The Driving Force in Your Garage

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Feb 01, 2010 | Caryn Colgan

Garage door openers are available in four basic types: chain, belt, screw and torsion drives. Below is a description of each type and its advantages and disadvantages.


Garage door openers with chain drives have been installed in homes since the early days of garage door openers. This granddaddy of openers is by far the most popular.

Since they are noisy, they are not a good choice when the garage is adjacent to or under a bedroom. However, some homeowners prefer the noise of the chain drive since it alerts them when the garage door opens, thereby eliminating the element of surprise when someone returns home.

Chain-drive openers usually cost between $150 and $200; they are the least expensive option.


Belt-drive openers are the quietest choice. Rather than using a chain, a rubber belt operates the mechanism. It essentially uses the same components as the chain drive; the only real difference, other than add-ons, is the belt versus the chain.

This is the best choice when noise is a factor. Install belt-driven garage door openers when the garage is under or adjacent to a bedroom.

Averaging $200 to $250, the quieter choice costs about $50 more than the comparable chain-driven model.


Screw-drive garage door openers have fewer moving parts and, as a result, require less maintenance than the chain-drive and belt-drive options. Priced around $170, the screw-drive openers are quieter than chain-drive openers for only a little more money.


Torsion-drive garage door openers are the newest type available. A good choice when the garage ceiling is low, this type of opener is mounted on the wall directly above the door, rather than in the center of the garage. The unit attaches to the door's existing torsion spring shaft or counterbalance. Because an overhead track is no longer needed, the torsion-drive unit provides up to 8-inches of additional head room, which is perfect for taller vehicles.

Priced around $300, they are quieter than chain and screw-drive models.

Other Features to Consider

Garage door openers either use a portable remote control unit or, in some cases, respond to remote control units that are built directly into the car.

According to Consumer Reports, you should be sure that your garage door opener comes with remotes that use rolling-code technology and change the signal code after each use. If you don't have another door into the garage, you may want to buy an opener that includes an exterior keyless entry pad. This feature will make it more convenient to enter the garage directly instead of walking through the house with muddy shoes or dripping wet clothes.

If your area experiences frequent power outages, consider a unit with a battery backup for up to 24 hours.

The type of opener you choose depends on the garage's location, your budget and, possibly, the height of your vehicle. By considering the advantages and disadvantages of the four basic types of openers, you will find the garage door opener that fits your needs.

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