Different Brands, Different Models…
Some consumers don’t realize that the automatic garage door opener is a separate appliance from the garage door. The fact is you can open your garage door manually if you want to. The attachment of a garage door opener is optional.
One of the most frequently asked questions is “how much is a garage door opener?” If you want to give the customer options, then this is a question not so easily answered. There are different brands, different models and models of openers only sold in retail stores.
There are fewer brands available today than there have been in the past. The two most popular brands are Chamberlain and Genie. There are other smaller brands like Marantec and Lynx
C hamberlain is a large well-known maker of garage door openers. The average consumer probably hasn’t heard of the Chamberlain brand, but may recognize it under a different name. The garage door opener sold as the Sears Craftsman is actually manufactured by Chamberlain. The Chamberlain brand is also sold through professional dealers as Liftmaster and can be found under its own name at stores like Lowes and OSH.
G enie is, perhaps, the most recognizable name in automatic garage door openers in the world.
Both of these companies offer professional openers through dealers and retail openers through home improvement stores. Generally, the openers are the same. The biggest difference comes in the part of the opener we call the “rail”. This is the length of the opener that is responsible for carrying the door all the way up and down. The length of this rail can exceed 9 feet in length, which is too long to fit in the average car. Retail units, however, have a rail that is divided into smaller sections that fit into a box. Rails are then assembled out in the field. The motors, circuit boards, remote controls and other components are virtually identical.
Based on installing and repairing garage door openers for more than 20 years, I prefer the Chamberlain opener. I favor the professional models over the store bought because of the solid rails. In addition, I am partial to the belt-drive units and usually install the model 3280. You can visit the website at www.liftmaster.com to view their products.
I try to use well known, established brands to help increase the chances of longevity and part availability. I previously installed the Marantec brand and was impressed by how quite the unit was. However, I had a few problems with a couple of the machines and found the troubleshooting difficult. Quite honestly, I was not happy with Marantec’s policy and handling of a couple of issues. One customer had a problem with the belt (lifetime warranty) which took many emails, phone calls and weeks to have one finally sent. The repair lasted a few months and the opener failed again. Marantec would no longer warranty the machine. I will install this machine for anyone interested in its quite operation, but I cannot provide a warranty.
For the first decade or more in business, I sold and exclusively installed Genie. Some of the older Genie garage door openers were the best machines made.
As time went on and the units I installed became 5 or 6 years old, the machines began to have motor issues.This problem occured in nearly all the Genie screw-driven machines, both professional and retail. Many of these machines were still under warranty, as the motor warranties generally exceeded 10 years. Initially, it was easy to get new machines as long as they were the professional units. Retail units were more of a headache, as the owner had to be the original purchaser and possess the receipt.
As time went on and the problem became common, their warranty policy seemed to change. No longer was it a simple exchange. Paper work and documentation became required and Genie seemed to act as if it were somehow the dealers fault.
Claiming warranties on retail units was always hard. Providing you were the
original owner and had a receipt, Genie required you to ship the faulty unit to them in Ohio and provide a hefty credit card deposit while they had technicians examin the unit to see if it was indeed under warranty. This meant you had to pay to have it disassembled and shipped. Even if they did warranty it, you had to pay shipping back to you, and then pay to have it re-installed. The Genie product became such an issue that two of the major Genie distributors in the Valley stopped carrying Genie altogether.
Another common problem I found with the Genie was the remote controls. They seem to just stop working after two to three years. It wasn’t the end of the world, but it was irritating as it was not a warranty item. Electronics only carry a one-year warranty. Thus, customers had to purchase new remote controls. This is not what I wanted when I recommend a product.
Genie has just announced the launch of their new product line and are asking dealers to trust this product. I will sell Genie to any customer wanting the Genie name and will warranty the product for one year. However, I will wait to see if they have corrected their issues before I recommend any Genie products.
Chamberlain has certainly had its own issues. I found that most of the problems came from their old 3220 screw-drive opener. I think the problem stemmed from a design flaw in the screw and rail assembly. There is also an ongoing issue with the door pressure (sensitivity) adjustments. This was a popular machine and the problem is still present in these machines today. (I service this exact problem several times per week). They have since redesigned the machine and released it as model 3240. The screw drive has been completely redone and doesn’t appear to have the same problem. As of March 1, 2011, I have only installed two, so the jury is still out.
