Garage Door Openers
Nice Option or Necessity?

Garage door openers were invented in 1926 by C. G. Johnson of Hartford City, Indiana, Northwest of Indianapolis. (Coincidentally, I was born North of Terre Haute, Indiana in the far northwest corner of Vigo County. We were so far out our mailing address was Paris, Illinois.)

These new devices didn't begin to really catch on until after WWII. The first remote transmitters were just like bomb detonators used during the war. Unfortunately there was no security built into these devices. When you pressed the button on your remote to open the garage door, it was a tossup as to whether you opened your door, your neighbors, or both.

Garage door openers and remote controls have progressed significantly since then.

There are primarily three classes of garage door openers, the chain drive, screw drive, and belt drive.

Chain Drive

Photo of Chamberlain Premium Whisper Drive 3/4-Horsepower Garage Door Opener with Battery Backup

Chain drive operators use a chain similar to a bicycle chain to operate the system. These chains run parallel to a metal trolley and can come into contact with the trolley.

These systems are already the noisiest available, but become especially bothersome when they drag across the trolley.

Some designs now enclose the chain inside a shield so that there is never any metal-to-metal contact, reducing noise levels considerably and eliminating the need for periodic lubrication.

Screw Drive

Screw Drive systems have the fewest moving parts so tend to last longer. They are also quieter than the chain drive units. Genie's Exelerator screw drive even opens at twice the speed of other operators but closes at the regular 7” per second for safety reasons.

Belt Drive

The belt drive is the quietest and is driven by a steel reinforced belt. The reinforcement in these belts is often described as being similar to that in radial tires.


Wayne Dalton's iDrive mount on the torsion bar above the door. It attaches directly to the torsion bar to apply the needed torque to move the door. Nothing mounts on the ceiling so this opens up space above the garage door.

Liftmaster's Jackshaft Garage Door Openers mount on the wall at either side of your garage door. This unit attaches to the torsion bar above your garage door. If you have very low, cathedral or an obstructed ceiling, this is one that will solve your clearance problems.

Infrared Safety Beams

The photoelectric garage door sensor consists of electric eyes mounted on the door track, six inches above the floor. If anything blocks the path of the electric eye, the door will stop and open.

These safety sensors cannot be bypassed. The opener will not work if the photo-eyes are not working or are out of alignment. If your garage door opens but will not close, it may be because these safety sensors are out of alignment or not working.


Garage door opener remote transmitters save you the trouble of getting out of your car to open your garage door. Today’s remotes are equipped with a “rolling code” operating system to provide maximum security for homeowners. When you push the button on your remote, the operator transmits a new code to your remote and disallows the code you just used from then on. Since the system is capable of billions of codes, you never use the same code twice.


One of the most popular options for owners is the outdoor keypad. They can be either wired or wireless. You simply program the keypad with your preferred PIN number so that you can enter the garage if your remote is not working or you just find yourself outside without your keys. They are also great for your children when they get home from school before you do.


Probably the most neglected but necessary garage door opener accessory is the surge suppressor. The electronics are just as sensitive to electrical spikes as other electronics. There are several other optional accessories available.


Chamberlain's Liftmaster division and The Genie Company are the largest manufacturers. Many of the brands you see on the market are actually made by these two companies. For instance, Liftmaster makes the Chamberlain, Sears Craftsman, the Liftmaster line, and many private label brands. There are a few other brands on the market, but these two companies manufacture more units than all the other companies combined.

There are even a few from each company with battery backup so that if the power goes out you can still open your door using garage door openers.

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