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Smart Home

Is it time to replace your garage door opener?

This large and frequently used entrance to your home might need an upgrade or a replacement.

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Colin West McDonald/CNET

Garage door openers are a modern convenience many of us take for granted. With just the touch of a button, we can access our garage space. Every year, we open and close the largest door to our home thousands of times and expect it to work flawlessly. 

That doesn't always happen, and when your opener starts to wear out, there are signs. Even if your older model is still working, it can present safety issues. Look for these signals that your garage door opener is nearing the end of its life and consider a smarter, safer upgrade.

Mechanical meltdowns

There are a handful of issues that could indicate the end of your opener. Whether it's suspicious sounds or problems with moving parts, the nuts and bolts of your machine can cause real problems when they've met their end. 

Vibrating

An opener that tends to vibrate might seem harmless in the beginning, but keep an eye on it. Older motors with armatures that are worn out or shafts that are bent may vibrate inside their housings. 

You might even notice that the opener is shaking loose from its mounting points on your structure. If that's happening, watch out. A vibrating opener could eventually break free from its mounting and fall to the ground (or onto your car). When crucial mechanical parts like these fail, it's time to get a new opener.

Opening then reversing

If your garage door opens then reverses, that can point to an issue with the security sensors at the bottom of the garage door frame. Check to be sure the sensors are aligned correctly, consulting your garage door opener's manual. 

If that doesn't solve the reversing issue, sweep the floor across the garage door threshold to clear and debris that might be tripping the system. It's also a good idea to give the photo eye of each sense a cleaning with a paper towel or soft cloth.

New noises

Traditional chain drive openers are noisy by nature. Their bicycle-like chain wasn't manufactured to keep noise at tolerable levels, and the older it gets the worse your household will be disturbed. Consider investing in a newer, belt drive opener for quieter operation. 

If you own a newer opener that is suddenly extra noisy, that's cause for concern. Have a technician inspect it to find the source of the racket. Keep in mind that most electric motors get louder as they near their end, and it might be time for a replacement.   

Intermittent or unresponsive opening

If your garage door isn't opening when you press wall-mounted or remote control buttons, there are a few things that could be wrong. Always double check that your remote control has fresh, working batteries. 

If that isn't the issue, an unresponsive opener could point to problems with the opener's logic board or wiring. While those can be fixed with some spare time and extra parts, it's often easier and more reliable to go ahead and purchase a new unit. 

The upside to upgrades

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Smarten your existing garage door opener with an add-on controller like Home8, which includes a camera and voice assistant compatibility.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Even if your garage door opener isn't in desperate need of replacing, there are still more than a few reasons to splurge on an upgrade. Keep an eye out for holiday sales online and at your local home improvement store, and look for these helpful features.  

Rolling codes

A rolling code is a protocol used by garage door openers to keep your door safe and secure. When the radio signals from your remote control are broadcast to your garage door opener, it uses a specific code to communicate. Older models used the same code every time, making garage door openers vulnerable to burglars using a radio frequency identifier device. 

Newer, rolling code systems change the code every time. That way, no one can guess or learn your garage door's code and enter your space uninvited.

Battery back up

Power outages happen and when they do, it stops your garage door in its tracks. If you have a model without backup battery power, you'll be unable to use your garage door. Newer openers offer batteries to power your system when there's an electrical outage. 

Batteries aren't the standard power source for a garage door opener, but having them as backup can come in handy when there are power issues of any kind at your home.

Outside keypad

An exterior keypad is a feature that can really save the day if you're ever locked out of your garage or don't want to worry about carrying a garage key. You can use the keypad to type in a code to raise the garage door. 

Not all opener models come with a keypad, so if you're replacing your existing opener be sure to look for one that does. If you own a garage door opener that still works well, but could use the keypad upgrade, you can purchase add-on keypads to work with some garage door openers. 

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Smart garage systems include apps allowing remote control of your garage door from anywhere. 

Chris Monroe/CNET

Safety features 

In 1992 the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission released new rules for automatic garage door openers. Anything manufactured after 1993 was required to include either an electric eye (a pair of sensors that detect an object obstructing the doorway) or a wall-mounted control button that users hold down in order to close the door entirely. Most manufacturers opted for the electric eye method, sometimes referred to as safety sensors.

Today's garage doors come with those door sensors, and if anything is in the path of the door the sensor detects it and raises the door back to the open position. These precautions are important for families with young children or pets. Even if you don't have a mini me or furry friend running around your yard, it's a good idea to have a garage door that is safe for you, your guests and your belongings. 

Adding smarts

Smart garage door openers aren't as expensive or hard to find as you might think. In fact, no matter what smart home platform you're using, there is an opener that will work for you. Smart garage door controllers add convenience like remote access, voice control, scheduling and vehicle detection to your garage door. You'll never need to wonder if you left it open ever again. 

You'll be able to open it remotely for any friends, family or delivery agents. You can even purchase kits that include a camera so you can keep an eye on your garage space through an app from anywhere you have an internet connection. For a complete rundown on all your smart garage options, check out our guide to a smarter garage

Whether it's safety, style or security you're after, upgrading your garage door opener at the first sign of trouble can save time, money and add convenience to your everyday life. 

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