Introduction to Garage Door Openers

Once a luxury item, garage door openers have become much more common. They are definitely a convenience: garage door openers open and close the garage door without you having to get in and out of your car. This is obviously a boon in severe weather. But a garage door opener does more than that. It gives you a safer and more secure garage.

Newer designs are both quieter and safer than older designs. The quieter models are, in some cases, due to the use of direct current (DC) motors, which helps reduce the stopping and starting sound.


There are several different ways to type garage door openers. There are three different types of mechanical drive used, each corresponding to a price range. The cheapest use a chain drive; the moderately priced use a screw-drive; and the most expensive (which are also the quietest) use a rubber belt drive


The dangers of the garage door cannot be overstated. Particularly at risk are children and pets. This is why, since 1982, it is mandatory that garage-door openers have an auto-reverse mechanism so that if the door comes in contact with an object, it will reverse the door’s direction. If you purchase a home with an older garage door opener and it does not have an automatic reverse feature, you should repair it or have it replaced with one that does.

Since 1993, an additional feature to avoid entrapment, such as a photoelectric sensor, is required. If you have a garage door opener without this feature, it is smart to purchase a new one.

Despite the new standards mentioned above, accidental entrapment and injuries continue to occur. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends regularly checking the auto-reverse feature by placing a 2x4 board on the floor so that it is in the door’s path. If the door does not reverse upon striking the board, it should be disengaged until it is adjusted, repaired, or replaced. CPSC recommends an inspection of the door every 30 days to make sure it is functioning properly.

The controls of the door should be accessible only to adults. The wall switch should be placed high and out of children’s reach, and remote controls should be kept locked in the car and where children cannot reach them.


Garage door openers provide a variety of security enhancements. The “rolling code," which changes every time you open the door, is used in the newer remote controls help to stop thieves. The door automatically locks itself when it is fully lowered. In addition, some come with remotes that can be disabled (for example, if you want to be sure no one enters while you are on vacation). And some garage door openers have a remote receiver or sensor that indicates if the garage door is open, allowing you to check whether someone forgot to close it or if it has been opened unexpectedly.

Written by Mary Elizabeth

Related Home Institute Articles

  • Garage Door Safety
  • Childproofing the Garage
  • Garage Door Opener Buying Guide
  • Organizing a Garage