Q&A / 

Garage Door Openers

DEAR TIM: After tornado damage, our one-half horsepower garage door opener, that was only 18 months old, was replaced by the insurance company with a different brand. The replacement opener looks cheap compared to our original opener. The parts seem simpler and appear to be made of cheaper plastic. Is there a big difference in garage door openers? Did I get ripped off by the insurance company? What should I have known when I was talking with the insurance adjuster? Chad K., Shawnee, OK

DEAR CHAD: Without seeing the two openers side by side, it is very hard for me to tell you if the replacement is of a lesser quality than your original. I am by no means an insurance expert, but it seems to me that it would not be unreasonable for you to get the exact same opener as part of the settlement. Why not call your insurance agent and let them know that you are not satisfied? If they don't hear from you, they will think everything is just fine.

This builder-grade major brand name opener lasted 16 years in my home. Many garage door openers are built very well.

This builder-grade major brand name opener lasted 16 years in my home. Many garage door openers are built very well.

There is no doubt that a good grasp of garage door opener features and designs would have enabled you to purchase a top quality garage door opener, much less make a fair settlement with the insurance company. There are indeed differences in garage door openers, more today than ever before.

The first thing to consider when purchasing an opener is the actual drive system. There are three primary types: belt driven, chain driven and direct drive. Direct drive systems tend to be more reliable as there are no belts that might break or chains that can loosen over time. My own 15 year old garage door openers are direct drive and they operate flawlessly each day. There has never been a reason to have them serviced.

Your choice of a one-half horsepower motor was excellent. This motor should lift any sized residential garage door. Another common size is one-third horsepower. Keep in mind that the openers don't actually do all of the work to lift a door. In fact, they should do very little. The massive springs that are part of the garage door hardware are designed to lift the door. It is vitally important that these springs be correctly adjusted so that the garage door opener motor does not burn out prematurely. NEVER adjust garage door springs yourself. This is a job for professionals.

You may want to pay attention to warranties. There is a big difference between different brands. Look for a long term warranty that covers both the motor and all other opener parts. If you are an impatient driver, keep in mind that some openers operate at higher speeds. The average speed of most openers is 7 inches of lift/drop per second. Some newer models double this speed. For safety and security reasons, it is best to open and close the door only when you can see it.

Pay particular attention to safety features. Government regulations mandate that all automatic door openers be equipped with a non-contact invisible beam system. If a person, animal or object breaks the beam as the door is operating, the door reverses and goes back to the open position. The opener should also have a contact reversing feature, a timed reversing feature, a force adjustment attribute, automatic lights, and a manual emergency release cord. Many openers have these must-have features that will protect you and your loved ones.

If you have living areas above or adjacent to your garage, it may be worthwhile to pay attention to noise output. Some garage door openers are far noisier than others. Keeping the garage door hardware well lubricated will also keep operational noise down.

People who own homes with multiple garage doors might be very interested in the newer remote controls. Some are equipped with multiple buttons that allow you to open the door of your choice. Be sure to look for an opener that has a rolling radio signal code. This system offers you the greatest protection from thieves who might want to grab your code from thin air and then open your door when you are not home.

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