Belt-drive garage door openers are known for their whisper-quiet operation. The trade-off is higher prices compared to chain drive garage door openers, which we cover elsewhere in this report. Still, if your house has an attached garage, and the noise of a chain-drive model will disturb your peace and quiet more than you'd like, you might consider that trade well worth making.
In the belt-drive category, the Chamberlain name rises to the top on most user review sites. For this go around, we are going to elevate the Chamberlain WD1000WF (Est. $270) to the ranks of the Best Reviewed.
We were very impressed with the still-available Chamberlain WD962KEV (Est. $240) the last time we updated the report -- and still largely are -- but the WD1000WF has all that the older opener has to offer, and ups the ante by adding full internet connectivity and a more powerful 1-1/4 horsepower motor, while adding very little to the bottom line (and sometimes no price difference at all, depending on sales and the retailer). That said, if you are certain, or at least pretty sure, that you don't care all that much if your garage door opener is smart or dumb, and if you can find the WD962KEV at a good price, it is very much worth considering; we'll talk about it in a little more depth in a few moments.
On the features front, the Chamberlain WD1000WF is one of the most well-equipped garage door openers we spotted. It's MyQ enabled, and the required Internet gateway to gain smartphone and tablet control and status updates is built in. It's also HomeLink compatible for cars that have HomeLink remotes built into their vehicles. There's a battery back-up in case of a power outage. The in-garage multifunction control panel features a motion sensor that will automatically turn on a light built-into the opener if it detects movement in your garage. There are safety sensors that will halt a closing garage door and reverse its motion if anything -- such as a person or a vehicle -- breaks its invisible beam. Also included are two multifunction remotes for your cars and a wireless external keyless entry system. The remotes use a rolling code that changes after every use for greater security.
Expert reviews -- at least credible ones -- of garage door openers are few and far between. However, with all of the buzz that connected-home technology has received of late, it's not surprising that technology reviewers have begun looking at some "smart" garage door openers. The Home Depot exclusive Chamberlain HD950WF (Est. $270), which looks to be identical to the Chamberlain WD1000WF in terms of specifications, performance and price, has gotten the lions' share of the attention from these reviewers
PCMag.com and CNET install and test the HD950WF, and come away mostly impressed. We say mostly because, as we see in feedback for virtually all garage door openers, installation can be vexing for the home improvement novice. "I can't stress enough that upgrading your garage door opener is not a task to take lightly," says CNET's Brian Bennett. Other aspects of the Chamberlain HD950WF are more smile inducing these reviews say. Once installed, no performance shortcomings are observed. The smart features are well received, with PCMag.com's John R. Delaney saying that the apps (both Android and iOS are supported) aren't flashy, but are easy to use.
User feedback is starting to accumulate. At Amazon.com, the Chamberlain WD1000WF earns an impressive 4.8 stars after more than 90 reviews. Things are a little less rosy at HomeDepot.com for the HD950WF, but only a little. It earns a 4.4 star rating following around 100 reviews. As is typical for Chamberlain openers, most users are pleased, but others grouse about connectivity issues, issues with HomeLink compatibility, and installation challenges. A Lowes exclusive version, the Chamberlain LW9000WF (Est. $270), is also available, and also rates well -- 4.7 stars after more than 55 reviews.
As noted at the top, the well-regarded Chamberlain WD962KEV remains available, and popular. Its 3/4 horsepower motor isn't as powerful as the one in the WD1000F, but is perfectly fine for almost all residential situations. Other than that, the key difference is that the while the WD962KEV is MyQ enabled, it lacks the gateway to connect to your home network. If, sometime down the line you decide you do want to take advantage of the opener's smart functionality, you can do that by adding the Chamberlain CIGBU MYQ Internet Gateway (Est. $50).
Feedback for the Chamberlain WD962KEV comes from owners, and most are ecstatic. It earns a 4.6 star rating after nearly 720 reviews at Amazon.com. The quiet operation is a chief reason why, comments such as, "the quietest opener I've ever had" are not uncommon. Of course, not everyone completely agrees, but far more agree that it is quiet than not.
No garage door opener is perfect in the eyes of owners, and we saw some complaints of missing parts in the carton, or that the supplied drive belt is too short for their set up, requiring the purchase of an extension kit, like the Chamberlain 8808CB 8-Feet Belt Drive Extension Kit (Est. $45) or the 10-foot version, the Chamberlain 8810CB (Est. $95) . However, most complaints regard incompatibility with older vehicles with HomeLink. Because of a change in technology in 2011, those with older vehicles will need to purchase a compatibility bridge, something that disgruntled buyers feel is inadequately explained; see the buying guide for more information.
If cost is a concern, a 1/2 horsepower garage door opener might be a reasonable option. The Chamberlain WD832KEV (Est. $180) is a standout choice among those. Other than a lower-HP motor, the major difference between this belt-drive garage door opener and the Chamberlain WD962KEV is a lack of a battery back-up. There's also no HomeLink compatibility -- perhaps not a major shortcoming in light of the HomeLink frustrations engendered by the WD962KEV
The most feedback for the WD832KEV can be seen at Amazon.com, where it attracts more than 1,000 reviews and an excellent 4.6-star rating. Most owners are very happy with the WD832KEV once it is installed, but the path to finishing the job isn't always smooth. We saw several complaints about poor instructions, difficult assembly tasks and parts missing from the box. On the other hand, plenty of others found installation manageable, though it helps to be realistic when you assess your DIY skills.
HomeDepot.com has a smaller assortment of user reviews -- though still nearly 275 -- and satisfaction is similar. The Chamberlain WD832KEV earns a score of 4.6 stars, with 94 percent of reviewers saying that they would recommend this belt-drive garage door opener to a friend.
If self-installation is a bit more than you care to tackle, these Chamberlain garage door openers are available in LiftMaster versions, which are sold through professional installers. The LiftMaster 8550 is identical to the Chamberlain WD962KEV, while the LiftMaster 8355 is the same as the Chamberlain WD832KEV. LiftMaster doesn't currently offer an opener that's identical to the WD1000WF, but the LiftMaster 8550W offers the same features but with a motor rated at 3/4 horsepower. Contact a local installer for pricing; you can find one at the LiftMaster site.
We also saw some good reviews for another belt-drive garage door opener. Like the Chamberlain WD962KEV, the Genie SilentMax 1000 (Est. $200) offers a powerful 3/4 horsepower motor. It's also feature packed, with two multifunction vehicle remotes, a multifunction interior wall controller, a wireless entry pad, rolling security codes and safety sensors. It's not Internet capable out of the box, but that functionality can be added via the optional Genie Aladdin Connect module (Est. $100). It's also HomeLink and Car2U compatible, but there's no battery back-up.
Reviews say that getting HomeLink to pair with the Genie SilentMax 1000 opener can be a challenge, but overall we saw far fewer complaints about getting HomeLink to work than we did with Chamberlain garage door openers. Like the Chamberlain opener, feedback on installation is mixed. Many say it's a snap, others it's anything but and add that less-than-ideal instructions are a hindrance. Still, most owners are happy. HomeDepot.com hosts the lion's share of user reviews and the SilentMax 1000 earns a 4.3 star rating, with 86 percent saying that they recommend the garage door opener.
Elsewhere in this report: