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Shopping Guide for Best Garage Door Openers

When the weather outside is daunting, who wants to get out the car to open the garage door? Snow, rain, heat, and gloom of night might not stop the U.S. Postal Service, but face it – most people would rather open their garage door from the comfort of the car, and drive inside without facing the elements.

Of course, the best garage door openers offer much more than weather protection. They are quick and convenient when leaving or returning home. They can secure what might otherwise be a weak point of home security. Some can even alert you at work if your garage doors aren't closed properly. The challenge you face is finding the right one – this isn’t a product you can simply try out and return until you find the best fit for your situation.

At BestReviews, our mission is to help you solve these kinds of challenges. Our facilities make it possible to assess products that you could never try out at home. We're independent – we always spend our own money, we never accept free samples – so you know you can trust our results.

Once our research and testing was complete, our team agreed that the five excellent products above all met or exceeded our criteria. We are delighted to endorse them. To understand our testing parameters, continue to the shopping guide below.

Garage door openers with a smartphone app allow you to monitor your garage door’s status from afar and open or close it as needed.

Garage Door Openers — Physical Considerations

There are two major physical characteristics of garage door openers which should impact your selection: drive type, and motor configuration.

These elements impact on what kind of doors the opener can lift, how big they can be, and how much noise they will make.

A 1/2 HP garage door opener will work for almost any residential garage.

Staff
BestReviews

Drive Types

There are four types of drive available, though only three are in common use in the home.

Drive types

Chain

This has long been the most common option, and is usually the cheapest.

  • A chain drive can lift heavy, oversize, or one-piece doors.
  • They can usually be operated if the power is out.
  • Chain drives require periodic maintenance to combat chain stretch.
  • A chain-driven garage door opener can be very noisy.
DID YOU KNOW?

The chain drive is the most common type of drive for residential garage door openers.

Drive types

Direct (or Screw)

This drive uses a threaded steel bar rather than a chain. It is more expensive, yet still a popular choice.

  • The direct drive can also lift heavy, oversize, or one-piece doors.
  • Direct drive door openers are very reliable.
  • They come with a low maintenance requirement.
  • These drives are much quieter than chain drives, which is important if there’s a bedroom alongside or above the garage.
EXPERT TIP

A garage door opener with direct drive operates more quietly than a chain drive. Direct drive openers are a great choice if your garage is adjacent to a bedroom.


Staff  | BestReviews
Drive tyes

Belt

Every high-end garage door opener we reviewed uses belt drive. It's a little more expensive but has considerable benefits.

  • They can lift heavy, oversize, or one-piece doors.

  • Belt drives are very durable.

  • They require little maintenance.

  • Operation of a belt drive is smooth and can be almost silent, the best choice for a garage with an adjoining bedroom.

Product in Depth

Product in Depth

Chamberlain PD510 Chain Drive Garage Door Opener

We love the fact that you can connect the Chamberlain Whisper Drive with a phone app for long-distance control, as well as the fact that the door will secure itself if you forget to do so. As with any technology, there is a learning curve in which the kinks will need to be worked out. But overall, very few owners have anything bad to say about the Whisper Drive. One smartphone user expressed his satisfaction with the product by saying, “I can check if I've left the garage door open and close it from my office!”

Drive types

Jackshaft

This type of drive mounts directly onto the garage wall, not overhead. They are expensive and generally only found in commercial or industrial buildings.

  • Jackshafts can lift extremely heavy doors, but only sectional-type.

  • These garage door openers are very durable.

  • They’re very secure, with computerized, dead bolt locking available.

  • Jackshaft drives require periodic maintenance.

  • This type of opener can be quite noisy.

EXPERT TIP

An external keypad is a great way to allow access without having to move your remote controls between vehicles.


Staff  | BestReviews

Motor Types and Power

After using the information in the previous section to determine the type of drive you prefer, you need to match the drive with adequate power for your garage door.

Motor types and power

AC vs. DC Motors

AC motors have been used in garage door openers for decades. They're cheap and reliable, but they tend to be larger and noisier. Modern, brushless DC motors are smaller and quieter. In some models this allows for an added battery back-up, without the case being any bigger than a standard AC model.

DID YOU KNOW?

Garage door openers with DC motors tend to be quieter than those with AC motors.

Motor types and power

How Much Power?

AC-powered garage door openers are rated in horsepower (HP). Somewhat confusingly, DC motors are rated in HPS (Horsepower Similar) or HPc (Horsepower Comparable). Though technically different, these units of measurement are equivalent enough for comparison of products.

