By Tim Carter
The house I moved into doesn't have a garage door opener. I'm wondering if these machines are really necessary. Also, the price differences between models have me seriously considering a discount opener. What should I take into account when purchasing one? I've been told garage door openers help keep a garage more secure.
-- Samantha R., Providence, R.I.
As you might expect, I have lots of experience with garage door openers. Not only do I have them at my own home, but over the years I have also installed many different models in the houses I built and remodeled. I'll tell this: I'll never ever install a cheap garage door opener. They just don't last very long, and you'll end up replacing the opener long before you would have if you'd invested in quality. If your goal is to save money, watch for a sale or special promotion.
Let's talk about how useful these wonderful inventions are by conjuring up a few scenarios. Imagine you're going out to a formal party and you're in your finest clothes. Just as you're getting ready to pull out of your garage, a torrential rainstorm erupts. If you've got a garage door opener, you don't have to jump out into the rain struggle with the door.
Automatic garage door openers can also provide you with a certain degree of safety. Let's say that some bad people want to harm you or take your possessions. It's a rare occurrence, but it can happen. Without a garage door opener, when you arrive back home from a night out, you have to get out of your car to open the garage door. You're pretty vulnerable to being attacked. With an opener, you pull into the garage and shut the door while you remain in your locked car.
If you decide to purchase a garage door opener, you should understand how the machine works. An opener typically has one of three basic types of drive mechanism: a chain drive, a screw drive and a belt drive. All of these do the same thing, but there are significant differences. Chain drive openers usually are the least quiet, and over time the chains can lose a little bit of their tension. Screw drive openers, in my experience, operate smoothly for years with little or no maintenance issues.
Belt drive openers require close attention if you want them to be quiet. Because the belt minimizes metal-to-metal contact between moving parts, you end up with a nearly silent garage door opener. This can be a significant advantage if you or another family member sleeps in a room above or adjacent to the garage, or if someone in your family works odd hours that have them coming and going while others in the house are counting sheep.
Definitely consider service options when deciding which garage door opener to buy. In the event of a problem or warranty issue, who will assist you? While these machines are not too complicated, you don't want to be up on a ladder yourself trying to wrestle with one if you don't have to.
Understand that the electric opener you intend to purchase is not built to lift, on its own, the enormous weight of a garage door. The lifting is done by springs attached to your garage door. Be sure those springs are have been adjusted correctly before you install an opener.
If you have the chance to install the necessary wiring for the opener before walls of your garage are finished, do so. Safety features on the doors require low-voltage wires to be run to optical sensors at the lower ends of the door track. It's nice to have these wires hidden behind the walls where they are out of the way from being snagged by garden tools or anything else that may nick them.
Don't assume that a garage door opener will make your garage immune from unwanted entry in your absence. Just about every garage door opener is equipped with a safety release handle where the door connects to the track. When your door is in the closed position, this handle dangles from the track just behind the top of the door.
An undesirable person can easily slide a metal hook in the top of some garage doors and grab the handle. Within seconds, they can disengage the garage door from the track, which allows them to manually lift the door. Once inside your garage, they can quickly close the door giving the appearance to all who pass by your home that all is well and nothing is happening.
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