The Right Garage Door Opener For You

by | Mar 1, 2018

Choosing the right garage door opener

 

Has your garage door motor recently decided to give you the finger and quit working? Maybe you’ve just got an extremely noisy one and want to get something a little quieter. Looking for better features possibly? Or does it sound like your opener is severely under powered?

We’d like to go over all this and more. There are many types and models of garage door openers and choosing the wrong one can leave you feeling like you’ve pulled a short straw.  Let’s start with what types of operators are available.

Types of garage door openers

 

There are four kinds of motors available to everyone, whether you buy them through a garage door company or if you buy them yourself online. Many are also available at the Home Depot or Lowe’s. The four models go something like this.

 

Chain being the cheapest, with jackshaft being the most expensive. Each option will come with at least one remote control, a set of safety sensors, and of course the unit and railing. For the sake of simplicity we will stick the model we know best and always recommend to every customer of ours. Liftmaster is the way to go when purchasing any type of garage door opener. Chamberlain manufactures Liftmaster and you can purchase Chamberlain units at home improvement stores. Whereas Liftmaster is made specifically for contractors. We’ll go over each one in a little more detail.

 

Chain driven

 

Chain driven garage door openers run a a small gear about the size of a half dollar. The chain that is used is the same chain you see on bicycles, very sturdy and strong. The chain drives that are usually put on residential homes have a 1/2 horse power and this concerns people at times.
Trust us, 1/2 horsepower is more than your garage door needs. The garage door is equipped with springs that do all the heavy work, while the opener is more of a guide. It rarely even uses all the power that it has.

Now Liftmaster / Chamberlain also make a 3/4 horsepower chain drive. It has an extra gear on top of the larger gear. By putting the chain on this additional smaller gear the door operates at a slower, yet more controlled pace. It’s built specifically for custom doors. We would definitely recommend this in certain scenarios. For example this stronger motor would be a perfect fit for;

  • Custom doors
  • Old style wooden tilt up doors
  • Doors taller than eight feet 
  • Solid wood sectional doors

Putting a standard chain drive on any of these will not last nearly as long as anyone would want it to. The gear wears out incredibly quickly. With average wear, you can expect to have to replace the gear after 10-12 years. Whereas by putting it on one of these types of doors you can expect anywhere from 4-8 years of use before the gear breaks. This is a repairable piece and you can find the gears HERE.

Prices range from 100-200$ on material and 100-250$ to be installed by a professional. If you decide to install it yourself you can save that extra money and buy yourself something nice!

Chain drives are the cheapest option and are great fits for rental properties and flip homes. Going with a Liftmaster / Chamberlain you can’t go wrong as they tend to outlast all other brands. The specific chain drive we’d recommend can be found by clicking HERE.

 

Screw driven
Screw drives used to be very popular but have quickly become overtaken by belt driven operators. These openers operate by spinning a long screw. The screw in turn attaches to a carriage which has teeth that catch on to the screw. A trolley then attaches to the carriage. Some Genie models combine the two, which is better since there are less parts that can break. Let’s look at the pros and cons of a screw drive.
Pros:
Can be cut to fit in tighter places
Sometimes can be smoother than a belt or chain
Affordable
Cons:
Many defects have risen over the years
Screw must be lubricated/maintained
Gets very noisy if not lubricated
We recommend putting a screw drive only when you have to. Only because they’re known to give out. Also as previously stated there is defect where the the screw shrinks/grows with the heat and cold. This causes the motor to stop in certain places as the plastic carriage doesn’t want to move past these points. This particular defect is most well know in Liftmaster operators manufactured between 2000-2008. If you have your heart set on a screw drive we would recommend a newer Liftmaster. Although you still run the risk of it doing the same thing as the defect is only seen after years of usage.
Prices range from 125-225$ on material and 100-250$ to be installed by a professional. If you decide to install it yourself you can save that extra money and buy yourself something nice!
WHY DONT WE RECOMMEND OTHER BRAND SCREW DRIVES?
Majority of other brand screw drives don’t seem to implement the new technology as well as Liftmaster/Chamberlain does and we’ve seen the circuit board go out after about a year. Coincidently that’s also when the manufacturers warranty ends. Stick to Liftmaster/Chamberlain as it is literally the best option out there. We recommend the model 3240. You can check that out by CLICKING HERE.

 

 

Belt driven

 

Ahhh our favorite operator of all time. The belt drives surpass screws, chains, and jackshafts alike in popularity. Got a kid sleeping above your garage door? Not a worry, get a belt drive and they won’t even know your coming home. These are our favorite! Let’s go over the many pros of a belt drive.

