A home garage that has a smart garage door opener on it.
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Safer garage, safer family

What is a Smart Garage Door Opener, and Do You Need One?

Steve Hansen
October 27, 2023

Home security has come a long way in recent years. The Internet of Things (IoT) and smartphones have added numerous useful convenience features, as well as security features that are truly welcome. If you have smart locks and a smart doorbell—or a full-on smart home automation system—you’re already on board this train.

Smart garage door openers provide this type of security and functionality to your garage, as well. This makes sense, as many of us tend to come and go at home only through our garage door anyway.

What They Can Do

For the sake of convenience, you can create temporary permissions for delivery and maintenance people, unique codes for friends and family who feed your pets or water plants, and that sort of thing. Smart locks have been fantastic for those situations. Smart garage door openers can also enable automatic opening and closing, so you don’t even have to press a button on a remote. The unit senses when you leave and when you arrive and activates the opener automatically.

You’ll also get enhanced security, as you can monitor the door’s status when you’re gone and even control it remotely. Some systems include a camera so you can actually keep your eyes on the door in real-time from anywhere, just as you can at your front and back doors if you’ve installed cameras or smart doorbells.

In addition, most systems integrate with other home automation and security systems like Alexa, HomeKit, and Google Assistant, so you have access to even more convenience and security functionality.

The Opener

First, you’ll still have the mechanical unit that raises and lowers the garage door. Those come with one of three drive systems:

  • Chain drive, which is generally used on the cheaper models, and can be a bit noisy. It’s tried and tested, though.
  • Belt drive, which is more expensive than chain drive and most common for residential use, as it’s the quietest option.
  • Screw drive, which is the most expensive type of opener, and can lift a lot of weight. They’re more sensitive to temperature changes, though, so aren’t used as much where there are large temperature fluctuations.

You’ll find garage door openers from ⅓ horsepower up 2 horsepower, with ½ horsepower and ¾ horsepower units being most commonly used. What size you need depends on your garage door, but a standard 16-foot door will need a ¾ horsepower unit. Large wooden doors will need more power. Choosing a more powerful unit than your door requires doesn’t really affect its operation, but it may operate with a little less effort and, therefore, may last longer.

Wall-Mount Units

Another type of garage door opener is a wall-mount unit. These mount right next to the rails up high on the wall and so eliminate the overhead track. That’s their main advantage. So, if your garage has a low ceiling, or you have a lifted truck, or you want to add overhead storage, this might be your solution. They’re expensive, but a good idea.

The Smart Parts

Now we get to the smart parts and features, which give you all that extra smart-home functionality and extra security. All this is driven by IoT technology, so your garage must have a solid Wi-Fi connection. You’ll need the app from the manufacturer, too, and then you go through the tutorial and learn the features, and you’re all set.

More About Features

Automatic opening and closing: If you’ve ever left home and wondered if you closed the garage door, you’ll appreciate a smart opener with an automatic closing feature. Then when you arrive home, the sensors will “talk” to each other and open the garage door for you automatically. Nice! Some units handle automatic closing with a timer, so you don’t have to make that awkward move of stepping over the sensor in a hurry as the door is coming down.

Camera: There’s nothing like seeing for yourself what’s happening at home, whether it’s at your front door, your back patio, or in your garage.

Keypad: These have been around for a long time on old fashioned garage door openers, but these are like your smart locks. You can set codes for different users and even set temporary codes.

Integration: If you have home automation and/or home security systems in place, smart garage door openers are designed to be part of that. It’s totally possible for you to use your Alexa app and control and monitor your entire home automation system from anywhere.

What Do They Cost?

This unit from Chamberlain is a good example of including the most useful features for a reasonable price—about $300 in this case. They’re one of the big manufacturers of garage door openers. This unit uses a belt drive so it will operate quietly, and it has a 1 ¼ HP motor so it will handle some heavy doors. The top features are:

  • Built-in 130⁰ wide-angle camera lets you see and hear what’s happening in your garage through their app for iPhone and Android.
  • Integrated corner-to-corner LED lighting illuminates every corner of the garage; it’s motion-activated and provides 2,000 lumens, so it’s fairly bright.
  • Battery backup is a great feature! If you’ve ever struggled to open a garage door during an outage, you’ll appreciate this uncommon feature that will open and close the garage door even when power is out.
  • The app also gives you 2-Way audio so you can communicate in real time between your garage and your smartphone.

What About Conversion Kits?

There are also smart garage door controllers to add remote control to old-fashioned garage door openers. These connect with your existing opener and offer a variety of features, including a camera on some models.  

You’ll find multiple models available for less than $100. The major manufacturers like Genie and Chamberlain make their versions, as do companies like Wyze, which are known for their home security systems. These systems use a small controller that you need to wire into the opener, and they typically have a garage door sensor. They all use an app for controlling the unit.

The Wyze system is clever in that you don’t install a sensor but stick a large QR code onto the garage door door so the camera can determine if the garage door is open or closed.

Something for Everyone?

Whether you’re going for a full home automation and security system or just need a minor update in the garage, you can do that now with a smart garage door opener or add-on unit. There’s something for everyone.

Editor’s note: If you make a purchase through our affiliate partner links, we may receive a commission. This does not impact the recommendations we make.

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