How powerful a motor do you need? Garage doors range from lightweight, uninsulated aluminum affairs to heavy models with insulation, glass, or solid wood. While weight is a consideration, most garage doors are counterbalanced so even a 1/2 horsepower garage door opener should be sufficient for typical use. Instead, factors such as size and how often you use the garage door are more critical, makers such as Chamberlain say. The major advantage of opting for a higher horsepower opener (typically 3/4 or 1 1/4 horsepower) is that it can move a door with less strain. That's a plus for heavier, larger doors, or in situations where the opener is used more often than is typically the case (for example, if you use your garage as the primary entrance to your home), as putting less strain on your opener leads to smoother operation and better long term durability.
How high is your garage door? Every garage door opener in this report can handle a 7-foot-high garage door without modification, but most require extension kits for taller doors. Expect to pay about $50 extra for most extension kits, although in some cases you may have to choose between multiple extension kits based on your garage door's height.
Don't scrimp on safety. Your garage door opener controls what may be the largest, heaviest moving object in your home (a garage door can weigh up to 600 pounds), so safety is crucial. Federal law requires all garage door openers made since 1993 include sensors to prevent the door from striking anybody who may be in its path. Automatic reverse, which stops the door and lifts off any obstruction, is another common safety feature. Some garage-door openers rely on sensors that stop a garage door if it comes in contact with an object. Others are supplied with sensors that shoot an invisible beam of light across your garage opening and will stop and/or reverse the door is something interrupts that beam.
Do it yourself or hire a pro? Regardless of type or maker, user reviews tell us that not every homeowner is fully equipped to tackle the job of installing a garage door opener themselves. For those who do want to tackle the job, it is certainly doable for those with at minimum decent handyman skills. Read the instructions, then read them again and again before you start so that you understand all steps. Inventory the carton to make sure all parts are on hand before you begin as missing components is a frequent user complaint. Having a helper on hand is also a good idea. Finally, budget enough time so that the job is not rushed -- experts say to expect at least a minimum of four hours, especially if you are also removing an old opener.
If you are not comfortable with the above, the best advice is to hire a professional. If you don't already have a garage door installer in mind, many retailers can offer suggestions. LiftMaster garage door openers are similar to the Chamberlain garage door openers (both are made by the same company) profiled in this report. Those are sold only by installers, and could be a good alternative if you decide that a chain-drive or belt-drive Chamberlain opener is right for you.
Is HomeLink worth the hassle? Many automobiles are sold with the capability of operating your garage door opener right from the dash. HomeLink is the most popular system, but reviews are full of tales of woe over getting built-in HomeLink controls to successfully communicate with a garage door opener, regardless of brand or model. Older cars are a particular problem as the system's protocols have changed over the years. Add-on modules are available from HomeLink and from garage door opener manufacturers to restore compatibility, but users often complain about the added expense, or the effort they needed to put in to learn that an adapter was required in the first place.
Elsewhere in this report: