Automatic garage doors reduce the raising and lowering of massive doors to a click of a button to allow you quick entry and exit from the garage.
Although there are more designs available, chain drive and belt drive openers are the most popular models in Australia.
Unfortunately, choosing between the two models amounts to a tricky endeavour.
Should you settle for the affordable chain drive or the quieter but costly belt drive?
This article takes an in-depth look at both the belt and chain drives to help you pick the perfect garage door opener for your garage.
Chain Drive Garage Openers
As the name suggests, chain driven garage openers use a metal chain to operate the garage doors. These are the choice model in residential garages because they are cheap and readily available.
The unit uses a pair of chains attached to an assembly unit on one end and torsion springs on the other to raise and lower the garage doors. The chains resemble bicycle chains but have a higher tensile strength.
Because of their high tensile strength, you can use chain drive openers on all types of residential garage doors, large and small.
- High load-bearing capacity
- Inexpensive and time-tested
- Readily available
- Works with all types of garage doors
- A rich pool of skilled experts
- A shorter lifespan
- Loud noises and vibrations
- Susceptible to friction-induced damages
Belt Drive Openers
Belt drive garage openers use the same mechanism as the chain drive but use high tensile rubber belts in place of chains. The rubber belts run along a rail and wrap around a gear system at the top of the opener.
Belt drives use a trolley to move the rubber belts up and down whenever you open and close the garage door. That also allows the system to operate quietly, unlike the noisy purely metallic chain drives.
Although belt drives open and close quietly, they have a lower carrying capacity compared to the chain drives. The typical belt drive openers are great for single car garage doors but they can’t handle the heavier wooden doors.
- Runs quietly and smooth
- Boasts a high service life
- Requires minimal maintenance
- Raises and lowers garage doors quickly
- Suitable for both attached and detached garages
- Carries a hefty asking price
- Has a lower load bearing capacity
- Limits your choice of garage doors
Which is the Best Garage Door Opener?
While most experts consider belt drives to be a superior product, they tend to overlook many granular factors that are important to the homeowner.
To get the perfect garage door opener, you must account for your needs and personal preferences. Here’s a detailed breakdown of the most crucial factors and how the chain and belt drive stack up.
While both garage openers use the same mechanical principle to raise and lower the doors, chain drives have a higher load-bearing capacity.
Chain drives can operate the larger and heavier doors effortlessly. They are a perfect choice if you have a 2- or 3-car garage door made from a heavy material.
On the other hand, the standard belt drive will operate single car garage doors smoothly but not when they are made from dense wood or steel.
Some models come with high strength belts with the capacity to operate a 2-car garage door. However, such belt openers are not readily available and tend to carry a huge price tag.
The high load capacity of the chain driven garage openers allows you more latitude when it comes to the type, size, design, and the material used on your garage doors.
Chain drives tower over belt drives in terms of affordability since they are inexpensive and readily available in any market. However, these openers carry higher repair and maintenance costs.
Since they comprise entirely of moving metal parts, chain drives are susceptible to friction-induced wear and tear.
Belt driven garage door openers tend to be more expensive, but they are worth every penny. Since they comprise of rubber and metallic parts and use a trolley to pull the belts, belt drives experience minimal wear and tear.
A high shelf life coupled with a smooth and quiet operation makes for a high return on investment, justifying the hefty initial cost.
Belt-driven openers are the best choice if you’re not mechanically inclined and wish to skip the routine calls to the garage door repair shop.
Noise Tolerance Levels
What counts as an acceptable noise level in your home can determine your choice of a garage door opener. If your job has you pulling in and out of your garage at odd hours, you’re better off with a belt drive.
The rubber belts allow this garage opener to operate the garage door without creating a thunderous roar that disturbs the entire household.
Belt drives are an excellent choice if your garage is attached to the house or have a bedroom over the garage.
On the other hand, opt for a chain drive if noise is not a primary concern or you have a semi-detached garage. This model generates a considerable amount of noise and vibration because all movement involves metal-on-metal contact.
Chain-driven garage openers can double up as an additional layer of security for your home. Since they create a considerable amount of racket, you’re alerted whenever the garage door opens.
Convenience takes many forms when choosing the best garage door opener. Some homeowners may want a drive that allows them to close the garage quickly while others might want one that allows for custom doors.
If closing the garage door quickly and smoothly is important to you, a belt drive makes the best choice as its devoid of the rattling and vibrations of the chained variety.
However, if you wish to change the design, modify, or insulate garage doors in a manner that might increase the weight, get a chain drive. The high tensile strength of these models allows a higher load-bearing capacity.
A chain drive allows you to insulate the garage door with the best materials without compromising its ability to raise and lower properly.
Can You Replace A Chain Garage Door Opener with a Belt Drive?
If your old chain garage door opener ceases working or you’re tired of the noise and vibrations, you can switch it out with a belt drive.
Since both models use a similar mechanism, switching them out doesn’t amount to a herculean effort. In most cases, you can re-use the existing brackets without running into problems.
However, you’re better off contracting a licensed professional to handle the new installation even if you’re mechanically inclined. While new units ship with a detailed manual, a lot of things could go wrong during the installation process.
For instance, you must maintain the correct door spring tension when replacing the opener for the garage door to function correctly. You must also match the new opener’s motor with the weight of your garage door.
Getting any of these factors wrong reduces the life span of your newly installed opener while increasing the risk of injuries and property damage.
Is It Time to Replace Your Garage Door Opener?
If your current opener doesn’t quite match the needs of your automatic garage door, make haste, and switch it out.
Mismatched garage doors and openers are a recipe for disaster as they could lead you to incur huge losses or suffer personal injuries.
With the help of a skilled professional, you can switch from a chain drive to a belt drive motor if you need to keep the noise down. Alternatively, you can install a chain drive if your garage door is wider and heavier than the standard sizes.