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Choosing Electric Garage Doors

By: Chris Hogan MSc - Updated: 19 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Garage Doors Electric Opening Doors

Electric garage doors are getting more popular as they come down in price and more models reach the market. Once the preserve of the rich and famous, they are now within reach of the majority of households with garages. People can now take advantage of the convenience and security that electric opening offers for only a few hundred pounds.

Convenience of Electric Garage Doors

Electric garage door openers should have a switch inside the garage, in case people get shut in and a remote that can be used to open the garage from inside the car. The convenience angle is obvious; you don't have to get out of the car to open or close the garage door, a real boon when it's raining.

Personal Safety

The security angle is two-fold, protecting both your vehicle and yourself. It means that you can get into the garage without getting out of the car so you are less vulnerable. If you have an integral garage with an internal door it means you can get right into the house without being in the open at all.

From the vehicle security point of view it means that someone is less able to get into your car while you're struggling with the garage door. Since vehicle security was improved, with immobilisers and alarms becoming almost standard, in the 1990s, it has become more important for thieves to get the keys as well as the car itself. Jumping into a briefly unattended car is the easiest way of achieving that.

Types of Garage Door

The most popular type of garage door opening is the canopy opening. The door is lifted by cables that wrap around a circular drum and when it is lifted the front third of the door protrudes outside the garage (hence the name 'canopy'). These are unfortunately unsuitable for electric operation. It is possible but the number of disadvantages makes it unreliable and potentially unsafe.

If you have a canopy garage door you'll need to replace it and there are two main options, retractable and sectional. Both are available in wood, PVC, GRP, steel or aluminium. A retractable door is in one piece and swings up and out like a canopy door, but then retracts all the way into the garage along tracks fitted horizontally under the garage ceiling.

Sectional garage doors are more expensive. They are divided into four or five horizontal sections that are hinged so that the door can follow the curve at the top of the garage doorframe as it rises. They are guided by both vertical and horizontal tracks at the sides of the garage and the movement profile means that the door does not swing out of the garage, or in for that matter. This makes them excellent for short drives, or longer than average cars which can be parked right up to the door without fouling the mechanism.

Garage Door Opening Mechanisms

Once you have selected a door type it's on to the motor and mechanism. There are three main types of mechanism, screw, chain and belt, all driven by electric motors. Chains are the cheapest, require adjusting every now and then and are the noisiest. Screws are next up the ladder, being quieter and more expensive, but belts are the most expensive and quietest.

Regardless of the mechanism they are all driven by an electric motor that hangs from the ceiling at the back of the garage. You will need to make sure that you have clearance for the motor and its brackets. Of course this also means having a mains electrical supply in the garage, but if that's problematic there are battery operated versions that work for a month on each overnight charge.

Extras for an Easier Life

Another optional extra you might consider is hooking the door mechanism into the lighting circuit for the garage and perhaps some outside lights too. Then when you come home of a dark evening the lights will come on automatically juts when you need them for getting out of your car and going into the house.

Regardless of the type of opening mechanism and door type you choose, make sure you get a number of quotes from suppliers and fitters (unless you're doing it yourself). Choose the firm that you think is likely to give the best service as you don't want to get stranded with a door that won’t open.

Don't Disregard Safety

Finally don't skimp on safety features. Look for a mechanism that detect obstructions in the garage door opening and stops rather than continuing to push against them. If a pet or child gets in the way of the door as it opens or closes this feature can help to prevent serious injury.

You Home Alarm

If you have a burglar alarm in your home which includes the garage door, then you'll need to choose whether to:
  • Have some means of remotely deactivating the alarm from your car
  • Have a sufficient delay that allows you to get to the alarm panel and turn it off
  • Go inside the house, turn off the alarm then go back and put your car away (kind of defeats the object though)
Alternatively you could have a separate alarm fitted to you garage door, entirely separate from the house alarm.

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