is a pain in the back, it's time to consider installing an automatic garage door opener. No longer considered a convenience item for the privileged, today's garage door openers are affordable, safe and easy to install (just like vehicle alarm systems have become a necessity today).

There are three main types of openers (all can be used in conjunction with your remote gate controls):

1. Chain drive mechanism: By far the most popular and affordable opening device. Priced between $100 and $170, this model uses a chain to move the door.

2. Screw drive mechanism: This slow-moving design relies on a long threaded bar to open the door. The cost for this unit is typically between $150 and $200.

3. Belt drive mechanism: Considered the quietest and, priced at $200 and up, the most expensive opening device. This design uses rubber belts to open the door.

The latest garage door opener safety features include automatic reversing action sensors and infrared beams to stop the garage door's downward movement should something get in the way. To keep thieves from stealing your transmission code, many openers feature technology that sends a different signal each time you use the opener, these features are available both for domestic (household) and commercial security.

Installation tips

To install your garage door opener quickly and easily, follow these simple tips (click here to our garage door maintenance and safety checks page):

1. Secure the rail to the garage wall above the center of the door.

2. Use the supplied mounting straps to attach the unit motor to the garage framing overhead. Be sure it's centered between the garage door tracks.

3. Secure the opener's connecting arm to a bracket attached to the door.

4. Run wires from the unit motor to the wall-mounted control switch.

5. Plug motor into the nearest outlet.

Keep in mind that installation instructions for garage door openers and garage doors can differ according to the type of opener you purchase (look for service specials from your garage door maintenance professional). Extra features, such as infrared beams and keyless entry systems, require additional attention. For complete information (all about garage doors), read the manufacturer's installation recommendations and instructions for your unit.

Was this information helpful? Please let us know your do-it-yourself experiences. We'd love to hear from you!
Questions? Calls us at 818 222-7191.

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