I’ve owned what I now call a ‘dumb garage’ for years and never really thought my life was lacking. You know the saying, ‘you don’t miss what you don’t know’ well I think that definitely applied to me. Fast forward to now and I can’t imagine life without my trusty smart garage upgrade.
As I drive home from work, I have a slight smile on my face knowing that my old routine of:
- Arriving at my house
- Pulling up on my drive
- Getting out
- Finding my keys
- Opening the garage
- Getting back into my car
- Then finally driving into my garage
Was a thing of the past….and relax.
You might be thinking ‘a normal garage opening does that?’ and you’d be right. But once you start going down the rabbit hole of what a SMART garage door opener does…trust me, you’ll never go back.
So if you find yourself starting on the journey of deciding if a smart garage door opener is for you. Then hopefully my experience will help guide you.
What Is A Smart Garage Door Opener?
A smart garage door opener helps you control and monitor a garage door through the use of a smartphone. A smart garage door opener is an electronic gadget built for interfacing with both a garage door’s electric and mechanical system.
That is essential for allowing you to control the closing or opening of your garage door using a smartphone app (Android and iOS). And that is not all you can expect to see a smart garage door opener do.
What Can A Smart Garage Door Opener Do That My Dumb One Can’t?
It is only right that you may be wondering, as most people do, about what can a smart garage door opener do compared with your usual garage door?
Also called a smart garage door controller, a smart garage door opener features a monitor/camera for watching the door position and the activity inside. If the door is opened or closed, then its user receives mobile notifications.
Moreover, some smart garage door openers also feature reminder notifications, comes in handy when the door has remained open for longer. This means that you can then use the auto-close feature for closing the garage door, if for instance the kids have left it open during the summer when they were looking for their bikes.
What Are The Benefits of Using a Smart Garage Door Opener?
Added security made possible, which is much welcome for those residing in areas prone to break-ins. A garage often houses valuables, including bikes and tools, and thus, it is understandable why they are a frequent target for burglars. Also, since most of us tend to leave our garages vulnerable to potential entry and exit, thieves like to try and take advantage of this behaviour.
If you’re interested in garage security, check out my article on can garage doors be hacked, you don’t want to own a garage door pre 2005 trust me…
Unlimited distance (over WiFi)
Opening and closing the garage door from any location is possible. There are many options of apps, designed to enable the smart opening of garage doors. With just a simple click, you will be shown whether your garage door is closed or opened.
Alexa, Google Assistant & Apple Homekit compatible
Other smart devices connection is possible, including Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple Homekit. The voice assistants enable opening or closing of smart garage doors through voice commands. You can also embrace the use of smart home hubs such as Samsung SmartThings and Wink hub. Using smart home hubs, you can connect your different devices and use a single interface for controlling your whole home.
More versatile in a pinch
Easier home access. In the situation that the doors of your home have not incorporated the use of a smart lock, you can still remotely give home access to your guests or family.
Great for receiving parcels since you can open the garage remotely for a delivery driver even if you not in the house. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve used this. Especially with larger items.
Which is better between Wi-Fi door Opener and Bluetooth Opener?
When searching for your suitable smart garage door opener, you will encounter these devices featuring accessibility via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. And thus, you may be curious to know the difference and whether one is superior to the other.
Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are simply types of technology, enabling you to access, control, and monitor your garage door via your smartphone.
In terms of the difference, for Bluetooth connectivity to be enabled, to access and control your smart garage door, you have to be within a specific range, around a 20-foot range. On the other hand, for enabling of Wi-Fi connectivity, your garage door has to be connected to the internet service of your home. This connection makes it possible for monitoring and controlling, remotely, your garage door via a mobile app.
Can I Make My Existing Garage Door Smart?
It is possible to make your existing garage door smart. The most straight forward approach is to buy an aftermarket upgrade kit. These tend to work with a wide variety of existing garage doors and the installation process is pretty easy.
I’ll list a few of my favourite options for going down this route. There’s pretty much 3 major players for this approach. If I’d have to pick I’d probably go with the NEXX Garage NXG0100b smart hub. Since it offers the majority of the features that the more expensive (yet still excellent iSmartGate pro has) and then is at a more affordable price and has great online support.
The Chamberlain MyQ smart garage hub is the cheapest of the 3 after market smart garage hubs I’d recommend. It has a wide range of compatibility with existing garage manufactures and works will with both android and apple iPhones. Since it’s less than $40 on Amazon and pretty much covers the main features you’d want.
