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Best Direct-drive Garage Door Opener

By: Carl Laron on March 09, 2018

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Best direct-drive garage door opener

Direct Drive 1042V004

Modern direct drive garage door openers outpace the competition

A direct drive garage door opener is one that does not rely on a chain or belt to do its work. Instead, this garage door opener's spring-tensioned chain is stationary, and the motor travels along the chain. This makes them extremely reliable because there is only one moving part. They also have a whisper-quiet operation.

Made in Germany, direct drive garage door openers are sold primarily under the Direct Drive brand and Sommer brands in the DIY market. They are available with two different motors -- 500 newtons (equivalent to .75 HP) and 800 newtons (equivalent to 1 HP) -- and with different accessories.

Among these openers, we think that the base model is a pretty compelling value. Depending on the retailer, that would be either the Direct Drive 1042V004 (Est. $230) or the Sommer 1042V001 (Est. $260). 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 .75-horsepower (equivalent) 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.

Some things are missing, however. There's no battery back-up and, unlike most garage door openers, an external wireless keypad is not included. It the latter is an issue, a Direct Drive 4078V001 Wireless Keypad (Est. $40) is available as an option. It's also included in a step up version, the Direct Drive 1042V003 (Est. $305), though that configuration doesn't strike us as a particularly good value.

This garage door opener is now also available in a package with a third-party smart garage door controller, the Gogogate2 (Est. $140), as the Sommer 1042V002 (Est. $320). Gogogate2 lets you control and monitor your garage door remotely as well as integrate it into a smart home set up. Gogogate2 on its own doesn't get terribly impressive user ratings -- though that can be said about all similar products, including the Chamberlain MyQ system discussed in our section on the best belt-drive garage door openers. That said, experts like it very much. For example, it's the upgrade pick among smart garage door controllers at Wirecutter, and the most feature packed. In addition, "It also has the best app interface, keeping you fully informed about what's going on in your garage courtesy of clear, bright graphics, a temperature reading, and even a live visual of your garage door (if you choose to add an IP camera to your setup)," says Jennifer Pattison Tuohy. Aside from the addition of that controller, the Sommer 1042V002 is identical to the Sommer 1042V001, and should perform similarly.

The Direct Drive/Sommer garage door opener in its many configurations is not without some shortcomings. 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. Home Depot hosts the biggest concentration of those, for the Direct Drive 1042V004, and nearly 740 owners rate the unit at 4.7 stars overall, with recommendations from 95 percent. We see less feedback at other sites, and for other models, but satisfaction is on a par. At Amazon, this garage door opener is available from third party sellers as the Direct Drive 1042V001. More than 400 owners have weighed in and have rated the garage door opener a solid 4.3 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. Lowe's sells this opener as the Sommer 1042V001. There are fewer reviews there than elsewhere (around 70) but satisfaction follows the same pattern and the opener earns a 4.5 star rating.

If 3/4 HP isn't strong enough for your situation, the opener is also available in a 1 HP (equivalent) 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 than for the 3/4 HP version, but still relatively good at 4.3 stars based on more than 70 reviews at Amazon. One thing to keep in mind, as pointed out in a user review at Amazon, 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.

Regardless of the brand, motor power and accessories, 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.

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