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How a Garage Door Opener Works


T he largest moving part of a home, the garage door is something you must always pay close attention to make sure that it works correctly. You store items in it, and it is likely the place where your car is parked, so you wouldn’t want the barrier between the garage and the exterior to be compromised as this could mean that intruders can gain easy entry and steal your belongings.

There is the issue of safety as well, a garage door that does not work properly potentially putting you in danger when it closes and you or anyone else are in its proximity. To prevent injury caused by the door coming down unexpectedly, your best course of action is to install a garage door opener. There are other benefits to this installation, including the fact that you won’t waste time opening and closing the door manually whenever you get the car out or park it.

But the benefits it provides are a topic for another time. Now, we will focus on the operation of the opening/closing system to give you a better idea of what makes it tick, also lightly approaching the topics of lifespan and installation. Here is a layout of the main ideas we will focus on:

Operator Types

There are a total of four different types of opener systems to select from, each with its own set of advantages and downsides. Weigh your options carefully before you make a choice, balancing the two most important factors – preference and frequency of use. Here are the main types you will encounter:

  1. Belt: The trolley in this setup moves over a rubber belt, which makes the operation smooth and not noisy at all, causing little vibration in the process as well. Most low-maintenance type. These advantages make it the most expensive system to invest in, but you recuperate your money quickly seeing how you won’t spend much on upkeep with time.
  2. Among the best belt drive systems available yet, the LiftMaster 8550 reviewed here is a 3/4 HP model that features the latest in terms of security, including responsive safety sensors that prevent harm, and rolling code technology that makes break-ins impossible.

  3. Chain: The trolley moves along a metal chain in this setup. Operation tends to get noisy, so you should consider this option only if you have a detached garage or there is no living space directly above in case it is attached.
  4. A 3/4 HP chain drive system popular among customers, the Decko 24300 is a bargain considering the positive reception it has received, the low asking price, and the lifetime warranty that accompanies it.

  5. Screw: The trolley glides across a rotating threaded steel rod in this setup. Smoother and quieter as opposed to chain drive systems. Preferable option if you want to enjoy reduced noise and vibrations when you operate the garage door.
  6. Direct: In this setup, the motor is the one that moves the trolley across the tracks. It is the newest type of technology and the quietest and smoothest as well. Moreover, maintenance is rarely required due to the minimized number of parts involved in the process.
  7. Check out the Sommer Direct Drive 1042V001 3/4 HP to enjoy the most silent, vibration-free performance an opener can offer when opening and closing the garage door.

Operator Parts

Regardless of which system type you opt for, the parts remain the same, as follows:

  • T-rail: It serves as protection and guidance for the system as it operates. It is the part that connects the opener to the pulley and cable mechanism of the door.
  • Height adjustment: In case the door does not open or close fully, just adjust the height in the settings of the system’s operator. Here, you can make adjustments to the force of the closing motion as well.
  • Electric motor and gears: All products feature an electric motor that provides the needed power to lift and close the door. It is powerful enough to stop the door when it is in motion in case the sensor signals an object or person in its path.
  • Inverter and battery: Most models utilize the inverter to convert AC power to DC. They also feature battery backup that kicks in when the power goes out to keep the system running normally so that you won’t have to switch to manual operation for as long as possible.
  • Widely considered as the best system on the market, the LiftMaster 8500 doesn’t only come with all you could ask for in terms of features, including the rolling code technology, safety sensors, and powerful 200-watt lighting, but it also includes battery backup so that even in a power outage, you won’t have to take manual control over the system to open and close the door.

How the System Works

Now we are going to cover the aspect that interests you most and that brought you here in the first place – how the garage door opener works. The process is as easy as it can get as when you push the button on the remote or the control panel, the transmitter sends a code to the receiver. The code is tuned to the same frequency as the transmitter. As the receiver intercepts the code, it instantly performs the task you have opted for, whether it is to open or close the door.

