For Chamberlain, Craftsman and Liftmaster models that were manufactured before 1998, as well as for any other brand or model of garage-door opener that was manufactured in 1993 or later, you can buy kits for about $130 from Chamberlain, Liftmaster, Linear or Skylink that add Internet connectivity. However, you should be aware that it can be difficult to determine whether a particular kit is compatible with your garage-door opener. For instance, the MyQ Garage kit that’s marketed by Chamberlain and Liftmaster doesn’t list the models with which it works. Instead, the product information that’s on manufacturers’ websites provides general guidelines about which garage-door openers are compatible, such as models that have certain program-button colors. In other words, you’ll have to examine your garage-door opener thoroughly to determine whether such a kit is compatible.
SMART CONTROL. You can buy additional accessories that allow you to connect your garage-door opener to the Internet so you can close the door with your smartphone.
The only thing that’s free about such Internet-connected garage-door openers is the corresponding mobile application, which allows you to check the status of your door, receive alerts when that status changes and open or close the door from anywhere by using your computer, smartphone or tablet. Chamberlain, Craftsman, Liftmaster and Skylink each have apps that are compatible with Apple iOS and Google Android mobile devices. Z-Wave apps, which also are free and compatible with both platforms, allow you to control Linear’s garage-door openers.
Chamberlain says it plans to introduce garage-door openers in 2015 that will connect to a wireless router directly, so you won’t have to buy any add-on hardware. However, the prices for such garage-door openers weren’t available at press time. Genie says it plans to introduce garage-door openers in 2015 that have Internet connectivity, but the company provided no details at press time, so it’s unclear whether the connection would be built in or whether additional hardware would have to be purchased.
LIGHTING THE WAY. Marantec introduced the first garage-door openers that have integrated LEDs for overhead lighting in September 2013. Skylink says it will follow suit in the first quarter of 2015, although it provided no other details at press time. Marantec says integrated LEDs add about 5 percent to the price of its garage-door openers, which start at $208.
The primary benefit of using LEDs in garage-door openers compared with incandescent light bulbs or CFLs is that LEDs are designed to last for 25,000–50,000 hours, whereas CFLs last 10,000 hours and incandescent bulbs last as long as 2,500 hours, according to Department of Energy. As a result, we believe that the use of integrated LEDs in a garage-door opener reduces the likelihood that you ever have to change the light source, which requires you to unclip and pull out the LED. For instance, even if you were to use the lighting in your garage-door opener for 8 hours per day, 7 days per week, the worst-case scenario with integrated LEDs is that you’d have to change the fixture once every 10 years and probably never if you used the lighting only when your vehicle enters and exits the garage.
Furthermore, Marantec says its garage-door openers that have integrated LEDs have an advantage over models that allow you to use aftermarket LED bulbs that screw into conventional fixtures, because the company’s integrated LEDs don’t interfere with the radio frequency that your garage-door-opener and remote use to communicate. We believe that that’s important to note, because the use of certain aftermarket LED bulbs and CFLs in your garage-door opener can cause such a malfunction. Five manufacturers that we interviewed acknowledge the potential problem, and some provide a list of light bulbs and fixtures that they say won’t cause interference.
Nadarajah Narendran, who is the director of research for the independent Lighting Research Center, tells Consumers Digest that you should select an LED or CFL bulb that complies with Federal Communications Commission noninterference rules and that such compliance typically is listed on the bulb or its packaging. Another method to avoid interference is to buy an incandescent bulb that’s designated for “rough service,” which is listed on packaging and indicates that the bulb is suitable for garage-door openers.
ON DISPLAY. Manufacturers increasingly introduce wall-mount controllers that have built-in LCD screens, and Genie and Overhead Door models now have a touch screen. However, you won’t confuse such screens with the elaborate interface of a smartphone, because garage-door opener LCD screens show no more than time and temperature, the charge level of a battery backup system or graphical feedback for operational errors, such as blocked or misaligned safety sensors. Nonetheless, LCD screens have basic input/output functions and menus, which allow you, say, to program the remote or adjust timer-to-close settings at the controller. Otherwise, you have to fetch a ladder to reach a garage-door opener’s housing to perform such tasks.
Although Skylink says it introduced the first wall-mount controller LCD screen in 2008, Chamberlain, Craftsman and Liftmaster followed in late 2011, and Overhead Door and Genie did the same in August 2012 and September 2012, respectively. Manufacturers say no price increases are associated with wall-mount screens, but such screens typically are packaged with premium garage-door openers that cost at least $199. LCD screen controllers that are made by Chamberlain, Genie, Liftmaster and Overhead Door also can be purchased separately for at least $70.
The touch screen that’s on Genie and Overhead Door models also displays service reminders and contact information for service providers that are near to you. We believe that that’s a handy touch.
Drew Vass is a regular contributor to Consumers Digest. He has written about home-improvement topics, including home-heating systems, replacement windows, and bathroom and kitchen remodeling.