How Do Garage Door Openers Work?

The garage door is the largest moving part of any house, and it’s crucial to make sure yours works correctly. You need your garage doors to work right so that you can easily enter and exit your home, especially if you keep your vehicles inside the garage. It’s also a safety hazard to have a garage door that doesn’t operate correctly.

You need to have a fully functional garage door and garage door opener to prevent the door from coming down unexpectedly and injuring a person or animal. In one study of 50 garage door openers, researchers found that 40% of them failed to sense a child-sized mannequin and reverse their direction.

In July 2018, the Consumer Product Safety Commission passed a new Safety Standard for Automatic Residential Garage Door Operators. The standard requires that all residential garage door openers in the U.S. have:

  • A reversing mechanism that can reduce the risk of entrapment by reversing the motion of a moving garage door within two seconds
  • A way to connect an additional or enhanced external entrapment-sensing device
  • A 30-second clock to serve as a backup to the two-second reverse trigger by reopening the door if it does not close completely within 30 seconds — which would be the case if someone or something was stuck underneath
  • A way to detach the door from the garage door opener if a person becomes entrapped under it — typically a red handle that hangs from the center track

With federal organizations recognizing the importance of a fully functional garage door and garage door opener, homeowners should be confident that their doors are in working condition. If you notice any abnormalities in your door or opener, consider calling in an expert in garage door opener repair. In this article, we’ll discuss how garage door openers work so you can understand exactly what’s going on with your door.

Parts of a Garage Door System

Have you ever stopped and looked at the entire garage door mechanism? It’s more than just the door and the opener. While the exact anatomy of your system will depend on the type of opener you have — which we’ll go over shortly — in general, garage door systems consist of the following parts in addition to the door itself and the opener:

  • Rollers: As the door opens and closes, rollers allow for smooth, easy movement and glide quietly along the tracks. If your door is exceptionally loud, replacing the rollers will help to lower the noise level.
  • Tracks: A garage door system consists of three tracks — two at the edges of the door and one in the middle where the drive operator is located.
  • The chain, belt or screws: Each opener system has either a chain, belt or screw referred to as the drive operator that works with the springs and motor to raise and lower the door. Chain drive doors are the oldest and cheapest option, whereas screw or belt drives are slightly more expensive but quieter.
  • Curved door arm: As the chain, belt or screw moves along the track, so does the curved door arm, which attaches the door to the drive operator.
  • Torsion spring: The torsion spring is an essential part of the garage door system, serving as the center spring just above the door. The torsion spring is connected to the drums and cables and will wind or unwind whether it’s raising or lowering the door.
  • Drums and cables: Located at the top of the door on either side, the two drums turn as the torsion spring winds or unwinds. The cables are wrapped around the drums, so they wind or unwind along with the torsion spring to help lift or lower the door slowly.
  • Safety reversing sensor/photo eye: The safety sensor, also called the photo eye, is responsible for sensing anything or anyone who may be in the way of the door as it closes. This is an essential safety feature of every garage door operator.
  • Emergency release: If the photo eye fails or your power goes out, you can pull the red emergency release cord hanging from the center track to operate your garage door manually.

Types of Garage Door Operators

As we mentioned earlier, there are four types of garage door operators you can choose to install in your home. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, so be sure to weigh your options. Consider what’s best for your needs as well as the frequency of garage door opener usage you expect.

1. Belt

Belt drive garage door openers are the quietest of all the drive operator options, as well as the most low-maintenance choice. Since the trolley will move over the rubber belt material rather than metal, the operation is smoother, is less noisy and causes less vibration. Since belt drive openers are so quiet and easy to maintain, they are also the most expensive type of opener. However, it’s often worth the investment — especially if you have a bedroom or living area directly above your garage.

2. Chain

The most economical option for a garage door opener is a chain drive operator. With this system, the trolley will move along a metal chain to lift and lower the door. These operators are typically noisier than other versions, making them ideal for homeowners with detached garages or garages with no living spaces directly above them.

3. Screw

Screw-driven garage door openers are similar to belt drive operators in that they are smoother and quieter than chain drives. With these systems, the trolley glides across a threaded steel rod that rotates to move the trolley and lift and lower the door. Since they are so quiet, screw-driven garage door operators are ideal for homeowners who want to avoid high noise levels and vibrations during garage door operation.

4. Direct

Direct drive openers are relatively new technology and the least complicated of all the options — the motor itself moves the trolley across the tracks. This simplifies the garage door opening and closing process and results in an extremely quiet, smooth operation. Direct drive operators also rarely require any maintenance because fewer parts are involved.

