Garage door openers have been offering homeowners great convenience for decades. After all, it’s a pain to hop out of the car and manually open or close the garage, especially on a cold winter day.
Today’s garage door openers are more helpful and easier to use than ever. They often incorporate smart home technology and come with features like Wi-Fi and voice commands, as well as quick, hassle-free ways to program the remote controls.
On paper, the mechanism operating a garage door opener is pretty straightforward. You have a motor with a belt — think bike chains — that opens and closes your garage. Some models come with light bulbs and safety sensors that stop the door from closing if there’s anything (or anyone) in its path.
While the basics remain the same, modern garage door openers have slowly integrated wireless features, with many having access to MyQ (a smartphone app) or HomeLink (a remote feature found in many modern car models). Some newer devices also have their own phone apps that are able to connect with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant or smart home environments like Apple HomeKit.
One benefit of all this added technology is that it’s much simpler to set up remote controls. Most openers today only require a pairing button to be pressed on the main unit, while others come pre-programmed out of the box. On the other hand, Wi-Fi and voice command features can sometimes be tricky, since each model has its own specific instructions.
Garage Door Opener Buying Guide
If you’re planning on installing your first garage door opener or simply think it’s time to upgrade your old model, here’s what you need to consider while shopping around:
• Horsepower. The size of your garage door will determine how much horsepower you need. The lowest available horsepower (0.5 hp) will typically be able to handle doors up to 7-8 feet in height, with the width varying by model. Large doors of 14 or more feet in height will need a stronger motor (perhaps 1.25 hp) to open and close comfortably. Horsepower can also affect the speed at which your doors open and close.
• Drive mechanism. The type of drive your opener uses will affect the amount of noise it makes. Chain-driven motors are usually the loudest, while belt-driven ones are quieter. Other types include screw-driven and direct-drive motors, which are also quiet, but are better suited for very heavy doors.
• Ceiling- or wall-mounted. Most garage door openers are ceiling-mounted; however, if your ceiling is low, or you drive a vehicle that’s high off the ground (like trucks or SUVs), a wall-mounted unit might be a good option.
• Connectivity. Access to phone apps and car features such as HomeLink will make it especially easy to open and close your garage. They may also allow you to control how long the door stays open, and even alert you if you forgot to close it when you left. Some models are capable of connecting to Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant to enable voice commands as well.
• Additional accessories. Last, but not least, you want to make sure that the model you are choosing includes some basic accessories such as pre-programmed remotes, wall controls, and safety sensors. This helps you avoid having to spend more money further down the road.
Garage Door Opener Installation
Installing a garage door opener is not an easy DIY project. In most cases, the task — which might take a few hours, a half-day, or much longer depending on the complexity and who’s doing the work — should be handled by a professional.
The cost of hiring a pro to install a garage door opener can vary quite a bit. You can expect to pay between $300 to $900 for a garage door installation, although sometimes the costs can run to upwards of $1,500.
All of the above applies to the installation of a new door opener in a garage that doesn’t have one. Replacing or upgrading an old garage door opener is generally less complicated (and less costly), and while it is a simpler job to do yourself, it is still not necessarily an easy or straightforward project
If you’re leaning towards the DIY route, there are a few important details to keep in mind. The first is that many models and brands have their own specific instructions for setup, which makes reading the instruction manual incredibly important. Likewise, you need to make sure that the length of the door tracks matches up with your garage (door) dimensions. Some models may require extenders.
You’ll want to make sure that there’s an electricity outlet near the motor unit, since not every model can be hooked up to an extension cord. It’s also important to replace additional parts like wall buttons and safety sensors, even if you had previous ones in place. They may all look similar, but these devices are very particular about compatibility.
Best Garage Door Openers
1. Best Overall: Chamberlain B970
It’s hard to imagine a house without a garage door opener — assuming you have a garage, of course. When looking for an appliance you’ll use daily, it’s important to choose one that won’t quit on you. The Chamberlain B970 certainly fits the bill, as one of the strongest and most reliable garage door openers you’ll find.