 

Belt rarely breaks, as it has metal fibers running through it

Easy to work on

Easy to maintain

Lasts 18+ years before a repair is necessary

Reliable

Affordable

Very few defects, if any

Quiet

Smooth

Battery backup capable

WiFi

 

Cons

Might be too quiet

If it isn’t greased you may hear a funky squeaking sound

 

You can see why we love the belt drives as much as anyone who buys one does. To add the the list of already great things about it, the manufacturers have begun including WiFi in just about all the newer units. So now you can control the door with your smart phone if you decide to. Personally that is a feature we love. No more driving back home to make sure you closed the darn door.

 

Belt drives are best put on standard size garage doors although if you’ve got a custom door there is no reason it won’t work as well as any other type of operator.

 

The particular model belt drive we love so much is hands down the Liftmaster model 8550. Chamberlain has a public motor the same as the 8550 which you can find in home improvement stores. If it’s got a backup battery included, it’s the same model. It has a beautiful feature where it slows down towards the top and towards the bottom. Creating a very smooth and quiet door operation. The battery is also helpful in situations where your power goes out. Very handy if you need to get out as soon as possible. It’s also got a fancier wall button. This wall button has additional features as well. Such as timer to close and a sensor which turns the lights on anytime you walk into the garage. Timer to close is a feature that closes your door after a certain amount of minutes. Your door will never be left open again, worry not!

 

Prices range from 150-250$ on material and 100-250$ to be installed by a professional. If you decide to install it yourself you can save that extra money and buy yourself something nice!

 

Overall the belt drives are the most popular, smoothest, quietest, and best choice in terms of lifespan. The best belt drive is a Liftmaster model 8550 which can be purchased HERE. Although a model 8355, also Liftmaster, is just as good! The chamberlain belt drives in Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Costco are also fantastic units. We definitely recommend the belt drive in general, do yourself a favor and pick one up. You can thank us later!

 

 

Jackshafts

 

And that leaves us with the last and most expensive model. The jackshaft operator made by Liftmaster. Great in certain scenarios and also the only way to go in others. This operator mounts to the side of your garage door onto the torsion tube. It spins the tube bringing up the garage door instead of the usual pull from the center of the door itself. This prevents wear on the center stile and you never risk breaking the glass in the event something gets in the way of the door as it closes or opens. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of the jackshaft operator.

 

Pros

 

Quiet

Smooth

Automatically locks once closed

Saves space

Powerful

Can fit on either side of the door

Senses when a spring breaks

Timer to close and sensor on wall control

Remote light

 

Cons

 

Many problems with the electronics

Defects occur more frequently than other operators

Expensive

More work to install

 

Prices range from 275-375$ on material and 175-300$ to be installed by a professional. If you decide to install it yourself you can save that extra money and buy yourself something nice! Be warned though, it will be a project!

 

To finish, the jackshaft is definitely a great unit but comes with its pitfalls. We’ve installed a bunch of them and have had to return to about half of them to diagnose and fix defects. The other half seem to be running just fine, for now. We’ll see as time goes by but for now we still recommend you stick to a belt drive if possible. Should you be left with no choice but to get a jackshaft, well you’ve got no choice!

 

Why wouldn’t you have a choice?

Because some homes are built with a beam about 8 feet back that comes down to far to put in a standard garage door opener. There are ways around it / Jerry Riggs to make it work with a regular opener but it’s never worth it. Spend the extra money and do it right.

 

You can find the Liftmaster jackshaft by clicking HERE.

 

Conclusion

To conclude, there are chain, belt, and screw driver operators along with the jackshaft. The best and most popular one by far is the belt drive. It’s smoothness and silence isn’t bested by any other type of opener. Chain drives are great for flip homes, rentals, and have heavy duty models for custom doors. Screw drives are a fading model, yet some people still prefer them over the others. Our opinion stands as the belt being the best. Jackshafts should only be installed when necessary as they are still a work in progress.

 

You can also save yourself money by purchasing one online and installing it yourself. Even if you call and have a professional do the work for you it‚Äôll still be cheaper than going with a company outright.  You shouldn‚Äôt ever pay anything more than 650$ for any type of garage door opener with the install. Keep that in mind before calling and asking for quotes should you go that route. Otherwise check out our PARTS PAGE for a few of the recommended openers if you want to buy it yourself.

 

We hope to have helped make a decision in choosing a garage door opener to suit your needs. We’d love to hear your opinion about this article! Leave us a comment, send us an email, like and share this page with your friends. We’d appreciate it! (: Have a great rest of your day or night and good luck! (:

 

-Garage Door Guidance

 

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