Garage Door Openers Demystified | Belt Drive vs Chain Drive Garage Door Opener and Side Mounts.

liftmaster camera opener

Today, I want to talk a little bit about garage door openers. There are several different types. Many people ask me what’s the best. That really depends on the application. The three main types of openers that we primarily focus on are, the chain drive, the belt drive, and the side-mounted jackshaft operator. Most garages fall into belt drive vs chain drive garage door opener.

Chain Drive Garage Door Openers

belt drive vs chain drive garage door opener
Uses a bicycle-style chain to operate the door

All three have their applications and their purpose. The most popular for us that we commonly use is the chain drive unit. They are good, solid workhorse machines. They use a sturdy bicycle-type chain to run the door up and down. Sometimes you’ll see them with a half chain half cable on some of the more inexpensive box store piece rail models, but overall, a good solid design that fits and works on most residential doors. 

Belt Drive Garage Door Openers

belt dive garage door opener
Uses a rubber belt to reduce noise caused by the chain.

Next, I want to talk about the belt drive models. They are our second most popular. Similar to the chain drive, but instead of using a chain, it uses a rubberized steel reinforced belt, like a car accessory belt. That belt lifts and lowers the door.

A very reliable design. The biggest appeal to the belt drive is that the rubberized belt eliminates a lot of the noise that you would get from the chain. On chain drive units the chain can make noise as it clacks along the rail while in operation. You still have the motor and door noises, but the chain noise is eliminated. 

 If your bedrooms are above the garage or just noise, in general, is a concern, belt drive is definitely the way to go. It’s going to be the quietest. 

Side Mount Garage Door Opener

side mount garage door opener
These openers mount on the side of the door and turn the torsion spring tube.

The third would be the side-mounted jackshaft units. These get mounted on the sides of the door. The way they work is there’s a torsion tube spring above the front of the door. The springs actually lift the door. And what this does is rather than pulling and pushing with a trolley. It uses the torsion tube and turns that tube to lift the door. To use that you do need to have a torsion spring set setup. If you have an extension spring door it is not going to work or you could convert it to a torsion spring system.

We typically only do those on high lift applications or applications where you just don’t have the room to do a standard drawer bar. The only reason is with the side-mounted openers, you need to always have weight on the bottom section if the bottom section gets hung up or gets a little too light, it can throw the cables. They do have cable tension sensors when they do feel some slack in the cables it will stop the door completely, but in my experience, even with those sensors they still can throw cables. If you throw a cable the door can get stuck and even damaged and you will need a garage door professional to reset everything.

So it’s one reason why we’re a little hesitant in some applications to use the side-mounted, but they are a great option because they clean up the ceiling. You don’t have it hanging from the center of the ceiling. It’s sitting on the side of the door, tucked in and out of the way. 

They’re getting very popular now, they were really only a commercial application. But in recent years, they now have side-mounted residential units that are approved for in-home use. 

We typically do them mostly with a high lift, which is where the door comes up before it starts to go back. A lot of times you’ll see that if you have a car lift or a tall garage ceiling you want to look cleaner you utilize it for storage.

In Conclusion

So those are the three main ones. One honorable mention would be the screw-drive opener. You don’t see too many of these anymore. They’re not my favorite it’s more of a less expensive option. It uses a worm gear that turns into a plastic carriage. The key word being there, plastic to lift and lower the door. It’s very noisy and everything is plastic on most of them which means that they strip out and break because it’s plastic. We don’t really install those. We’ll work on them. We’ll fix them if they need fixing. But that’s kind of not something we do too often anymore. They were popular a few years ago.

Usually, we go with a chain, belt, or a side-mounted opener. Those are the most common ones that we do. It really depends on the application. A belt drive vs chain drive garage door opener is one of the first things to decide unless your garage calls for a side mount. If you’re trying to save money chain drives tend to be a little bit less expensive than the belt drive. If noise is not a concern. Many of the modern chain drives use a larger sprocket, like the Liftmaster 81600, that eliminates most of the chain on rail noise, and use a DC motor that is much quieter than the AC motors that they used to come with making it almost as quiet as the belt drive openers.

Each motor has its own application depending on the needs of your garage. If you’re worried about noise, reliability, or you want to keep the ceiling cleared up and think the side-mounted would be the way to go for your home.

We’re always happy to talk to you about the different openers that we have available and which ones we think might be best for your home. Call us anytime!