February 13, 2020

Garage Door Opener Drive Tech: Belts or Chains?

Thinking about investing in a new garage door opener? If so, you’ll need to understand that there are different types on the market. For instance, you’ll find that the drive mechanism (the equivalent of a car’s transmission) differs from one to the other. Some models have a metal chain, such as what you might see on a bike, while others have a rubber belt reinforced with steel. Yet other models might use a screw method, and then there are jackshaft openers.

Which is the right option for your needs? Really, there’s no one size fits all answer here. It comes down to how each drive type meets you needs and what those needs are in the first place. With that being said, for many people, belt‑driven garage door openers will be the best choice. Not sure why? Let’s dig into the topic a bit more.

Myths or Facts

Background Information to Know

Before we dive into the discussion, we need to establish some background information. It’s important to understand the difference between AC and DC motors. AC, or alternating current, motors maintain a constant speed from startup to finish. DC, or direct current, motors start slowly, speed up, and then slow down before the door finishes its motion.

Neither is really faster than the other, but DC motors are quieter during operation because of their variable speed. Both motors move the door at roughly six to eight inches per second depending on the motor’s size. It should also be noted that DC motors can also be equipped with a battery backup, while AC motors cannot.

Understanding Operation

In this scenario, we’re going to discuss trolley‑style openers, rather than jackshaft openers. This is the most commonly used option in North America, and the opener is installed in the center of the ceiling, at the back of the garage door track. The belt that opens and closes the door is made from rubber and then reinforced with steel, similar to the steel belts in your car’s tires. Fiberglass or polyurethane may also be used depending on the belt manufacturer.

The rubber belt forms a loop that runs along a track shaped like a T. Adjusting tension is as simple as turning a wrench a few times. You can also use either a 1/2 or 3/4 HP (horsepower) motor, although for double garage doors that measure 16 feet wide, we’d recommend a 3/4 HP motor. For single doors, 1/2 HP is all that you’ll need.

You should also remember that a garage door opener is nothing more than a replacement for your own arm. The garage door must be kept in proper balance, which means that it should only weigh around 8 to 10 pounds (3.5 to 4 kilos). To test the balance, disengage the motor and try to lift the door by hand. If it feels too heavy, or you cannot lift it, the door is out of balance and you need to have a professional service it immediately.

Belt Drive Opener Advantages

As hinted at already, we believe that belt‑driven openers are the right solution for most (but not all!) homeowners. Why? It’s because of the advantages offered. In this section, we’ll highlight the most important.

Noise – Belt drive openers are much quieter than chain driven models. In fact, they’re up to 30% quieter, which is a huge difference, particularly for homes with a bedroom over the garage or attached to it.

It’s normal that a garage door makes noise

Combine belt technology with DC functionality, such as with the LiftMaster 8550W, and you get an even quieter garage door opener. It’s not just the belt that makes it quiet, though. It’s the fluidity of movement, as well as a different housing construction designed to reduce noise.

With all that being said, belt drive openers do have a disadvantage. That is, they’re usually more expensive than chain drive openers. This is particularly true in the case of a three‑section trolley system that you usually find in big box stores. Is the reduction in noise worth the price increase that you’ll incur? Yes, it is, particularly if you’re one of the millions of homeowners who gets woken up by loud garage door operation.

Tips to Reduce Noise

Other than investing in a belt drive garage door opener, there are other ways that you can reduce opener noise.

  • Securing the Opener: If your garage door opener is mounted on wood joists, installing a semi‑rigid strip of rubber between the steel angle and the joist helps to reduce noise. You’ll even find vibration isolation kits available that can be installed between the steel angle and the opener’s housing. It works a bit like the way a car’s rubber bushings do.

  • Choose Nylon: Steel rollers are pretty common in North American garage doors. However, they can be the source of a lot of noise. If you really want to quiet things down, choose nylon rollers, instead. You can opt for black or white to fit your needs.

  • Lubrication Matters: A huge part of garage door opener noise is a lack of lubrication. You should lubricate all the metal components twice per year with 5W30 engine oil. However, never lubricate your belt drive garage door opener. The sprockets are lubed on installation and the grease should last between five and seven years.

  • Install Carpet: If you have a bedroom over the garage and it has wood floors, installing carpet can help to dampen sound from below.

  • Jackshaft Technology: Another option is to install a jackshaft style door opener beside the door. Because it is not located on the ceiling, it can reduce noise levels.

Note that these steps should really be taken in conjunction with one another to reduce the amount of noise your opener creates. An experienced technician at Door Systems Metro Boston can explain everything to you.

What Next?

If you’re convinced that it is time to make a change for the better (quieter), contact us. You can reach us at:

Framingham: 508‑875‑3508

Boston: 617‑345‑9500

We are garage door opener experts and we’re happy to share our expertise. We can also send you a quote by email if you prefer.

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