A good Overhead Garage

Door Opener option: Chain Drive

“Aside from the initial cost, you can hardly go wrong with garage floor tiles.”

Chamberlain Model #PD752DA chain drive overhead garage door opener is the least expensive and most common of all garage door openers. If price is near the top of your list and noise is not a major concern, keep reading.

How does it work?

It’s very similar to a belt drive garage door opener, but it uses a shaft and sprocket-driven chain to lift the garage door. If you had an garage door opener as a kid, it was probably a chain drive model. I once owned a house with a chain drive opener so old it must have been hand made by C.G. Johnson himself.

If you’re a history buff, you might be interested to know that the electric overhead garage door opener was invented by C.G. Johnson in 1926 in Hartford City, Indiana. He also invented the overhead lifting garage door five years before that. Do you remember the old swing-out garage doors or the sliding doors? Thanks to C.G. Johnson, we don’t have to deal with those any more. Have you ever heard of the Overhead Door Company? That was the name of C.G. Johnson’s company, and it is still a thriving company today. In fact, the Overhead Door Corporation owns the Genie Company today.

Who makes the best overhead garage door opener?

In the chain drive line, Craftsman and Chamberlain are good brands … actually, Chamberlain makes Craftsman’s overhead garage door openers. So, it really comes down to warranty comparison and comfort level with the retailer. Craftsman is sold only at Sears, and Chamberlain sells their openers through a large number of retailers, including Lowe’s, Ace Hardware stores, Costco, The Home Depot and Amazon.com.

Just so you know there are other options, Genie sells the Chain Glide line of chain driven openers, although they are better known for their Screw Drive openers, and Wayne-Dalton includes a chain drive option in its prodrive line. One unique feature of the Wayne-Dalton company is that they make a full line of garage doors to go with their garage door openers (or visa versa).

Although Chamberlain leads the way in the chain drive category, Genie’s new Chain Glide system is worth a look. Chain Glide openers use an enclosed in-line chain that snakes its way through an enclosure instead of rattling around an open rail. Benefits of the Chain Glide system include quieter operation than conventional chain-driven openers, easier installation with fewer parts to assemble, and lower maintenance with no required lubrication or chain tensioning for the standard life of the opener.

What about the warranty?

Warrantees on chain drive models vary by make and model. While some Craftsman models carry a limited 4-year warranty on the motor, other models by Chamberlain carry a limited lifetime motor warranty. Check with your retailer for more details.

Sears 53985 Chain Drive Garage Door Opener
Sears Craftsman 1/2 hp Chain Drive
Garage Door Opener – Model #53985

Are they easy to install?

How handy are you? If you are an avid do-it-yourselfer, this shouldn’t be a problem and will require from two to five hours, depending on your skill level. If you are not very handy (it’s OK to admit it), paying a professional is well worth the money. Do you have a handy friend? This could be a great reason to have a barbecue!

CAUTION: If you are going to install the opener yourself, you can save a lot of time and frustration by checking the installation parameters BEFORE you even buy the opener. It’s a good idea to check with the manufacturer to be certain you have everything you need. Some models include only the bare minimum in parts and you must buy some parts separately.

In addition, be sure you have enough ceiling length and vertical height for the model you are considering, something to attach to, i.e., framing members, as well as access to a 110-volt grounded outlet. Remember, too, that some models are designed for seven foot doors, some for eight foot doors, etc. It’s a lot to think about, but the little bit of extra time you spend up front will be well worth it!

How much do they cost?

On the whole, a chain drive overhead garage door opener is at the lower end of the pricing spectrum. I have seen Sears Craftsman models as low as $119 on sale and Chamberlain’s 3/4 hp Heavy-Duty Premium Chain Drive Garage Door Openers for nearly $250 (Model PD752D). Just be aware that less expensive models tend to use more plastic parts that can wear out more rapidly than their steel counterparts. Spending just a few more dollars can save you time and money in the future.

For around $150 on sale ($180 at full retail), you can buy the Craftsman 1/2 hp Garage Door Opener Model 53985 with a good number of options and average customer reviews. (NOTE: This model is only for 7-foot garage doors. If your garage door is a different size you will need an adapter.) You get two lights with adjustable automatic shutoff, two Security+ 3-function remote controls with rolling code technology, a wireless, keyless entry pad and infrared safety sensors (federally mandated on all automatic garage door opener sold today). If you prefer the Chamberlain brand, look at the comparable Model PD612D.

Step up the price scale to the 3/4 hp Craftsman Model 53990 and the customer reviews move right up with the price. At a non-sale price of $230, you are now in the same pricing category as a belt drive garage door opener, but with a bit more power. It’s something to think about (especially if you want the quietest belt drive model). Chamberlain’s comparable 3/4 hp Model PD752D lists for nearly $250, but can be purchased at Amazon.com for substantially less.

What about options?

When I was growing up, my family bought an overhead garage door opener for my grandparents. I don’t remember the brand, but it probably came from Sears. Grandma and Grandpa swore they would never use it, but they ended up thanking us every Christmas for that one!

There weren’t too many options back then, but today’s openers have a slew. One light or two? One remote control or two with one button or three? Exterior keyless entry pad? You get the idea. As the saying goes, the more options, the higher the price.

Having said that, you need to think about this before making a mistake and paying for it later. Get the second remote and get the keyless entry pad. You won’t regret it.

What’s the Bottom Line?

Buying a chain drive overhead garage door opener is a good choice if you want a powerful, reliable opener that isn’t terribly difficult to install for the do-it-yourselfer. They tend to be on the lower end of the pricing scale but they are typically the noisiest option. For about the same or a little more money, you should also consider the latest screw drive garage door opener models.

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