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Garage Door Openers – Reviewed
The class is in session now….
There are many types of garage door openers, so which one is right for you? The first thing you need to understand is that garage door openers are not one-size-fits-all. Garage door openers work better when they are on the right type of door, most of our repairs are done on machines that are either installed incorrectly or the opener is on the wrong type of door and in many cases it is just a low quality opener.
Until now I have used the words “opener” and “machine”, they both mean the same thing, they refer to the entire mechanized operation, so when I say “opener” I am not referring to the manual device in the car. .this is called “remote control” or just “remote control”. However, there are several types of garage door openers on the market. There are screw drives, there are chain drives, there are belt drives and last but not least, direct drives, commonly referred to as “Jackshafts”. But let’s take them one by one and start…
These machines have been popular for 45 years (not necessarily good) on all types of doors, but… due to their design, they require regular maintenance. In the 6Os, 7Os and early 8Os, Genie used very durable steel in the “carriage” or “wagon” and the machines were tough! They even ran without grease on the screw for what seemed like forever, then they switched to a lighter grade steel and everything that was sloped, the openers still worked as long as any provided you greased the screw regularly, but who ever does that. !! So the average lifespan of a Genie screwdriver cart was about 4-5 years and that’s a big line, Liftmaster or Chamberlain or Craftsman, all made by the same Mfg… (Chamberlain) also has a screw drive and the Same problem to counter that it has a plastic interior they use a carriage and a self-lubricating housing around the bolt to keep out the heat and wear, but the self-lubricating housing really only lasts about a year. to the same tin, the same “grease-grease-grease”. My official opinion on screwdrivers…stay away from them, old technology with a new look.
These types of machines have been around for as long as screwdrivers give or take 5 years and they have come into their own. Chain drives have always been very durable machines, but they got a bit of a boost when Sears started selling a do-it-yourself model called the Chamberlain Craftsman, now this machine, although called a “chain drive”, has a chain on one side, a cable on the other, and so on. there seemed to be nothing that could be done to keep this thing quiet because the cable would stretch until it broke at the loop. So from then on, chain drives got a bad reputation as “coffee grinders” or noisy machines, even though it wasn’t a real chain drive.
Liftmaster 1300 series chain drives…for the dollar they are as good machines as you can get, they are versatile as they handle any type of door from heavy wood to light steel, one piece or sectional and they are strong and cheap and require relatively low maintenance, but to get this far to reach, it has undergone many good developments. Chamberlain added a chain spreader to prevent the chain from hitting the rail, replaced the front sprocket with a disc which drastically reduces chain noise, switched the steel sprocket to a nylon sprocket inside the case to reduce heat from the helical gear and removed the two tension springs in the from the inner carriage to reduce door bounce and the solid one-piece rail with full wrap around.
The parts on this machine can handle what the engine puts out, so in most cases you don’t need 1/2 HP to lift the door, and as far as routine maintenance goes…virtually none, just the two nylon Gears inside the engine housing are lubricated every 7 years , and that’s about it, in the rare case that you happen to have a house right on the beach and only use the opener in the summer, you can spray the chain with good silicone to keep the links free. My two preferred models, which have been real workhorses for us for the past two decades, are currently known as #1346=1/3 HP and #1356=1/2 HP.
Nowadays, several manufacturers produce belt drives, but I stick to the most reliable brand, which for me is Liftmaster, we supply most brands, but we prefer to deal with the brand with the least problems, so let’s focus on Liftmaster belt drives. Now. Remember that belt drive openers are VERY door specific machines, they do NOT work very well or very long on 1 door, and should NOT be installed on 1 door. For simplicity, there are two types of belt drives… AC and DC.
The AC belt drive, known as the Formula I, is one of the early model belt drives and is essentially a chain-driven motor head that drives a belt instead of a chain. It’s a minute quieter than a chain drive minus the power, and to me… not a good machine, but an easy sell because it’s cheaper than a DC model and the general public doesn’t know the difference, they just do. V-belt drives are said to be the best and it is a belt drive so they are no smarter than tricks, dealers can buy these types of machines much cheaper than their DC motor counterparts and sell them for a belt. driver (premium) price. What makes the “DC motor” belt drive quiet is the motor! Otherwise, why would they offer it in DC, plus the other advantage is that you can connect a battery backup, so it works even when it’s turned off.
In its simplest form, a DC motor produces more torque than an AC motor, and DC motors are rated in “Newtons” rather than HP, but DC motors also have a “slow start/slow stop” feature, which helps to maintain full operation. quiet. If an AC powered machine is activated it goes to O-60 in one shot or should I say “O to full speed”…the second you press the button but the door is not on the same side and wants to resist the sudden force and that’s where a lot of the noise comes from..basically the jerk of the door resists the opener where the slow start of the DC machines motivates the door more smoothly to get it. it goes without any jerks and does the same thing when it stops, so it slows down for the first two inches and the last two inches, greatly reducing the messiness of the whole operation.
DC machines also electronically calibrate the pressure needed to operate the door based on resistance and weight,
which leaves little room for mechanic error, meaning the mechanic can’t set the machine to smash the hood or the cat, AC motors are at the mercy of the mechanic, if you set the power setting too high it will smash, if you set it too low, the door he snaps back to a cold or wet morning as he happily goes to work, not knowing that his garage door will be open all day and that brand new Craftsman toolbox he got for his birthday is about to be sold for a fraction of the price at the local swap meet…all because you thought you could get a belt drive garage door opener for cheap!! Final thoughts…AC motor belt drives= not good (better with chain drive) DC motor belt drives= Very good, very quiet, but very door specific. (Only works on sectional doors)
Jack-Shaft (Direct driving)
This section is easy because there is literally only one available and it is a Liftmaster #3800 and it only works on sectional gates. So for those looking for a machine that doesn’t mount to the ceiling like a traditional machine, the Liftmaster #3800 may be just what you’re looking for, quiet, (800 Newton) or 3/1 power. 4 HP and can be attached to both ends of the torsion tube provided there is at least 10 inches of side clearance, so the idea of this opener is that if you have a room above the garage, it will completely eliminate… the vibration of a typical opener which is the hanging from the ceiling, or if you have a recessed light in the garage that holds the second floor of your house, or have an attic or storage shelf where a typical opener is installed, you can still automate the door with this type of door. machine.
It can also be used in applications where you just don’t want an opener hanging out in the middle of your garage. I’ve found over the years that the #3800 likes the heavier sectional gates over the lightweight non-insulated models. The advantage of this type of machine is that it will lift a sectional door up to 13 feet without modification, whereas a regular machine will only lift doors up to 7’4″ with a regular track machine, which requires a longer track. say an 8′– 9′ or 10 ft. opening height, which is increasingly common in newer homes.The Liftmaster #3800 has been a very reliable alternative for us since 2004.
Everyone likes options, but given the fact that there really are so many choices when it comes to garage door openers, it makes it very easy to make the wrong choice for your particular garage door, which can lead to many future service calls and repairs. hopefully this clears some things up when it comes to choosing the right machine and you will have many “good” ups and downs with the right system.
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