That being said the iSmartGate pro is AMAZING. For $150 you get what in my mind would be essential features such as direct camera integration geofencing, HomeKit compatibility, and local control. Honestly whether you go with the cheap option of the gold standard it’s not going to break the bank. So my advice would be to buy the one that best suits your needs and has won’t mean you’re ripping it out in a few years because you want to upgrade.
NEXX Garage NXG-100b
Last but definitely not least is the NEXX Garage NXG-100b, if you’ve heard of NEXX that’s because they are a huge player in the smart garage door space and my personal favourite.
That’s beacuse it offers most of the featuers of the higher prices SmartGate pro but at a middle of the road price point. The reviews on Amazon for this are incredible. Check it out here.
Buying a New Garage Opener with Smart built In
Ok, so this is the route I decided to take. Because like I mentioned in the intro. I had a garage door from what seemed like the 1950’s. The only way you’re opening it was will good old fashioned muscle power. So an after market smart adaptor was out of the question.
That being said, by adding a whole new motorized unit with smart features built in, isn’t that much more than retrofitting your existing system. Not to mention you get a NEW unit complete with modern standards of security and encryption.
So for a relatively small extra cost I got myself a shiny new Chamberlain Group B550. This thing is a BEAST! For $50 more than the add on iSmartGate pro you get an entire system complete with motor! To me this was a no brainer.
I must point out that while this option requires more spending and the installation is still technical. So depending on wether you are handy with installing electronics. It might be worth bringing someone in to fit the new motor. I decided to go with this option and I don’t regret it.
I cover more about how to make that choice in the next section.
When to Use a Professional Installer
Many people increasingly prefer to hop into the trend of DIY. It is understandable since we are always looking for ways to save money. So, when it comes smart garage door opener installation also, you may be tempted to do it yourself. For DIY-enthusiasts, there are many simple and straightforward sources you can rely on to tackle your project.
Generally, below are situations requiring a professional installer of the smart garage door opener.
- When you are dealing with a complicated installation, a brand new smart garage door opener installation often involves wiring and stud-finding, which requires expertise. Moreover, such a complex installation will take much longer if you are not an expert as you try to figure out things.
- The level of expertise. Before attempting installation of a smart garage door opener, ensure you have basic knowledge and skills in electrical and carpentry installation. Without the basic knowledge and ownership of the necessary tools required, opting for a professional installer is highly encouraged.
- When you do not have assistance, you may find that installation work requires at least two people to help with mounting and aligning the unit appropriately. If you cannot access someone to help, hiring a professional is understandable since they usually come with all the help they may need.
Are There Safety Issues with Smart Garage Door Openers?
While we know the use of devices and Internet of Things (IoT) through internet connection has a lot of benefits, one leading cause of concern is security. It is okay for you to worry about potential hacking, but, know that smart garage door openers are generally safe for your use. The main reason for using this innovation in the first place is to improve the security of your garage and your home by having, literally, another set of eyes.
I wrote an article exploring this very issue a few weeks ago titled can garage doors be hacked, it’s essential reading if you’re concerned about the security of your garage, I highly recommend you give it quick read.
That being said, you should take comfort in the fact that your average home burglar often is more knowledge in using tools like crowbars than hacking electronics, but the practice is on the rise unfortunately.
However, always be alive to the fact that there may be potential security risks when your smart garage door opener is connected via a Wi-Fi network. When a hacker has access to your Wi-Fi network, then any other devices connected can also be accessed.
Hence, observing appropriate security practices becomes a must when operating any smart home device. To avoid any potential security risks of hacking your smart garage door through Wi-Fi network, avoid using weak security passwords for your Wi-Fi network. Some of the ways of securing a smart garage door opener include:
- Enabling your phone to be unlocked by a fingerprint or face recognition.
- Use 2-Factor Authentication. One service that is proof of the effectiveness of this security measure is Gmail, making it harder for your account to be easily accessed.
- Use your different devices on separate Wi-Fi networks.
In conclusion, as you may have realized, there are a lot of things you are guaranteed to see a smart garage door opener do. Thus, it is probably one of the most underrated innovations when it comes to home automation. It is not viewed as being that significant like, say, smart home lighting systems or smart TVs. That should not be the case. The use of a smart garage door opener is also remarkably helpful when it comes to home automation!
Please share this article to others if you found it useful! I’d really appreciate it as it takes time and research to put these articles together.
All the best Steve.