Garage Door Openers 101

The opener is the electric appliance that opens and closes the garage door. They can be activated by push button, key switch or by a radio remote control. The radio frequencies have been refined to prevent the doors from automatically opening. Remember, the spring is actually the “motor” of the door. The electric opener or your arm is the “cruise control” of the door.

The weight of the door is supposed to be handled by the spring. If your door is becoming harder to open, it does not always mean you need new springs or an opener. Assuming there are no other impediments, you may only need a spring adjustment.

There are three types of drive mechanisms on openers: Belt, Chain, and Screw.

Openers having either a belt drive or chain drive move the belt/chain along a path between a gear on top of the motor of the opener and another gear located where the opener attaches to the door frame. You may not be able to see this on an installed opener, but it is there.

The garage door is attached by a “trolley” that moves along a track and is attached to the door by a bar called an arm. As the motor turns the gear, the belt or chain is moved by this rotating gear thus moving the trolley and opening or closing the door.

However, the screw drive has a steel screw inside aluminum housing. As the motor turns the screw in the housing, the trolley is drawn toward or pushed away from the motor, opening or closing the door. All three, when new, have the same strength in lifting ability. Therefore, the major determinant is quietness of operation over time.

The screw drive is very quiet for the first year or so but as the aluminum housing is worn by the friction against the steel, the housing becomes loose. What starts as a gentle whirring sound, soon becomes a deafening grinding sound, loud enough that a conversation is impossible while the opener is running. Lubrication will dampen the sound but it will return eventually.

The chain drive parts work with other metal parts and in time will wear. Metal gears driving a metal chain will get noisy quickly. Keeping the chain lubricated with petroleum jelly, or something similar, will increase its life but will not maintain quiet.

The belt drive is better than either. It is much quieter because there is no metal rubbing metal. The belt is the same material as the timing belt in your car but doesn’t experience the same RPMs. It is the only one of the three where a life time warranty is given by manufacturers.

One-third Horsepower openers will work on 95% of the doors out there, even ones 16 feet wide. Despite this, manufacturers put all of the bells and whistles on the one-half HP and higher doors such as timed lights and vacation switches. Most of the popular openers are three-fourths horsepower because they are not much more than the lower power openers, provide you with better features, and life time warranties.

There are also DC power motors on the market which allows for battery back-up systems that will open and close your door during power outages. Always makes sure that the locking mechanism on the door is disabled when your opener is operable. If it is not and someone accidentally locks the door, serious damage will be done to the opener and possibly to the door itself. Always makes sure the lift handle is on the bottom of the door inside and out in case the door needs to be worked by hand.

Thomas V. Giel Garage Doors serves a 50-mile radius around Pittsburgh. We handle all your needs when it comes to garage doors and openers! We also provide entry doors and storm doors that are installed in front of the entry door to protect it.

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