I have, however, had great success with the belt drive series openers from Chamberlain. I have found they work great as long as the door isn’t too heavy. Wooden sectional one piece doors seem to create the most concern. On the other hand, standard roli-up doors are no problem for these machines. They are quiet, reliable and easy to maintain.
I have also installed the model 3800 jackshaft opener with great results. This is the machine I have installed in my home. The garage doors do need to work well though for this machine to work properly.
Types of Openers
Belt drives: I have had great success with these machines. All units in this series have been reliable, virtually trouble free and operate quietly. These machines work with nearly all doors. For most one-piece doors, wooden sectionals and heavy sectional doors I would probably go with a chain drive opener instead…average cost: $350- $550.
Chain drives: This is probably the most common garage door opener. These units do not operate as quietly as the belt drive openers and wear out too easily.
Chain-driven machines work by rotating a length of chain from one end of the rail around a sprocket. The motor spins the sprocket through a gear. The drive mechanism, called the “gear and sprocket assembly”, seems to deteriorate in this machine. This problem, which is the most common worn part, probably comes from two sources. The first is the weight of the chain, especially on the lower-end chain-drive units. The weight of this chain places too much forward pressure on the shaft assembly holding the sprocket.
The second problem with the wearing gear and sprocket assembly is the tension on the chain. No one wants to see a drooping, sagging chain. To prevent the sagging and to keep the chain on the sprocket, the chain is pulled tight with a nut and bolt assembly to create tension on the chain. The tightening of the chain pulls the sprocket assembly. This is still a decent machine, they cost less than the belt drives and you can probably still expect it to last 6-8 years before having to replace the sprocket assembly.
Belt Drives: The belt drive works on the same principle, but the belt has much less weight and requires less tension to keep it from sagging.
Screw drives: As mentioned earlier, I am a bit tainted on this product, as I have had issues with it in the past. I still service this type of machine weekly here in Santa Clarita. There are issues with shaft and sensitivity adjustments. They have redesigned this machine completely, changing the way the shaft is manufactured. I have only put in two of them in the last few years… average cost: $325- $450
Genie has recently upgraded their entire product line. Being that these products are new to the market, we have not yet had a chance to adequately evaluate them. The following text concerning Genie is based on our previous experience with the company.
Belt drives: Genie does make a belt-driven opener called the Stealth. This machine does operates quietly, however, there is a problem with the internal electronic parts.
I recently installed four of these openers for the father of a close friend of mine. Of the four new machines, two had faulty electronics. The main issue was in the remote controls and the receiving boards that pick up the signal. The machines kept forgetting the remote control codes. We would have them recoded and they would work for a few days. Then they would stop working. This problem consumed valuable time as I had to remove the machines and reinstall new ones. Since then, they seem to work fine, although it has been less than a year. I just don’t think a company should produce product with a 50% failure rate……..average cost: $425- $475.
Screw drives: These are popular units and are a well recognized brand. Genie makes screw drives for both professional installers and for retail outlet stores. These machines are not as quiet as the belt drives and sometimes louder as some chain drives.
Unfortunately, I have had frequent and multiple problems with the Genie screw drive openers, including seizing motors and remote control frequency issues. I had one particular job in which I installed two doors and two Genie cm7600 screw-drive openers. Although the garage door openers were installed on the same house, same garage and were only 12 feet apart, the remote would not work on the small garage door— an interference issue. When I contacted Genie about the problem, they began to list all the possible sources of interference in which they claimed no responsibility. Genie did offer to sell an external receiver that would mount on the front of the house and would require drilling and running wire through the front of the home. Of course, there was no guarantee this would solve the problem. I removed the two genie openers, installed two belt drive Lift Master machines, and had no remote control issues at all.
If you are considering a Genie screw drive, I urge you to buy one professionally with a solid rail— not the store bought units that come together in pieces. The reason is that the rails that are assembled from the store don’t fit together well. The screw drive is hard to turn and, as a result, most of the openers’ power is used just to turn the screw. This wears out the opener prematurely. The solid one piecerails, however, spin easily and freely… average cost: $325- $400.