Thousands of homes have electric garage door operators these days, and people love these for the convenience they bring. Having one of these fitted turns your garage door into a machine which can be operated with the push of a button, or in several cases, just a tap on your phone with a dedicated app for that. If you are looking to get one for your home, following are the main factors to look into before making a purchase.
Before that, here is something vital to know and remember: an electric garage door operator is not a way to solve a broken down garage door. If the latter is in bad shape, you need to call in a technician for garage door repair or garage door replacement, period.
When it comes to electric operators, safety is one of the overriding factors. Your garage door would typically be a heavy movable object, which means the operator should be able to bring it to a halt if any obstruction is encountered. If and when this happens, you also need the door to start moving in the opposite direction right away. A self-learning safety system is best, and if you do not have one, then at least consider having a “break-beam” device attached to the lower leading edge. The latter can be unwieldy and hard to fit, which is why you should look carefully at the safety features of whatever garage door you plan to buy.
Most domestic garage door operators respond to coded radio signals, but it is not unheard of for such a system to be hacked. For something better, look for an electric operator with a “rolling code” system. It would effectively block anyone from copying your security code.
A basic garage door hooked up to an electric operator is typically held closed from the top by the latter’s towing arm, with no other locking mechanism used. You could top this off with mechanical locking devices, and achieve three-point locking. This stops anyone from forcing the bottom off the door in, breaking the towing arm at the top, and gaining access. Look into options for a ‘De latch mechanism’ which combines the door’s manual locking with the electric operator. Even older doors can be fitted with this in the form of retrofit kits.
Different operator models are capable of different power outputs, and there is a wide range when it comes to this. The best way option pick is an operator which can lift more than the weight of the garage door, ensuring the machine is not constantly pushed to its limits. Many operators give you the maximum figure of weight an electric operator can pull, but chances are you would not know how much your door weighs exactly. Others recommend operators based on the size of your garage door panel, but a decision based on this consideration is bound to be flawed. The best thing you can do is figure out the material of the panel, measure its dimensions, and get an expert’s help figuring out how much it weighs.
Belt vs. Chain Drive
Both work well, although chain drives require more frequent maintenance to be kept in good working order. Most belt drives give quiet operation and require little in way of upkeep. You need to ensure the chain is of decent quality, and try and see if you can get one with auto-tensioning.
This only applies to boom type operators mounted on the ceiling, so for any other type of operator skip ahead. For doors of different heights, you have varying lengths of boom, with standard operators outfitted with boom which can raise a garage door 7 feet off the floor. It is vital to know the full opening height for your garage door before choosing.
Soft Start and Soft Stop
Originally developed as a way to cut the stress on door panels and motor, this feature slowly speeds up the motor between “start” and “stop”. Owners of heavy garage doors see the most benefit from this, in the form of reduced stress on moving parts, as well as a quiet and gentle closing. The best part is that you would not wake the neighbors each time.
Your garage door operator should have the option to disconnect it from the inside. Basically, you have a short cord which disengages the towing arm as well as carriage from the door panel. After that, the door can be opened manually. Smaller garages have less space, so it can be difficult to reach this cord when a car is parked inside. In the case of a power outage, you would need to use this to get the garage door to open to take the car out.