We play a little game here at The Family Handyman office called “What broke at your house this weekend?” This time it was my 15-year-old chain drive garage door opener. The signs of its impending demise started about a week ago. Every third or fourth time we used it, the garage door would get stuck halfway up or down. I pretended not to notice and figured it was just the odd weather we’ve been having. And since clicking the remote control button a second time got the door moving again, it was easy to ignore.
Until last weekend. The door got stuck, I pushed the button a second time and nothing happened except a strangely disturbing hum from the motor. A quick bit of Internet research revealed an intriguingly cheap and easy fix. Could the plastic gear be shredded and simply need to be replaced? A replacement gear was only $4 (plus $8 shipping!) on Amazon.
I pulled the cover off, hoping to see a blanket of shredded plastic in the bottom of my unit. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the problem. All I can say is that after three unpleasant days of hoisting my garage door and trying to troubleshoot the old opener, I gave up and headed to the home center for a replacement. There were about six different openers, all of them pretty similar looking and within $75 of one another. I decided to go with the same amount of power (1/2 hp) since that had worked fine for 15 years. The different openers touted various features, but my main concern was noise.
A bit of quick research on the three different drive mechanisms available—screw drive, chain drive and belt drive—showed that all of them operate equally well. If you have a really heavy door, a chain drive is the strongest option. But our door isn’t really heavy, and although the chain drive was the cheapest option, it’s the noisiest of the three and potentially requires the most maintenance over time. A screw drive is quieter than a chain drive, and from what I’ve read, is the easiest to install, but I decided to go with a 1/2-hp belt drive Chamberlain Whisper Drive garage opener. Yes, I bought it for the name…Whisper Drive. And actually it’s really quiet. My old chain drive model sounded like it was gnawing on metal shavings each time I pressed the button. My new belt drive sounds like it’s sipping tea with its pinky extended when it goes up and down.
And it has some other features that make sense—a battery backup, lights that operate independently of the door, and a security lock feature that lets you prevent the door from being opened by a stranger’s remote control. Perhaps most wonderful of all, the installation instructions are well written and easy to follow. Plan on three to four hours for installation if you’re handy, or most of a day if you’re not. (The model we installed, No. WD822KD, costs about $200 at home centers.)
— Elisa Bernick, Associate Editor
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