Q&A / 

Garage Door Opener Tips and Technology

DEAR TIM: I'm having issues with my garage door opener. I wonder if it's time to invest in a new one. When I push the button to open the door, the door opens fine. But when I push the door to close it, the door starts to close but immediately goes back up and the door lights flash rapidly. I've seen new door openers that can be operated remotely from a computer, tablet, or a smartphone. Will one of those solve my problem? Lisanne L., Denver, CO

DEAR LISANNE: I often get the itch to try new technology as it's fascinating how computers, tablets, and smartphones are more and more becoming part of everyday living. I'm constantly amazed at the things technology can now do in our homes.

I can understand your desire for wanting the new garage door opener, but you may not need it just yet. I feel you should try to troubleshoot your problem before you pull out your credit card for a new garage door opener.

The description of your impish garage door opener's antics makes me think the problem is easy to fix. If your door is fairly modern, it's probably equipped with sensors that are attached to the bottom of the steel tracks that accept the door rollers. These sensors are a great safety mechanism that stop the door from closing if something is in the way of the door.

Years before these sensors became standard equipment on overhead garage doors, people and pets were killed by garage doors that transformed themselves into slow-moving guillotines. The doors would close and crush anything in their way. The sensors, as well as electronics in the door openers, work together to make the doors return to the safe position if they even think there could be a problem.

The first thing I would check is your garage door owners manual. There's undoubtedly a section there about troubleshooting the sensors. My guess is the first thing you'll look at is to see if the sensors are aimed correctly. There's a sensor on each steel rail and they need to be pointed at one another.

If the sensors seem to be aimed correctly, see if they have small LED lights on them. If they do, the lights should be on when electricity is reaching the sensors. If you don't see lights, or there are tiny LEDS but they're off, start looking at the wires feeding the sensors. Make sure the wires have not been cut.

If the wires appear to be in great shape, the last thing to check would be where they connect to the garage door opener. I once had the same problem you're having and I traced my problem to a loose connection where the sensor wires attached to the opener. Once I made sure the connection was solid, the opener opened and closed as it should with the wall control and the buttons in my truck.

All this being said, if you still have issues, the actual sensors could be bad. It's easy to replace them.

If you do decide to invest in a new garage door opener, I highly recommend the newer ones that do connect to the Internet and allow you to control them remotely. I installed one of these at my home several months ago and love the convenience.

My opener not only has this Internet remote control capability, but it also sports an internal battery that powers the opener in case of a power outage. I live where we do get occasional ice storms, so it's nice to be able to count on the opener working in bad weather.

You can open and close your garage door with a smartphone even if you’re thousands of miles away. Photo Credit: Tim Carter

The software that operates the garage door opener from my computer, tablet and smartphone was easy to activate. It only took minutes to install. If you have multiple garage doors at your home, you'll be able to name each door and control each door separately.

The software application that operates the garage door opener clearly shows you if your door is open or closed. When you touch the screen to tell it to open or close, the graphics change so you can see the door moving.

When you tell the door to close using the software, the door opener is really smart. In the garage, the lights on the opener start to blink and you hear a warning beep for ten seconds. This tells anyone in the garage the opener is about to move.

At the end of the ten seconds, the door magically closes. Once closed, you see a closed door graphic image on your phone or computer screen. My guess is that within ten years the garage door openers will be equipped with tiny cameras that let you see in and around the garage before you operate the door remotely.

This functionality would be ideal if you need to open and close the door remotely to let a workman or deliveryman into your garage. You can then monitor their activity to ensure they're doing what they're supposed to do.

You can watch a video about garage door technology. Just click "overhead door options video".

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