The Operator Makeup

No matter which kind of opener you choose, the parts that make up any garage door operator remain the same. Belt drive, chain drive, screw drive and direct drive openers consist of the following parts:

  • Electric motor and gears: All garage door openers have an electric motor that can lift and lower the door. The motor is also powerful enough to stop a door in motion if the sensor signals that something or someone is in the way.
  • Drive guide: Also called the T-rail, the drive guide protects and guides the chain, belt or screw as it opens and closes the door. This part connects the opener to the pulley and cable mechanism that is attached to the door.
  • Height adjustment: If your door ever isn’t opening or closing completely, you’ll need to adjust the height in the opener’s operator settings. You can also adjust the force of the door’s motion.
  • Inverter and battery: Most garage door openers use an inverter to convert household AC power to DC current. They also have a battery backup system that kicks in if the power goes out.

How It All Works Together

So, how do garage doors work? A garage door system may seem complicated, but it’s really just a radio transmission system. When you push the button on your garage door opener remote or inside your garage, the transmitter sends a code to the receiver, which is tuned to the same frequency as the transmitter.

For security purposes, modern operating systems also include a controller chip that creates a hopping code or rolling code, which means the code used is different each time the door opens or closes. This chip has a memory capacity that can hold up to one trillion possible codes, depending on the system. Both the receiver and the transmitter use a synchronized random number generator to choose a new code each time you press the button to open or close the door. If your receiver ever gets a code that it does not expect from the transmitter, the garage door will not open. This prevents thieves from breaking in by hacking your opener system.

Another safety feature is that your transmitter and receiver will no longer be synchronized if you’re far away from home. So, if you accidentally push your transmitter a few times throughout the day — in fact, up to 256 times — you won’t have to wonder if your garage door is open or closed. If you or someone else does for some reason press the transmitter 257 times, your transmitter and receiver will no longer be synchronized, and therefore your remote control will no longer work. There is typically a way to resynchronize your garage door opener’s transmitter and receiver, but you may need help from a professional to do so correctly.

Thanks to the rolling code method, it’s nearly impossible for your transmitter to open another garage door or vice versa. Newer systems include more codes, as well as longer codes, so the newer your system is, the less likely it is for another transmitter to open your garage door. There is no way for a person to predict the random code that the transmitter and receiver will create for each operation, and code capturing is ineffective because the system will never use the same code twice.

Top Garage Door Opener Features for Safety and Convenience

Garage door openers have several features that work to improve the safety and convenience of your garage door. At Quality Overhead Door, we carry openers with the latest technology, such as the following features:

  • MyQ® Technology: When your garage door opener is connected to your home via myQ technology, you can operate your door from anywhere using the app. You’ll be able to monitor when your door opens and closes during the day, as well as who is opening and closing it. You can also schedule your door to open and close at a certain time during the day if, for example, you have a housekeeper or dog walker who is scheduled to come to your home at a specific time. Thanks to myQ’s latest partnership with Amazon Key, eligible Prime members in select cities even have an option for in-garage delivery. The myQ technology will also send push notifications and email and text alerts to your phone based on the parameters you set.
  • HomeLink®: As the most widely used system for car-to-home automation, millions of vehicles are equipped with HomeLink technology. When your garage door opener is also compatible with HomeLink, you can open the garage door using the built-in HomeLink button in your vehicle. HomeLink uses a radio frequency to control garage doors, lighting, gates, smart outlets, security systems, thermostats and other compatible smart home devices.
  • Security+ 2.0®: The Security+ 2.0 software is found in most modern garage door openers and is responsible for creating the unique codes discussed earlier in the article that allow the transmitter and receiver of your garage door opener system to communicate. When you have Security+ 2.0 technology, you can rest assured that your garage door opener transmitter will never open the wrong garage door, and no other transmitter will ever be able to open your door either.
  • PosiLock®: While all garage doors have an electronic locking system built into them, PosiLock technology serves as an extra layer of protection against potential intruders. In the event of a forced opening, PosiLock will reactivate your opener’s locking system to ensure your door remains in the closed position.
  • Audio warnings: Some garage door openers can provide audio warnings when the door is closing. You can typically choose from several warning sounds to select the one that is either the most noticeable or slightly quieter, depending on your preferences.
  • Protector System: Also known as the garage door’s photo eye or safety reversing sensor, the protector system of your garage door opener operates via a light beam that is projected across the entire garage door opening. If anything interrupts the beam these sensors project, the protector system will automatically reverse the door to protect the object or person in the way.

Explore Your Garage Door and Garage Door Opener Options at Quality Overhead Door

Are you looking to upgrade your garage door or garage door opener? If so, Quality Overhead Door is the experienced, family-owned and -operated company you want to work with to replace or repair your existing garage door and opener. Servicing Toledo since 1982, our team is knowledgeable about all makes and models of garage doors and openers. We are also authorized dealers of Clopay®, CHI, Wayne Dalton and LiftMaster® products.

If you’re ready to hire a reliable, responsive team to help you with all of your garage door needs, reach out to us today. You can also browse our residential garage door openers to see what we have to offer. We do more than garage doors, too — we also carry high-quality entry doors, patio doors, awnings, fireplaces and storm doors from top brands. Request your free estimate today!


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