Garage door opener partsIf your garage door has never needed maintenance or replacement, you’ve likely never given much thought to the mechanism of how it opens. If you’re building a home or replacing the door at your house or place of business, however, garage door openers become a topic you need to be well-informed about. Let’s take a look at the key aspects to consider when choosing a new garage door opener, so you can make the right decision for yours.

The three main types of garage door openers

All three types of electric garage door openers have a motor, but the mechanism they’re attached to—which actually allows the door to move up and down—can vary. Read on for a quick overview of the different types of garage door openers, or drive models.

Chain drive

With this type of opener, the motor is attached to a metal chain that pulls the door open and closed. Chain drive garage door openers are typically the most inexpensive option of the three, and are often found in older homes. The drawback is that they can be quite noisy and cause significant vibrations during operation. In other words, a chain drive opener is not the quietest option, which may be important to homeowners whose garages share a wall or ceiling with a bedroom or living space.

Belt drive

A belt drive garage door opener is the next step up: typically a bit more expensive, but often quieter. In this model, the chain is replaced by a rubber belt. That means the opening and closing motions are smoother and quieter. Another perk of belt drive systems is that they’re simpler than chain drive systems. Even with daily use, it’s less likely that things will go wrong with a belt drive because there are fewer moving parts. Chain drive openers are likely to require more maintenance over their lifetime.


A jackshaft opener (also known as a direct drive) is the most quiet installation of the three drive types, because the motor itself is what’s moving along the track to bring the door up and down. That makes it the simplest, most elegant mechanism of all the options. It only has the single moving part, which means it’s less likely to need maintenance. The motor glides smoothly along the track, which means quieter movement with less vibration. For all of these reasons, the jackshaft is one of the most common types of garage door openers for new homes and businesses today.

Horsepower options for garage door openers

Another factor to consider when choosing a new garage door opener is the horsepower. The horsepower options you’ll typically see for openers range from one third to one and a half horsepower. In general, a higher horsepower opener is typically best. If you have heavier doors or a larger door size, more horsepower will be necessary to open and close them. But even if you have single or lighter car garage doors, a motor with more horsepower means a longer life for the whole system because more power means translates to less strain on the motor. In other words: Heavy doors or not, a motor with more horsepower is usually a smart choice.

AC versus DC motors

When shopping for a new garage door, you may also encounter AC and DC options for the motor. Typically, chain drive openers are AC powered. That makes them long-lasting and more heavy-duty, but they use a lot of energy, don’t operate as smoothly, and won’t work in the event of a power outage. DC motors likely cost a bit more, it’s true. But they’re generally much quieter, which can be more pleasant for those in the living space when the door is being used. They’re also more energy efficient. They simply use less, which is why they can run off of a battery backup when necessary so you’ll always be able to access your garage.

Extra garage door opener elements and accessories

Garage door opener technology has come a long way. These days, there are all kinds of add-ons and helpful elements you can get to make using your opener safer, more convenient, or more secure, including:

  • A remote control. Virtually any garage door opener you choose will come with a remote so you can open and close the door from the outside without getting out of your car to access the keypad.
  • Wall-mount keypads. These provide a way for you to access your garage from the outside if you don’t have your remote handy. You can just enter your code to open or close the door.
  • Smart garage door openers. These are the exciting next wave in garage door opener technology. They bring the convenience of wi-fi connectivity to your garage door, which means you can connect a device like a smartphone to it through the MyQ app. Then, you can check or control your garage door remotely, which can be helpful if you want to let someone in when you’re not home, or want to confirm that you closed the door after leaving if you can’t remember.
  • Safety features. And of course, all new garage door openers come equipped with safety features. They project invisible electronic beams below the open door that can sense if anything is in the way as the door begins closing. First, this feature can protect your garage door itself, because a car bumper, lawn mower, or other large item impeding the door’s closing can cause damage. More importantly, however, this feature ensures that if there is a child or a pet in the closing door’s path, the door will sense them and stop closing immediately.

Choosing the right opener for your home or business

Whether you’re building a new home or business, or are homeowner or business owner looking to upgrade your opener, the team at Thompson Garage Doors can help! Come visit our showroom today at 171 S. 18th Street in Sparks, or reach out to one of our door specialists at 775.356.6601. We can take care of everything, from helping you choose the right door and opener for your needs to expert opener installation. Contact us today!