Have you ever come home to discover that you had left your garage door open? Hopefully noting bad happened as a result, but it’s never a good feeling in any case. This is a problem modern technology has cured.
What Is a Smart Garage Door Opener? A Smart Garage Door Opener is garage door opener that is connected to the internet. It allows the garage door to be opened or closed from anywhere, as well as allowing the user to view the status of the garage door, seeing if it is currently opened or closed.
Smart garage door openers are definitely an improvement to you house. I briefly mentioned one of the benefits of having a smart garage door opener, but there are more. I talk about those benefits below, as well provide an all around in-depth look at smart garage door openers.
How a Smart Garage Door Opener Works
A smart garage door opener is an electrically powered device that connects to the mechanical and electric systems of the garage door. This enables users to control opening and closing the garage door through a smartphone app, or other smart devices on the Wi-Fi network.
There are also smart garage door controllers, which connect to an existing garage door opener, to add smart features. Effectively making it a smart garage door opener. I am lumping this into the smart garage door opener category for the purposes of this article, except where differentiation is needed.
Smart garage door openers always have a way to monitor the position of the door. This is usually done by a sensor that is placed on the garage door, but can sometimes be done using a camera as well. That sensor connects to the actual smart door controller which can then send mobile notifications to the user when the door is opened or closed. Other common features include having reminder notifications if the door is left open for too long, or auto-close features.
In addition to smart garage door openers giving the users the ability remotely control operation of the garage door, most smart garage door controllers keep a history of activity, so open and close events are recorded for review at any given time.
Benefits of a Smart Garage Door Opener
For many people looking for solutions to make their garage opener smart, one key feature is the use of voice assistants like Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant. This enables you to use voice commands that can open or close said garage doors. You can also ask for the status of the garage door to find out if it is opened or closed.
As I mentioned earlier, smart garage door openers can save you the worry of wondering if you remembered to close the garage door or not. When a camera is added to the setup, you gain the ability to see who is coming and going through the garage door, as well as a gaining a nice visual to confirm the door is opened or closed.
If you are a forgetful person, like myself, you can even schedule your garage door to close at certain times of the day if it is open. The two most common uses for this are to close after the time you leave for work, and to close at the end of the day, or after you get home from work.
Things to Consider Before Buying a Smart Garage Door Opener
The smart garage door opener needs a way to be connected to the outside world. There are currently two options available are:
- Home WI-Fi Network
- Smart Hub ( Z-Wave)
A home WI-Fi network is by far the most common option available on the market. Just about everyone has a local network, and it’s the most economical. The thing to consider is if your Wi-Fi network is strong enough in the garage. There are solutions to this though, such as adding an access point near the garage, or setting up a Wi-Fi mesh network. Just be aware and perhaps check Wi-Fi signal strength before making your decision.
Z-Wave may be the best option for you if you already have a Z-Wave network in your house. Z-Wave is designed to be a mesh network, so if you have a device close to your garage, that is probably enough. The downside is that there is only one brand of smart garage door opener on the market that supports Z-Wave. Also, Zigbee seems to be winning out over Z-Wave, so you may be even more limited in the future.
Currently, there are no smart garage door openers that support Zigbee or a cellular connection. However, if you are more technically inclined, there are ways that you could create your own custom Zigbee smart garage door opener.
Multiple Garage Doors
Multiple doors also gives you the option to try out multiple smart garage door openers. Maybe you are undecided between two? Well, give them both a try and see which one you like better.
A lot of the smart garage door openers on the market allow for a second open/close sensor to be installed on a second garage door. But watch out! There is a catch to this. A few of the brands only allow for a maximum of two doors. They make you buy additional hardware to support more doors.
Stand alone or Integrated
Lastly, consider how you want to use your smart garage. Seems a little silly, I know. You are probably thinking, “I want to open and close my garage door through my phone.” That would be using it as a stand-alone use case, which is fine if that is what you want.
There is also the option to further integrate it with other devices in your smart home network. Options like being able to use your voice assistant to open and close the garage, or viewing your garage via a camera when there is an event with the garage door.
While we’re on the topic of integration, I just want to point out that the Chamberlain MyQ is capable of integrating with Google Assistant or IFTTT, but they charge a monthly subscription fee of $1 per month, or $10 per year. It’s not much, but something to keep in mind if this is a feature you plan to use. MyQ is the best selling smart garage door controller, and ranked #1 by many review websites.
Picking the Right Smart Garage Door Opener System
Now that you have an idea of some things to consider in a smart garage door opener, here are a few questions to ask yourself to help narrow down on a final selection.
The first question to ask yourself is if you want to replace your current garage door opener, or if you want to make it “smart”.
If you want to replace the whole garage door opener system, their are smart options available. Obviously, this will cost more and will be more difficult to install, but hey, if you need a new opener, why not upgrade to an all in one smart garage door opener? Just make sure it has all the feature you want.
Also, consider if you think your current garage door opener is going to last a bit longer, or if it’s on the brink of failure. Just getting a new garage door opener is going to set you back about a $100 – $200. It might be worth it to pay a little extra and make the upgrade to a smart garage door opener.