This particular model from Chamberlain comes with a 1.25 hp motor — the most powerful available for domestic use — and uses a belt-driven mechanism, which significantly reduces noise during operation. It also includes a backup battery that ensures continuous operation during power outages.
For all its strengths, the B970 does have some downsides. It has basic wireless features such as smartphone control, but more advanced ones like Google Assistant support are locked behind a subscription. It also lacks support for voice commands through Alexa or similar systems. But if all you need is a sturdy machine that will do the job and hold up over time, you’ll get your money’s worth with this model.
2. Best Wall-Mounted Opener: Liftmaster 8500 Elite Series
While garage door openers are mostly similar in design, not all garages are built the same. Some garages have minimal overhead clearance, or the homeowner simply wants to free up storage space above vehicles.
If either situation applies to you, check out the Liftmaster 8500. It’s a side-mounted opener that can handle large doors (up to 14’ x 18’) while fitting snugly on the side of your garage entrance.
The Liftmaster 8500 operates with a torsion spring system, meaning that it uses springs to push the door open, and then simply lets the door’s own weight handle the closing. Because of this, it is very important to pay attention to your door’s resting position when installing, or you may need to purchase additional “pusher springs” to help it close all the way.
This model works with MyQ, a smartphone app that connects to a variety of smart garage door openers. That said, it requires the additional purchase of the Liftmaster Internet Gateway — which costs $60 — in order to enable wireless features. That’s on top of the already hefty price tag for this device (around $400). However, you may feel significant peace of mind from the wireless features, especially Amazon Key, which allows for packages to be delivered inside your garage and away from the prying eyes of porch pirates.
3. Best Quiet Garage Door Opener: Genie QuietLift Connect
While there’s no denying the convenience that garage door openers provide, many of these contraptions can be loud. Though they’re only active for a few seconds at a time, the noise can be a bother if you have an attached garage or thin walls. The Genie QuietLift Connect offers a solution, combining nearly silent operation with reliable performance.
It uses a belt-driven, 0.75 hp DC motor, which significantly reduces operating noise while containing enough power to open garage doors at a reasonable speed.
As for wireless features, the Genie QuietLift Connect can be connected to your home network so you can operate it from your phone. The QuietLift also works with Alexa voice commands, but it doesn’t connect to smart home environments like Apple HomeKit.
Still, for less than $200, you get a quiet and reliable garage door opener with all the expected accessories (remote controls, wall-mounted keypad), as well as many modern features found in pricier models.
4. Editor’s Pick: Skylink ATR-1622CKW
Home appliances with wireless technology are now pretty common, but you usually have to pay pay fairly expensive prices to take advantage. The Skylink ATR-1622C KW is an exception, offering these features for a fraction of the cost of other models.
While it only sports a modest 0.5 hp motor and a chain drive — the noisiest type — the Skylink comes with full wireless features, allowing it to connect to your home network via phone app. It is capable of working with Alexa or Google Assistant, and an optional backup battery is available, letting you open the garage even during power outages.
Because of its limited lift power and somewhat noisy operation, this model might not be a great fit for everyone. However, with its $165 price tag, the 1622CKW is a great value for anyone looking to fully connect their home.
5. Best for Low Prices: Genie GEN1035V
Not every garage needs a high-powered, high-tech way to open its doors. Some homeowners just want a simple device will get the job done reliably and not break the bank. If that sounds like you, the Genie 1035V is a terrific choice, especially if your garage door is on the smaller side and you don’t mind a little noise.
This model runs on a 0.5 hp motor and a chain drive, and it comes with essentials like a preprogrammed remote, a wall button, and safety sensors to prevent the door from closing on anything in its path.
Bear in mind that this is a basic model. It doesn’t even have its own lighting. But Genie’s Aladdin Connect adapter can be purchased separately, if you want to add smartphone controls and remote monitoring features.