Investing in a new garage door opening is one of those things that on the surface sounds like an easy task. But when you start digging into the details, you find a virtual encyclopedia of questions you should ask and consider. High up on that question list is:
Should I chose a AC or DC motor for my garage door opener?
My advice is don’t be tempted to just buy one or the other without at least running through this article. Where in 10 minutes or less you’ll have all the knowledge you need to buy with confidence either AC or DC.
A garage door opener has two main components that determine the way it operates
- the type of motor
- the drive type
There are two types of motors; AC and DC motors. Each of these has its advantages and disadvantages- we’ll get to this later.
For drive type, we’ve three main categories; Belt drive, chain drive, and screw drive. Before we discuss how each drive type works, let’s understand what a drive system is, and what it does.
A drive in your garage door is the system that enhances mechanical power transmission. It’s the link between your garage door and the motor. The type of drive you’re using in your garage door determines certain operating features such as; speed, power, and noise levels.
To avoid confusion, it’s important to first classify a garage door as either an AC or DC type, before looking at the three types of drive mechanism.
Read through to the end, and we hope that this article will help you choose the right garage door opener.
AC or DC Motor?
We hope we could answer this question straight away, but that means skipping a lot of crucial information. So instead, let’s look at each type of motor individually.
While both AC and DC motors plug into the standard home power outlet, the DC type converts that AC power to DC power. We shall see later why this is the case.
AC motors were the first type of technology to be used with garage doors. These motors use transformers to control the amount of power and direction. All of which determines the opening and closing of your garage door. Although this technology has mainly been replaced with DC motors, they still find applications where a large amount of power is required to open and close the garage doors.
- They deliver superior power.
- They are larger, heavier, and louder.
- Requires costly repairs to keep them in optimal operation
- They cannot be modified to suit today’s components, such as battery back-ups and automation technology.
DC Motors are winning the popularity battle in garage door applications. They come in smaller and lighter footprints and guarantee a quieter operation.
They convert AC power to DC power for use in the electronic circuit board, which controls the motor operation. DC motors have a regular speed and are rated in HP- i.e., ½ or ¾ HP.
- Offers a battery back-up option
- Guarantees a smoother, quieter operation
- Safer to work with since it uses DC power- minimal risk of electrocution
- The disadvantages of using a DC type motor comes in when classifying the different drive mechanism; otherwise, it’s a worthwhile upgrade from the AC motor technology.
Drive Mechanism Types: Garage Door Opener Options
What most people proudly refer to as garage door openers, is determined by the type of drive mechanism. In this case, we have the chain, belt and screw drive openers. Below is a detailed clarification.
Chain Drive Opener
The chain drive opener uses a chain to open and close your garage door. They are among the oldest and most convenient drive mechanisms in the market. Besides being economical, they are suitable for most garage doors.
Some door openers using chain drive comes in a combination of chain and steel cable while others come with a full chain. The latter is better in terms of operational efficiency.
Belt Drive Opener
Belt drive openers offer the quietest operation, making them the best pick for garages attached to the house. The belt is made from a particular type of rubber reinforced with stiff metal wires. This drive is highly recommended if your garage is in the basement- directly over your bedroom.
Screw Drive Opener
Screw-drive garage door openers offer the most power with fast operating speeds. This drive mechanism transfers power from the motor without a gear reduction system. They are convenient if your garage ceiling is higher than the garage door. It’s recommended for sloped roofs and can be used interchangeably with a torsion spring system. Screw drive openers are a bit costly compared to belt-drive and chain-drive openers.
How to Choose the Right Garage Door Opener
Now that you know the differences between AC and DC motors and the three common drive mechanisms- let us see how you can pick the right garage door opener for your garage.
Besides the drive options we have seen above, several other factors will drive your buying decision. These are:
The motor determines the power output of your door opener. This output power is often rated in HP for DC motors and Newton (N) for AC motors. In AC motors, 800-900N is equivalent to ½ – ¾ HP. For DC Motors, the horsepower range varies from ½ HP to 11/4 HP.
Depending on the size and desired lifespan, you can go for any opener within the range. A horsepower of ¾ to 1HP is just perfect for home applications.
The majority of the modern garage door openers come with a wall-mounted keypad, a wall-mounted console, a remote, manual release, security light, rail segments, and sensors. Some even connect to your home WI-FI, where you can operate your garage door using your mobile/smart device.
We have explored more on automation and smart garage in this article what does a smart garage door opener do?.
Most garages are 7 feet high, and this is considered a somewhat standard height. Some are, however, customized up to 14 feet high, and it will mean modifying the factory-made door openers. Before buying a garage door opener, check the door’s dimensions and choose your options based on the measurements. Sometimes, the cost of modifying a garage door opener isn’t worth buying the opener in the first place.
Some units allow for extension using an extension kit. If an extension kit is required for your garage door, you can use some help from a professional.
Some features, such as back-up power, is more of a convenience than it is a luxury. You don’t want to park your car on the driveway just become there’s no power. If you can’t afford a garage door opener with a back-up power option, choose one with a manual lift- just in case.
If you’re a brand loyalist, you might want to buy something you’ve used before. Perhaps, you can only afford one without all the exaggerated features, and you need some sense of approval before spending that hard-earned cash. Well, for garage door openers, you get what you pay for.
Control Options and security
At the height of garage-automation is the rolling code technology, which ensures proper control and security. It uses keyless entry systems to prevent replay attacks. Many units with this control option will also offer programmable settings for vacation mode, auto close, etc.
Having a smart garage door sometimes invites those hackers. In this article, we talked about the security of a smart garage and how to stop hackers from getting in.
If you want to explore the various garage door openers’ designs, check out this manufacturer for exclusive ideas.
Modern garage doors should feature automatic reverse mechanisms with rated operating speeds- e.g., a lowering speed of 7-inches per second. It’s good to be in the know, so you won’t be conned into buying some basic features with inflated prices. To be on the safer side, check publications on garage safety standards that most garage door openers should comply with.
You should know by now that garage door openers running on DC motors offer more and better advantages than their AC counterparts. Some of these advantages are;
- Smooth and quieter operation
- They are lighter and offer a battery back-up option.
Apart from the type of motor, there are several other options to consider when buying a garage door. Belt drive door openers, for example, are the quietest while their screw drive counterparts offer more power. Picking the right product depends on the key features you value.
For an ordinary homeowner looking to upgrade their garage door opener, some features such as horsepower rating might not be as crucial as they make you believe it is.
Choosing a quality door opener from a trusted manufacturer is very crucial. Avoid those substandard products being sold for half the market price. You don’t want to gamble on a low-quality product and spend more on repairs and renovations.
One last thing to pay attention to is the proper installation of your garage door opener. Poor installation can comprise even the best of door openers. It’s all about taking pride in your work.
If you’re not confident enough, don’t mess things up. Assembling all the parts of a door opener can get messy if you’re relying on some untrained hands.
If you’ve read through to the end, choosing a garage door opener shouldn’t be a problem anymore. You’re now better informed than the average homeowner, and you’re probably going to buy the right product.
hope you enjoyed reading this article, if you found it useful then share it with other people who might be interested in learning more garage door motors!
It really motivates us to keep writing!