A direct drive garage door opener is one that does not rely on a chain or belt to do its work. That could include older screw-drive mechanisms that were slow and noisy. While still available, screw-drive garage door openers have largely given way to chain-drive and belt-drive systems, but also to a new type of direct-drive opener that currently stands without significant competition.
Unlike other types of modern garage door openers, which use a stationary motor that powers a chain or belt, this garage door opener's spring-tensioned chain is stationary, and the motor travels along the chain. The result is what users near-unanimously say is an extremely quiet operation. It's not uncommon to find reviewers who used to have a chain- or belt-driven opener say that this direct-drive system produces the least noise of any model they have owned.
Made in Germany, this garage door opener is sold under a couple of different brand names and model numbers, but all are identical. Depending on the retailer, you can find this opener as the Direct Drive 1042V001 (Est. $230) , the Direct Drive 1042V004 (Est. $230), and the Sommer 1042V001 (Est. $280).
Regardless of the brand/model number, because there is only one moving part, reliability should be excellent. The manufacturer notes that its technology has been tested by an independent European agency, TÜV NORD, and found to be able to operate over 80,000 or more cycles without needing maintenance. Sommer/Direct Drive backs that up by covering the entire garage door opener with a lifetime warranty; accessories such as remotes are covered for two years. Customer service gets more compliments than complaints, though, like most companies, it's not immune from the latter.
The feature line up is competitive with other top-of-the-line garage door openers. You'll find two car remotes, a wired interior control pad, and safety beam sensors that will stop the door if they detect anything in its path. Like most modern garage door openers, rolling remote-control codes help prevent break-ins The 3/4-horsepower motor is more than sufficient for most residential garage doors, and it's rated to handle up to 550 pounds. This garage door opener is HomeLink compatible with newer vehicles, but older vehicles, might require a repeater module to comply with current HomeLink protocols. Though not included, the Direct Drive 4078V001 Wireless Keypad (Est. $35) is available as an option, and is included in a step up version, the Direct Drive 1042V003 (Est. $300), though that configuration doesn't strike us as a particularly good value.
The Direct Drive garage door opener is not without some shortcomings, however. The most notable one is that the opener is slow compared to chain-drive and belt-drive models. That's a big deal to some, but not to most judging from the feedback. For do-it-yourselfers, installation challenges seem lower than with other openers but are not unheard of. Some say that the rail that's included with the opener, and rated for garage doors 8-feet high or less, is not long enough and that an extension kit needs to be purchased. HomeLink and other programming headaches appear, even among owners who are happy enough with other aspects of the garage door opener to give it strong feedback anyway.
Speaking of feedback, user reviews are stellar. HomeDepot.com hosts the largest number, over 675, and users rate the Direct Drive 1042V004 offered there at 4.7 stars, with 96 percent saying that they would recommend their garage door opener to a friend. Sub-ratings are high across the board; notably, users rate it higher for ease of installation than other openers.
We see less feedback at other sites, but no less satisfaction. At Amazon.com, this garage-door opener is available as the Direct Drive 1042V001. More than 360 owners have weighed in and have rated the garage door opener a solid 4.5 stars. Some complaints are noted either over defective openers, challenges in installation or issues with HomeLink. Most applaud its quiet operation, easy installation, and reliable performance. Lowes.com sells this opener as the Sommer 1042V001. There are fewer reviews here than elsewhere (around 60) but satisfaction follows the same pattern and the opener earns a 4.6 star rating.
If 3/4 HP isn't strong enough for your situation, the opener is also available in a 1 HP version, the Sommer 1052V000 (Est. $250). It's designed for doors up to 1,200 pounds, so is probably a bit of overkill for most residential uses. Reviews are less plentiful, and a little less positive than for the 3/4 HP version, but still relatively good at 4.1 stars based on more than 50 reviews at Amazon.com. One thing to keep in mind, as pointed out in a user review at Amazon.com, speed is not a highlight -- it operates at a slower speed than the 3/4 HP versions to provide more lifting power for heavier doors.