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Nowadays, the most used material for making garage doors is steel. Other materials like wood and fiberglass resin are also used. With the use of strong and impact proof materials, the garage doors become quite a heavy apparatus to operate manually.
Although most industrial garages and shops make use of manual or chain pulley based mechanism, garage doors nowadays come installed with automated opening mechanisms. This eases the process of open and closing the door without having to make the effort manually. People having manually operated garage doors are also getting such automated electronic openers installed.
There are a number of options available as openers. Also different garage door styles require different types of openers to be installed. But basically all garage doors are controlled by electric motors connected to the door and used for lowering and raising it. These motors are controlled by either push switches present on the wall of the garage or by remote controls which the owners carry with themselves.
Obviously the garage doors have to close properly for security and weather protection. Make sure the door lands correctly and that there is no warping, or movement in the door system. Even a small amount of error in fitting can lead to many problems later, even if only noise. Who wants a clanging garage door? That will not impress the neighbours!
Overhead garage doors are used most popularly with electronic door openers. These doors slide up and over inside in length towards the other end of the garage. All the mechanism that is connected to these doors is attached to the ceiling of the garage. The motor that is used to open the door is also connected to the ceiling at the far end of the garage. It then connects to a trolley placed on a track with the help of a chain, belt or a screw that turns when the motor operates. This trolley is connected at the other end with the top of the garage door.
Above: Garage door showing mechanism
When the motor pulls the trolley towards itself the garage door is pulled thus raising the door up and over onto the tracks. Similarly when the motor pushes the trolley away from itself the door is pushed down to be closed. A quick release mechanism is also present to unlatch the door from the trolley for allowing it to be operated manually in case of an emergency or if a power outage occurs. Now contrary to the popular belief this motorized mechanism does not lift the door itself by the using the motor's power. Mostly the people believe that it's the pulling force of the motor that pulls the garage door up onto the rails and that also the motor is responsible entirely of closing the door too. This is not the actual case.
The motor only helps in the process of the opening and closing and the actual work is done by the springs (torsion or extension) attached to the door. These springs can either be present as a pair, with each spring located inside the side rails on either sides and attached to the bottom edges of the door (extension springs) or only one spring can be present centrally (torsion spring). The tension present inside the windings of these springs is the actual force that lifts and lowers the heavy door. The motor only assists these springs in doing the lifting and basically controls how far can the door be opened and closed. It also locks the door into place when closed.
Above: Garage door showing handles at base for manual opening
The remote controls used to open the modern garage doors have evolved through four main stages. But the basic mechanism in them is the same; the transmitter from the remote sends a signal to the receiver present inside the garage and depending upon the current state the door is in, it either gets interpreted as a signal for the motor to open the door or close it.
The earlier remote controls all worked on one frequency which created a discrepancy that the signal from one remote could cause a neighbor's garage door to also get opened. To solve this problem the transmitter-receiver mechanism was given a set of frequencies to operate upon, with each mechanism tuned to a certain frequency preventing it to interfere with nearby other mechanisms.
But this set was limited and presented security problems as it could be guessed with little effort, presenting burglars an easy way of getting inside the house. In the third evolutionary stage, the apparatus was tuned to receive signal range from 300-400 MHz, giving a much wider set of values as presets. Also the apparatus made use of hopping or changing operational codes, which would change with every push of the button at both the transmitter and receiver end based on the previously sent code. The remote control mechanism used today is almost the same, with the only difference of protection against interference from other radio signal based systems.
Above: Garage interior - public underground garage in Europe, note medieval wooden beam structure - world's oldest old garage?
There are many benefits of having automated garage door openers. One major advantage is that while parking the car, you do not have to get off and open the door but simply use a remote control to open it. This is good for security as people can be attacked while getting into their homes - it is a common form of robbery - they wait until you are out of the car looking for keys and then rob you. Or kidnap you, depending on where you are living!
Good lighting is essential around garages as intruders can lurk there . This can come on automatically with the remote control of the opening mechanism. This is on a timer so it goes off after a period of a few minutes, or to save electricity, on a manual override off switch inside the garage.
Fit an awning which helps in bad weather conditions and saves you from getting soaked.
This again is pretty obvious but be aware of where people are especially children as the doors come down with a lot of force. That is a blunt instrument swinging about!
There are many garage door suppliers but as with all things, get a specialist and you will get a far better job and better supplies. Big discount stores will be selling bulk and will not have the precise one that is right for your garage and garden or driveway.
Big names in this area are Genie garage door openers, Chamberlain garage door openers, and Liftmaster. By the way, Jay Leno's garage is not a real garage - at least not as shown on the web.
You will also need a bit of maintenance for your garage doors - things like garage door springs can wear out or get damaged, along with any misuse that might lead to faults, or plain old fashioned component failure. You might even have an act of nature like a storm that damages your garage.