Like an electronic servant, your automatic garage door opener welcomes you home. It allows you to enter the garage without getting out of your vehicle, thereby enhancing security and protecting you from the elements. It even turns on a light as it opens. A keypad that can be mounted on the garage door jamb also allows you to enter the garage by punching in a security code.
This how-to illustrates the basic steps involved in the installation of a garage door opener. In most cases, an opener system can be installed by one person during the course of an afternoon. However, there are some steps that are easier for a two-person crew to carry out. Always follow the manufacturer’s directions for the actual installation of your chosen unit.
Tools and Materials List
How Openers Work
Garage door openers come in three basic types—screw drive, chain drive and belt drive. Screw drive systems require no chains or belts, and never require adjustment. This how-to focuses on a screw drive system, although the most basic elements of installation are similar for the different systems. The motor sizes are either 1/3 or 1/2 horsepower. All new models include federally mandated safety features that reverse the door if it hits an object. Better models also include an infrared beam system that reverses the door if anything crosses the beam while the door is in operation. For additional security, features such as “rolling code” systems which reset a new code each time the opener is used are also available.
Preparations For Installation
The openers come with 40″-long power cords, which require that electrical outlets be installed within 36″ of the motor head. Some municipalities require that openers be hard-wired directly to circuit breakers. All openers must be mounted at least 7′ off the floor. Check your local building codes and have the appropriate wiring installed.
The openers weigh 40-50 pounds and produce torque as they lift and lower the door. To prevent the opener’s motor head from vibrating loose and falling to the floor, its mounting bracket must be fastened securely to the framing of the garage. If no appropriate framing exists where you intend to mount the opener, you might need to add some secure framing. Since each garage is different, it is difficult to demonstrate framing enhancement techniques that will work in all situations. A common installation involves laying a 40″-long piece of 2″x6″ lumber across three ceiling joists and securing it with six 3″-long #10 wood screws.
Although many home-owners may think that they actually lift their garage doors, the heavy work is done by the door spring system. If the springs are set properly, the doors lift easily and do not slip down when they are opened to the halfway position. If the door is not properly balanced, you might need a professional to service the springs.
Assembling The Opener
Assembling the opener is straightforward. Turn the power head upside down on a piece of cardboard, exposing the mounting hole for the rail. Line up the three rail sections and joinery hardware in position on the floor, and then assemble the system according to the manufacturer’s directions. The most time-consuming part of the assembly process in a screw drive system is the installation of collars that secure the joints in the drive screw sections of the rails.
If the opener rail is too long for your garage, the end can be trimmed with a hacksaw before the opener is hung.
Hanging The Opener
The opener comes with a header mounting bracket that must be fastened with lag screws (included with the opener) to the framing of the garage. It should be installed 1/4″ to the right of the center of the door and 4″ above the horizontal section of the door track. Often, the bracket can be mounted directly onto the 2″ x 6″ header above the door, the cripple studs above the header or the top plate of the garage wall. If it cannot be secured to the existing framing, you may have to augment the garage framing by nailing in an extra cripple stud for the bracket.
Attach the mounting straps (supplied with the opener) to the appropriate holes in the opener head. Cross the mounting straps in the middle and bolt them together to add stability to the motor mount.
Position a stepladder directly under the framing onto which you intend to fasten the opener motor. Mark the framing for the motor at the central point between the two garage door tracks.
To mount the rail end of the opener, insert the threaded end of the rail strap into the hole in the header mounting bracket over the garage door. Secure it with the rail strap nut.
Lift the motor end of the opener onto the ladder, climb the ladder and lift the motor into position. Check that the opener rail is level and then use 1 1/2″-long 5/l6″ lag screws to secure the motor to the garage framing, making sure that it is centered between the two door tracks.
If your garage door does not come equipped with a door drive mounting bracket, fasten the one supplied by the manufacturer of the garage door. (Most newer garage doors come equipped with mounting brackets for automatic openers.) Attach the door opener to the mounting bracket.
Some openers come equipped either with wall buttons that operate the light and the opener simultaneously, or wall consoles that also allow you to turn on the lights independently and to turn off all power to the system when you go on vacation. These controls must be mounted at least 5′ off the ground to keep them out of reach of small children.
The infrared system is one of the most important safety features in a garage door system. It consists of a pair of small boxes; one sends a beam and the other receives it. The boxes mount on brackets near the base of the garage door jamb, 6″ off the ground, and are then wired to terminals on the motor head. If anything obstructs the beam when the door is in motion the door stops immediately.
The upward and downward torque dials on the motor must be turned down as far as possible. Test the downward torque setting by placing a roll of paper towels under the door and allowing the door to descend. If it just begins to squash the roll before the door reverses itself, the downward torque is set properly. If not, it must be adjusted. The upward torque should be set to the lowest possible point that will lift the door.