  • 1/4 HP garage door openers do exist, but we don’t recommend them. Even when lifting a plain aluminum door, they will be slow. Putting them under strain will only shorten their working life.

Most modern garage door openers can be synced with the HomeLink car system.

Staff
BestReviews
  • 1/2 HP is common. This size motor will cope with the majority of household garage door types, though they might struggle with solid wood.

  • 3/4 HP is the power choice for premium garage door openers. There are few residential garage doors they can’t manage. Opening and closing is usually fast and smooth.

  • 1 HP plus garage door openers are available for those with unusual requirements, though these are most often found in commercial situations.

If you've got particularly large garage doors, the 1 HP, Sommer 1052V000 is the model that will do the heaviest lifting. Additional rail for non-standard 8-foot doors is included in the price.

Staff
BestReviews

Garage Door Openers — Safety and Security Considerations

Safety and security considerations

Physical Safety

In 1993, U.S. law dictated that all garage doors must have a reverse mechanism to prevent the door closing on persons or property. In most models, an infrared beam running across the garage opening acts like a tripwire. Break the beam and the door rises again. This is a legal requirement that ensures the garage door cannot trap people or animals. It's also useful in avoiding accidental damage to your car, bikes left in the way, or other property.

Product in Depth

Product in Depth

Decko 24300 Chain Drive Garage Door Opener

The Decko 24300’s 3/4-HP motor provides the power you need if you've got a big or heavy door and, while it may not have all the bells and whistles of some “deluxe” models, the Decko does everything you need it to do. We appreciate the fact that this model comes with two remotes, an internal panel for controlling the lighting and opening/closing the door, a wireless external keypad with a security code, and a rolling code access system that keeps intruders out of your garage. The Decko will save you a few dollars over some of the more premium garage door openers, but it will still give you an excellent performance.

Safety and security considerations

Security And Access

Keyless access is the norm. Some cheaper garage door openers only come with one remote handset, but good models offer two. The best systems include remotes that can be used to control two or more garage door openers.

Access to the garage may also be controlled by external or internal entry pads, and motion sensors can be included so that the area lights up as you approach.

FOR YOUR SAFETY

An infrared beam across the bottom of the garage opening is the most common safety feature in garage door openers today.

The HomeLink in-car system is another popular solution, though compatibility needs to be checked and additional equipment may be required.

Some openers have timed closing systems so you can set them to shut after a certain period, in case you forget. Smartphone options are increasingly available, allowing you to close your garage door from just about anywhere.

The most advanced security systems now use rolling code technology. Remotes and entry pads re-program themselves every time the garage door is used. This prevents other radio frequency devices accidentally operating your garage doors, and stops thieves “cloning” your remotes.

EXPERT TIP

Check whether the light bulb for your garage door opener is included or must be purchased separately.


Staff  | BestReviews

Garage Door Openers — Other Features

  • Some garage door openers have a manual release, but many cannot be opened if the power is out. Many high-end models have battery back-ups, so they will still work.

  • WiFi-enabled garage door openers can be linked into smart home automation systems.

Product in Depth

Product in Depth

Chamberlain PD510 Chain Drive Garage Door Opener

The Chamberlain Whisper Drive takes control to a higher level than other models with its door and light automation features. The internal control panel has a sensor for motion-activated lighting. In addition, door closing can be instant or set automatically for 1, 5 or 10 minutes. We give this feature a top-notch rating because, should you forget to close your door, your garage will secure itself.

  • Parking assist modules are now available.

  • Additional rail segments may be necessary for garage doors more than the standard 7 feet tall. Sometimes these rails are included, sometimes not.

  • Almost all garage door openers have an overhead light – but bulbs are often not included! Check the product packaging to be sure.

  • Some models include fault diagnostics. These alert you to errors during installation, or that something is not working properly in daily use.

Garage Door Opener Costs

This is a very competitive product family, and the difference between the cheapest garage door opener and the most expensive is surprisingly small.

A good chain-drive model costs around $120. You shouldn't pay more than $250 for the best belt-drive version on the market. That's great news, because it means you can focus on the features that are most important to you without worrying too much about costs.

Garage door openers aren’t too difficult to install, but it certainly helps to have two people working together.

Installation Tips

  • Manufacturers may say that their garage door opener can be installed by one person, but it's always quicker – and safer – if someone is there to help.

  • Allow yourself plenty of time to install your garage door opener. It may only take a few hours, but why not give yourself all day? That way there's no pressure, and you're far less likely to make mistakes.

  • Read the instructions twice. If anything is not clear, contact the manufacturer. If you're not comfortable with any part of the process, call a professional fitter.

  • Once installed, test the opener and all its features thoroughly.

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