Type of Drive. Garage door openers come with three different types of drive: chain, belt and screw.
- Chain-drive openers are the oldest style, and they continue to be very popular and a good value. They can be noisy, though, and may not be a good choice if the garage is under a bedroom or adjacent to a room where quiet is appreciated. On the other hand, some people appreciate being warned (through the garage door opening) that someone is about to walk into the house.
- Belt-drive openers are identical to chain-drive openers except that they operate with a rubber belt. They are the quietest type of garage door opener, and they tend to cost a bit more than the others.
- Midway in cost and noisiness are screw-drive openers. There a very few moving parts on these units, and they require little maintenance. By a slim margin, they are probably the easiest to install for a do-it-yourselfer.
Power. A standard two-car garage door is best served with a 1/2-horsepower garage door opener. I would only use a smaller motor on a one-car garage with a light door. For heavy doors, such as carriage doors, a 3/4-horsepower model is a better choice. When in doubt, go with more power, as the price difference is not significant.
Door Size. The standard door garage is 7-feet tall, and the standard garage door opener will accommodate doors up to 6 inches taller than that. Taller doors require an extension kit.
Safety Features. All garage door openers sold since 1993 have been required to have a safety mechanism that stops and reverses a closing door when some object passes beneath it (thereby blocking a beam of light across the opening). This reversing mechanism can save damage to cars, people and pets, and it should be maintained and tested regularly.
Security Features. Make sure to buy a garage door opener with a rolling code feature. This has become a pretty common feature, and for good reason. It makes it much harder for a potential burglar to access the code that will open the door.
Lights. Not something you may give much thought to, but remember that the garage door opener often functions as the primary, if not only, light source in the garage. Standard units can handle two 60-watt bulbs, but you may want to consider one that can handle two 100-watt bulbs.
Battery Backup. Battery backup is not a standard feature, but it is available on some models. When your electrical power is knocked out, the backup kicks in and allows you to use the garage door opener. Without it, you can find yourself locked out of your own house.
Keyless Entry Pad. A keyless entry pad is mounted just outside the garage door. Enter the proper code and the door will open. A handy feature if you lock yourself out or if you appreciate the ability to let yourself in without having to carry a key. Newer units can be activated by reading your fingerprint.
Remote Control. Two remote control units are standard on new garage door openers. Some remotes have a single button and do nothing more than open one door. Others have multiple buttons and can operate more than one door.
Wall Controls. A wall-mounted control pad is a standard feature. Use it to open and close the door and to turn the light on and off.
Pro vs. DIY Models. Garage door manufacturers make separate products for professional installers and do-it-yourselfers. The only major difference I've been able to see between them is that the DIY models, which are what you find at home improvement stores, are easier to fit in a car. Pro models tend to have a one-piece rail, which is best transported in a truck. That could make the pro unit a bit stronger and easier to install, but you will need to go to a dealer to buy one.
Warranty. Warranties vary from model to model. I've seen motors with lifetime warranties and with 10-year warranties. Separate components, such as belts and chains, will usually be covered for shorter periods of time.
Price. Popular models of garage door openers with 1/2-horsepower motors begin at about $135 for chain-drive units, $190 for screw-drive units and $230 for belt-drive units. Add another $20 or $30 for a 3/4-horsepower unit.
Research various types of garage door openers on ConsumerSearch.