A garage door opener gives you easy, illuminated access to your home and can improve security. Features such as smart-device compatibility and home-automation system connectivity make these devices even more convenient. Learn what you need to know about chain-drive, belt-drive, screw-drive and direct-drive models so you can find the best garage door opener for your home.
Standard garage door openers have a similar design. A motor drives a trolley or carriage along a rail. The trolley is connected to the garage door and as the trolley moves, it pulls the door open or pushes it closed. The main difference between garage door opener models is how the motor moves the trolley.
A chain-drive garage door opener uses a metal chain to drive the trolley and raise or lower the door. Chain-drive systems are economical choices but tend to create more noise and vibration than other types. If your garage is detached from the house, noise may not be a concern, but if the garage is under a living space or a bedroom, you may want to consider a quieter option.
A belt-drive garage door opener functions similarly to the chain-drive system, but uses a belt rather than a chain to move the trolley. This belt provides quieter, smoother operation, making it a good choice for homes with living or sleeping spaces above or adjacent to the garage. Belt-drive systems have fewer moving parts, resulting in lower maintenance needs.
A screw-drive garage door opener uses a threaded steel rod to move the lifting mechanism. As the rod rotates, it drives the trolley along the track to raise or lower the door. These units are usually quieter than chain-drive systems. Like belt-drive openers, fewer moving parts mean reduced maintenance.
A direct-drive garage door opener also offers a quiet mechanism. The motor itself functions as the trolley and travels along the track, raising or lowering the door. This means the system has a single moving part — the motor — which results in reduced noise and vibration, as well as fewer maintenance requirements.
Garage door openers have motors that run on either alternating current (AC) or direct current (DC). Both plug into a standard home power outlet, but DC-powered openers convert AC to DC power. The advantages of a DC motor include smaller size, quieter operation and softer starts and stops. Some DC-motor openers include battery backup, allowing operation when the power is out.
Look for horsepower (HP) ratings to compare the lifting power between garage door opener models. Ratings ranging from 1/2-horsepower to 1-1/2 horsepower are typical for residential models. If you have a sectional double-car garage door, a 1/2-horsepower motor should be sufficient, but a higher-power model will operate with less effort and less wear and tear on the motor. Heavier or one-piece doors may require higher-horsepower openers. Read our Garage Door Buying Guide to learn about different types of garage doors.
Garage door openers with DC motors may use ratings such as HPS (horsepower similar) or HPc (horsepower comparable) to help you compare power options.
Standard garage door openers share common components:
In addition, look for other features:
Many remotes and wall-mount buttons and keypads can control more than one garage door opener — useful if you have multiple garage bays with separate doors.
Check the product information to make sure a garage door opener and its features are compatible with your garage door and suit the height of your garage ceiling.
If you have an older garage door opener (manufactured before January 1, 1993), consider upgrading the device to take advantage of safety features.
To provide entrapment prevention and protection, modern openers generate electronic beams that extend across the garage door opening. When a person, animal or object breaks the beam, it triggers the safety mechanism, causing a closing door to reverse direction. Garage door openers also feature a mechanism that reverses a closing door when the door contacts an obstacle. Follow the opener manufacturer's instructions for testing the unit's safety features.
Newer garage door openers can also improve security. Remotes transmit a unique code to activate the opener. Look for a rolling code feature to prevent code theft and ensure that a neighbor's remote control won't open your garage. Each time you open the door remotely, a new, random code is automatically generated. The garage door opener will accept the new code the next time you operate the remote.