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Open door policy

GAYS MILLS - I just finished a ‘do-it-yourself’ project that I’m quite proud of: I installed an electric garage door opener. I’ve never had the luxury of having a garage door opener in my 74 years. I’ve seldom had a garage door that could be opened electrically and, in fact, for most of my life I haven’t had a proper garage. All of that changed this summer, when I had a 24’ by 40’ garage built out behind the house.

The garage was built to my specifications and includes two sectional steel doors, a 16-footer and a nine-footer, which are for parking vehicles. There’s another 11-foot wide bay or ‘bent’ (in tobacco shed terms) with a simple 36-inch-wide entry door that opens to a workshop. After the first couple of snows we’ve had, I felt motivated to finally get around to making the big doors automatic.

My first move in the project was to watch a few YouTube videos on the subject. Gosh, it looked so simple.  In one, the woman doing the installation and working by herself no less, mentioned that it would take a couple of hours. I truly believe I could do another one in half-a-day now, if all went well.  And I’ll have my chance since the nine-foot-door still needs to be installed. The first door took me several days working at it in small steps, and a few re-steps.

The Chamberlain model door opener I installed came with a half-horsepower motor, two car remotes, an interior wall mounted opener, and a wireless keypad opener for outside. The opener operates by chain drive rather than the quieter belt drive models.  I had to buy a rail extension kit since the doors are eight-feet high instead of seven. 

Opening the box of the opener felt like going back to the days of Erector Sets (do they still make those?) and model car/plane/ship building: a lot of parts, all clean and shiny, labeled and wrapped in plastic bags, and a surprisingly thick installation manual. Many manuals for new stuff look big and intimidating, but are written in multiple languages. This manual is 45 pages long and it is all in English.

Needless to say, there was much time consumed referring to the manual during the installation. Thankfully, the manual has many good and accurate drawings and is written clearly and accurately with nothing lost in translation from a foreign language.

So, I assembled the rail and installed the pulley; fastened the rail to the motor unit; installed the idler pulley and chain; adjusted the chain. All of this was done on the floor of the garage. I installed the header bracket to the wall of the garage; attached the rail to that bracket; hung the garage door opener to the bracket in between some rafters. That required some help getting the weighty unit temporarily hung on wires before bolting it on just so, centered and level. It all seems so simple and straightforward now as I write about it, but it took me hours.

Since 1993, all garage door openers have to have ‘entrapment protection’ devices. These are two-foot electronic sensors that fit near the bottom of the door tracks, aimed at each other. If anything breaks that invisible beam as the door is closing, the door opens back up.  Injury and even death by garage door was quite rare before the advent of these devices and is virtually nonexistent now. The door won’t operate without this safety feature.

Anyway, sensors at the ready, light bulbs installed into the opener, perched on a ladder near the controls on the opener, I took a deep breath and pushed the ‘open’ button. Hallelujah! The door opened.  I programmed the up and down travel, and ran the door through several cycles just to see it work.

I felt like I just discovered the wheel. The second one will be a lot easier.