Garage door openers come in all shapes and sizes, with quiet the range of brands and style. Remember the smart garage door controllers that I mentioned earlier? It’s the add on unit to an existing garage door opener. Finding a smart garage door controller that is compatible with your current opener shouldn’t be too much trouble is the good news.
Most brands have a compatibility checker to check if your existing garage opener will work with that particular controller.
If you go with adding a smart garage door controller, the second question to ask yourself is if you are okay with connecting a few wires to your existing opener. Controllers, like the Chamberlain MyQ, are completely wireless. That means you don’t have to tinker with any wires. THe main hub plugs into the wall, but you will have to replace batteries on the door sensor. Chamberlain, to continue the example, recommends checking the batteries every six months. Any brand and model that uses a door sensor will require battery replacement.
To me, changing a battery seems like a hassle. If possible, I would rather use a controller that uses some other mechanism to check if the door is opened or closed. The Garadget, for example, uses a reflector placed on the garage door to detect if the door is opened or closed.
Here is a video that covers 10 smart garage door openers. The openers featured in this video are among the most common ones sold and available.
Smart Garage Door Opener Safety
Just like any other smart home device, a smart garage door opener can be hacked as well. Smart garage door openers can be hacked through your Wi-Fi network.
Ultimately, anything can be hacked if someone is smart enough and persistent enough, but that is the exact reason why it is less common than a burglar breaking into your house using force, such as a crowbar and breaking the window.
A well educated person, someone smart enough to hack a smart garage, likely does not want into some random persons garage, or house. And keep in mind, just because someone hacked into your network doesn’t necessarily mean they know the physical location of your house.
There are ways to make it more difficult for potential hackers. Make sure you use a unique password for each device. If you use the same password for all your devices, the hacker only has to figure out your password once to get into all your devices. Also, make sure you use words that are into in the dictionary. A common method for hackers is just to try random words and phrases until they get lucky.
Secondly, use two-factor authentication when possible. This means that in addition to your password, you need to confirm it is you by some other method. This is commonly done by getting a code by text or email. Adding a second method of confirming it is you trying to login greatly increases the security and helps keep hackers out.
Door Closing Remotely
The second safety concern is the garage door opening or closing without you or another person present. The main concern here is if the garage door closes on a object, animal, or person.
All modern garage doors have a couple safety mechanisms built in to prevent this. There is a invisible trip wire at the bottom where the door closes. This causes the door to open if it gets tripped. The second safety mechanism is that the garage opener actually senses if there is additional pressure when the door is closing. If it is too much, the door will open back up. You can test that out by putting a roll of paper towels and closing the garage door on it. The door should open back up. If not, make the adjustment on the garage doro opener until it is properly set.
Those safety mechanisms should prevent any accidents from happening. That’s if you have a modern door. Older doors, which are ust about extinct now, may not have those safety features. I would really caution against adding smart features to a door with no safety features. It’s a really old garage door opener you have, so just upgrade to anew one.
If you are still concerned, consider adding a system that integrates with a camera. That way you can check that it’s clear and that it stays clear while the garage door is in motion.
Smart Garage Door Opener Add On Devices
The last thing I want to cover is devices you can add to and/or integrate with a smart garage door opener. I’ve already mentioned a few, but here is a list of common devices that integrate with your smart opener.
- Smart Voice Assistant
You can’t open your front door with you voice, but you can now open your garage door with only your voice. I guess it’s a new way to let guests into the house.
Keep in mind, getting your door to work with a voice assistant is device dependent and each Assistant or Alexa Skill has different capabilities.
- Smart Camera
There are a few models that have camera built into them, and there are others that can be integrated with a third-party cameras. It’s a great way to see whats going on inside your garage, outside when the garage is open, and to make sure the garage door is clear when closing.
- Door Sensors
There is the door sensor that goes on the garage door, so you can always tell if it is open or closed if you are not using a camera, but you can also integrate sensors on other doors. One option I’ve seen is that someone can have their garage close when they arrive at home and go inside through the door to the house, or vice versa, to have the garage door open when someone enters through the house door.
- Smart Lights
I like to have lights tun on for me when I get home after dark. If you integrate your smart garage with your smart bulbs, you can have your house perfectly lit as soon as you walk through the door. The other option is to make sure all the lights are turned off when you leave.
- Smart Door Locks
Another instance of something happening when you come and go from the house. When smart locks are integrated with your garage door, you can have them all lock when you leave the house and close the garage, or whatever combination of locked/unlocked meets your needs.
The one unique smart garage door opener in the category is the Ryobi garage door opener. Its had a bunch of plugs around the unit, that allow for Ryobi garage door accessories to be plugged in and powered from the opener directly. Those accessories can then be controlled through the Ryobi app.
Those accessories include a bluetooth speaker, fan, 3-outlet extension cord, security camera, air inflator, and my favorite, the parking assist. It helps park two cars at the right distance in your garage by using lasers. It’s te high-tech version of the tennis ball hanging from the ceiling.