With modern systems, there is a controller chip included that creates a rolling or hopping code. What this implies is that with each time you open or close the door, another code is used. It can retain up to 1 trillion different codes, depending on the specific model at hand. The receiver, as well as the transmitter, utilizes a synchronized random number generator to select a new code each time you operate the system. In case the receiver is sent the wrong code from the transmitter, it does not open the door for security purposes. Thus, it makes your garage impenetrable for thieves to hack.

Code capturing does not work in this scenario as the same sequence is not used twice. Moreover, there is no way for a different transmitter to open your garage door or vice versa as it is impossible for the same code to be on the roll at that moment. There is the fact that new systems include longer codes, even more of them amount-wise as their predecessors, so you can see why garage safety is a given if you make sure to acquire a modern system that functions on this principle.

Fun fact: With most modern systems, there is an ingenious safety measure set in place that causes an automatic desync of the transmitter and receiver, rendering the remote control useless until you call in a professional to correct the situation. This safety measure activates when you push the transmitter more than 256 times in a day.

Do Garage Door Openers Wear Out?

The average lifespan of a garage door opener is 10 to 15 years, but this varies depending on the frequency of use, if you take care of upkeep properly as the years pass, and the quality of the product. There are a few indicative signs that you may need to replace it earlier than this, and you should follow through with the procedure to use the opener to the fullest.

One of the signs that you must look into is the amount of noise the opener makes. If it becomes noticeably louder, it could mean that there is something off with the motor. Issues with the motor ask for an immediate replacement as the whole system is compromised without it. In case this is not the problem and you have a chain drive system, replace it with a belt drive model to not be bothered by loud noises again.

Over time, it is normal for technology to evolve and new safety and convenience features to appear. If you bought a door opener 10 years ago, for example, chances are that it does not feature the new rolling code system that is bulletproof when it comes to breaking in. Thus, you could still be a victim of a break-in and have your valuables stolen by intruders without replacing the system to make a much-needed upgrade.

If you buy a quality product, regardless of how neglecting you are with maintenance work, it will still perform on par for more years than a lower-end system. This is why we recommend you check out the best garage door openers at the moment and select one of these options to make sure your investment is long-lasting.

Is It Hard to Install a Garage Door Opener?

Preparation is the first step you must take. What this implies is deactivating existing locks, and checking to see if the door is lubricated and if it works properly. Check to see if there is an electrical plug in the proximity of the opener motor. If you don’t have one, call in a licensed electrician to set it up. Now you can move on to the actual installation.

  • First, put together the main assembly following the provided instructions in the accompanying manual. If you don’t already have blocking on the ceiling, install it.
  • Attach the included bracket for the opener to the door at the point of connection. If you have not been provided with one, check the instructions to see what type of bracket you need to acquire.
  • Insert the end of the assembly in the bracket that you have placed on the wall above the door.
  • Now, lift the other end until you put it neatly into place. Make sure that there is a minimum distance of 7’ between it and the floor so that no one will be in danger of bumping into it.
  • Attach the door to the opener. Beware that in some cases there are two pieces used for this setup.

See the full installation guide here to get a step-by-step look at how you need to proceed in case you want to take the procedure up on your own.

Final Thoughts

Garage door security is never complete without the addition of a garage door opener, especially seeing how modern systems rely on rolling code technology and other features that make them impenetrable and impossible to hack. Their operation is quite simplistic, as you already learned here. However, in its simplicity, it provides what you seek – protection from intruders and convenience when opening and closing the door to your garage.

You have secured the garage door, but what about the gate? See here the best automatic gate openers to learn your top options when it comes to electric opening systems that spruce convenience and safety for you when entering or leaving your property.

Tobey Hunter
Tobey Hunter
Tobey is the editor-in-chief at Optima Institute, his prior experience as a niche product reviewer in air quality improvement systems helping shape his path to conduct thorough research toward selecting and analyzing products so that customers are satisfied with the provided recommendations. During his carrier, Tobey also gathered technical input that makes him well versed in understanding advancements in modern systems, helping readers in turn to better understand how modern devices help improve life quality.