How to pick the best garage door opener

So your garage door opener has died or you are having a new garage door installed and you are looking at options and brands to automate or replace your existing opener. How do you pick the best garage door opener? What to look out for? There are a few items to consider when choosing a new opener.

This blog deals specifically with sectional and tilt door openers although much of the same principles apply to roller door openers. If you are unsure what type of door you have please read Different types of garage doors

AC or DC drive motor?

DC motors have several distinct advantages over older AC units such as

  • Much quieter
  • Less vibration
  • Soft Stop, soft start functionality
  • less power consumption
  • safer
  • The sideways force of the door “tugging” on the drive gears tends to be incorporated into the rail meaning there is less internal wear and tear

We always recommend DC motors over AC motors due to the reasons outlined above and have found that almost all new openers on the market today are DC motor driven.

DC garage door motor

One of the specifications to carefully consider is the force rating of the new garage door opener.

Often an opener can be labelled “Sectional/tilt door opener” because it can power both types of doors. A tip here though, if the opener is labelled “Sectional” opener, not “Sectional/tilt” opener it generally means it is to the lower end of the power spectrum and generally slightly cheaper but not as robust.

Tilt doors are heavier and require a fairly powerful, robust unit to achieve longevity. Installing an opener labelled “Sectional” on a tilt door will result in the unit burning out fairly quickly. As a general rule power ratings should be as below

600N motor – suitable only for single car garage size sectional doors

800N motor – suitable for the same doors as the 600N plus single car garage tilt doors and medium size double car garage sectional doors that are reasonably well maintained and balanced.

1000N motor – suitable for all same doors as the 600N and 800N plus double car garage tilt doors and medium to large double car garage sectional doors

1200N motor – suitable for all the same doors as the 600N, 800N and 1000N plus heavy double car garage tilt doors and large sectional doors.

An important consideration to note here is that quite often a 600N opener will have the same drive rail, circuitry, transformer, remotes etc as a 1200N opener with the only difference being the larger motor so the cost difference between a 600N motor and a 1200N motor is quite often next to nothing! It is for that reason that we generally recommend the most powerful unit for all doors. They usually come with a longer warranty too and will give many more years service because they aren’t doing too much work!

Some manufacturers such as Jaytech Garage Door Openers only produce a 1200N sectional/tilt door opener – The Jaytech 1200 V4, suitable for all sizes of both sectional and tilt doors. Economically this makes sense given the reasons outlined above. Jaytech also use a strong metal gear system which provides great strength yet remains very quiet in operation.

Merlin garage door openers have several different sizes ranging from 600 – 1200N and are well known for their advances in Technology and software development.

Belt Drive or Chain drive?

Most openers these days are belt drive and offer many advantages over older chain drive designs such as

  • Quieter operation
  • Less likely to trap fingers
  • Easier installation
  • Corrosion resistant
  • In some cases they are stronger
  • Require no lubrication

When belt drives first appeared on the Australian market some 15 years ago they were often fabric re-enforced and prone to stretching and breakage. These days some manufacturers such as Jaytech have incorporated braided steel cable into the belt to provide extreme reliability and strength.

RCM and Australian Standards Compliance

There are an unbelievable amount of garage door openers being sold on the Australian market which aren’t compliant to Australian Standards or the RCM (Regulatory Compliance Mark) . This is a major concern as they could be unsafe. At Aus Garage Door Parts all of our openers are both Australian Standards and RCM compliant. Look for the RCM compliance mark on products and/or packaging.

Image result for rcm mark
RCM compliance mark

 

longevity

Very broadly speaking this is the way electronic device manufacturers work

  1. Design, manufacture and release a new product
  2. Wait and see what issues and problems arise with it within 2 years
  3. Fix these issues with a V2 or Version 2
  4. Repeat

So if you are buying an opener that has a V3 (Version 3) or higher you can generally be assured that the product has been around for quite a number of years and has been tweaked, modified and is generally going to be much more reliable than a V1.

Smart device compatibility

You should consider what you want the opener to do. Do you just want it to go up and down reliably when you push the remote control button or would you like it to be voice controlled, tell you the temperature in your garage, play music, operate remotely from your mobile phone, see when it is opened and closed etc?

For most people they just want it to go up and down faithfully and quietly when they push their remote control button but for some people the benefits of turning it into a “smart” device can be valuable.

Both of the manufacturers we have mentioned in this blog have a completely different approach to this.

Merlin on one hand has spent a lot of money and time developing their own myQ software which integrates with their own openers on newer models. It is purchased as a seperate module and attaches to the opener. From all accounts it performs very well although in our opinion it currently has some major drawbacks such as

  • Requires PE (photo eye) beam installation
  • Is not compatible with Apple Homekit
  • As far as we can tell there is no way it can alert you if your garage door is forced open as it relies on a limit switch rather than a reed switch.
  • Subscription fees apply if IFTTT functionality (google home integration etc) are desired.

Jaytech on the other hand has chosen not to develop their own software but rather integrate easy connect terminals so that the opener can utilise smart modules according to the users preference and what features they are looking for in the “smart module”. One device that they endorse is the ismartgate which has a huge range of functionality and integrates with Google, Alexa and Apple Homekit and has no subscription fees for IFTTT.

A simpler device such as the Garadget can also be easily connected or even a basic WIFI switch such as those found on ebay. This allows the consumer a broader choice to suit their requirements and budget without being tied to one particular product.

ismartgate smart garage door WIFI
Ismartgate
Merlin myQ WIFI module
Merlin myQ

Warranty

Most well built openers these days come with a minimum of 5 years warranty for peace of mind. One thing to note here though for the unsuspecting is the so called “motor” warranty. There are some brands out there labelling their product as having a “10 year motor warranty”. When you read the fine print, the warranty may cover the internal DC motor for 10 years but the electronics (circuit board, transformer etc) for only 2 years.

This can be misleading because if the circuit board fails after 2 or 3 years what good is it that the motor is still ok? Especially when they may be charging several hundred dollars for a new circuit board.

Reputable brands such as Merlin and Jaytech will cover everything under the warranty apart from remotes and consumables as long as the minimum service schedule is adhered to (door must be serviced at least every 3 years) and both brands offer 7 year warranties on most of their products.

Where it is made

Of all the brands of garage door openers on the Australian market these days there are 3 common places they are manufactured

  1. China
  2. China
  3. China !

Merlin, ATA, Guardian, Jaytech, Avanti, B&D etc are all made in China. In fact there aren’t any other options. Even some of the “German” openers are actually manufactured in China too.

Don’t let that put you off! The Chinese can make some really top quality stuff these days. Look at your Samsung or Apple phone, it is made in China. Anyone who thinks that Chinese made is inferior is about 10 years behind!

Further reading about choosing the best garage door opener can be found here