For openers . . .
These remote-controlled devices are safer and more secure than ever.
Some are also quieter and quicker.
Whether you're replacing a garage-door opener or buying one for the
first time, technology is on your side. The latest models we tested
require less force to automatically stop and reverse the door if it
touches a person or an object. New ones also have remote controls that
thwart thieves by using constantly changing "rolling codes." Unlike
older models, which entailed lengthy code setting, the latest do most
or all of that setup for you. Once the door is down, it's automatically
locked--a convenience over nonpowered doors. Four we tested are
especially quiet, a plus for light sleepers or homes where someone
lives or works over a garage.
WHAT WE TESTED, WHAT WE FOUND
The nine openers in this report include leading brands Chamberlain,
Craftsman (Sears), Genie, and LiftMaster. Just two manufacturers make
most garage-door openers: Chamberlain makes Craftsman and LiftMaster
models along with its own brand, while Overhead Door makes Genie units.
That explains why models sold under different brands may look similar.
Most openers are install-it-yourself models sold at large retailers.
Professional units like the Genie Pro and LiftMaster are sold by
professional installers and can have a higher price, though not always.
At $255, the high-scoring LiftMaster costs about the same as other top
performers--and far less than the $350 Genie Pro model we tested.
Figure on $125 or so to have an opener installed, though you can opt to
do the work yourself, as do roughly half of all buyers.
Don't assume that "pro" models are better or sturdier. Even the non-pro
openers lifted our 16-foot-wide test door with ease. Which you choose
may depend on whether you want one that's especially quiet or fast.
The sound of silence. All openers raise and lower the door via a
trolley that slides along a rail. Most use a chain or screw to move the
trolley. A new type of cogged belt helped lower the sound level for the
LiftMaster, Genie Pro, Chamberlain, and Craftsman 53964 to 48 to 53
decibels (dBA). That equates to half as much noise as the 57 to 63 dBA
for the others in our test house. Most emitted a penetrating hum; the
screw-drive Craftsman 53965 and Genie Excelerator made a less obtrusive
rattle. A quieter, DC motor helped silence several units.
Safer closure. Like most openers, those we tested have an electric eye
that immediately stops and reverses the closing door if a light beam
near the ground is broken by, say, a child or pet. A backup reverse
feature does the same thing if someone straddles the light beam without
breaking it and the door makes contact. Closing force needed to trigger
that feature averaged about 45 pounds, compared with about 70 pounds
for those on which we reported in 1994. Even then, our tester was
unhurt after letting the closing door contact his shoulder as he
crouched on a scale (we now use a self-recording mechanical scale). But
such force could still hurt a small child or pet.
Escaping the elements. Most models took 12 to 13 seconds to open or
close our test door. The Genie Excelerator opened the door in about 8
seconds, though it took as long as the others to close the door.
Control issues. Most openers come with two remotes to accommodate two
drivers. The Genie Pro and LiftMaster have just one, with extras priced
at about $30. Four models include a wireless outdoor keypad in case you
forget the remote or its battery is dead. All but the Genie IS550-2
have a console for opening the door from inside the garage. Genie units
add a diagnostic system.
Blackout insurance. All tested models let you disconnect the trolley if
you need to operate the door manually from inside the garage. With the
two Genie screw-drive models, you must climb a ladder or use a broom
handle to reattach the trolley.
Putting it together. Installing most openers requires assembling the
rail pieces, hanging the power head and rail from the ceiling, and
attaching the trolley to the door, along with wiring the electric eye,
power head, and control console. The Genie Pro and LiftMaster ease that
process with a one-piece rail that needs no assembly, though its
11-foot length makes it hard to carry home.
All of the tested openers worked impressively. So pick one based on
Choose a belt-drive model if quietness tops your shopping list. Among
the four we tested, the LiftMaster Estate Series 2500, $200, excelled
overall and costs little more than some noisier units.
Choose the Genie Excelerator ISD990-2, $200, if you're impatient. It
lifted our door the fastest and was also relatively unobtrusive.
Whichever model garage-door opener you decide on, set aside roughly a
day for a new installation. Get a helper for parts of the job. And hire
a pro if you're leery about mechanical and electrical projects.
Remember that the springs balancing the door's weight are under tension
when the door is closed. Consider hiring a pro to check that the
springs are sound and properly balance the door's weight.