The Best Garage Door Opener You've Never Heard Of
The Garage Door Opener You'll Tell your Friends About
LIt's no surprise that garage door openers have been around for a decades. We really don't spend a lot of time thinking how they operate, but they've essentially come in four varieties over the years:
Some newer models now even have battery backup to keep them working when the power goes out. And, a couple can now be accessed via a smartphone app - handy if you happen to realize your door is somehow open when you're out on the road. You can see a model that has both features here.
But, at the end of the day, we really just want our garage openers to work when we press the button. Right?
Not The Same Old Garage Door Opener
So, why am I writing a product review article about an everyday item that’s in lots of garages and home improvement stores across the country?
It’s because the Sommer Direct Drive garage door opener is different.
My Genie screw-drive opener needed grease every couple of months to help prolong the the screw threads from excessive wear - and to help reduce the noisy screw-drive opener operation. The problem was that the grease had to be applied underneath the drive rail (think of working under a car on your back looking up). Even after being applied just right, this design eventually resulted in plops of grease dropping to the garage floor as the trolley went back & forth. And, many of the plops over time landed on the floor next to the driver's door - immediately below where the trolley stopped when the garage door was fully open.
It was annoyingly easy to accidentally step on a plop of grease and track it across the garage floor, into the house, into the car. Clean-up was always messy - shoe, garage floor, car floor, and house flooring.
The Sommer installation manual mentions that the garage door rollers & hinges need to be lubricated periodically - but, not the Sommer Direct Drive trolley or rail themselves. That's a really nice bonus that finally does away with the ongoing grease-plop mess.
When we moved back in after our whole house renovation, it was time for me to take my Genie opener out of temporary storage and re-install it. Part of my home remodel included new storage space above the garage. And, that ended-up lowering the finished ceiling height of the parking area. In fact, when my sectional garage door is fully rolled-up, there's only about 5-inches of clearance between the door and the ceiling. That's a really tight space to work with.
That meant I needed to try to install my Genie with the precision of a surgeon - and pray it would fit. I had to buy hardware and fabricate it to get the motor housing close-enough to the ceiling. Fortunately, I was able to pull it off with only about an inch of clearance above & below the screw-drive rail that goes between the opener's motor housing and the header above the garage opening.
From that point on, I prayed that the Genie would never fail because I was thinking that may not be able to get another, newer unit to fit in the same tight space.
Then, as you may have guessed, my Genie failed after many years of use. After I let out a couple of sailor-like "sentence-enhancers", I asked myself, "Now what am I going to do?". I was also feeling the pressure of needing to get a solution in place quickly because I didn't want my wife to have to manually lift & lower the garage door when she departs or returns.
Searching For A Replacement Garage Door Opener
I'm a DIYer, so I did what lots of DIYers do. I started my Google search looking to see what's out there - quickly finding myself on the Lowes and Home Depot websites scouting around. I started finding the brands I mentioned above.
Then, I happened to come across the Sommer Direct Drive. I had never heard of Sommer before, so I was initially a bit skeptical on this brand of openers.
Sommer Direct Drive Garage Door Openers
I headed over to the Sommer website to read more about the opener. I liked what I found. From there, I went to see if I could find it on Amazon to see what others were saying about it. Pleasantly, I found that it had hundreds of favorable reviews.
Because of it's unique design - where the drive motor is actually in the trolly that moves along the rail assembly, it actually has a flat drive channel (think horizontal profile, instead of vertical). And, the rail channel mounts near the top of the head unit (that only houses electronics & the light bulbs). That means that I can tuck the whole assembly up nice & tight to the ceiling. Compact design - this is exactly what I needed.
To me, chain-drive openers and screw-drive openers have always seemed loud - no matter how much I've lubricated them. I'm talking the kind of "loud" that when I'm on a call walking to my car, I don’t want to walk underneath a chain/screw-drive opener while it's opening. The kind of "loud" where I wait for my wife to actually get into her car when she's departing before I press the button to have the garage door roar to life.
As it turns out that because of the configuration of the unique motor drive trolley, the door opener makes almost no noise at all. You read that right. Gone are the days of me waiting inside the house while my Genie roared to life and remained loud until the door was all the way up (or down). It was the same for the Craftsman chain-drive openers I had (and my Dad had) before that.
Now, it's nearly impossible to hear the Sommer Direct Drive operating from inside my house, and that should come as great news if you have bedrooms above or next to your garage. And, now, I have no hesitation walking under the Sommer Direct Drive when it's moving while I'm on my phone. Noise is no longer a factor. Another great bonus.
As a side note, each person who's seen & heard the Sommer opener in action for the first time has reacted the same way - "Wow. That's really quiet." As the weeks pass by, my family members and I continue to marvel at just how quiet the opener is.
In fact, I've noticed that the garage door rollers and hinges actually make more noise when rolling up/down than the Sommer Direct Drive itself. I've got a double-sided, insulated, double wide, aluminum garage door. I bought the "SOMMER Direct Drive 1042V001 3/4 HP Garage Door Opener" on Amazon, and I'm glad to have it.
Sommer also has a slightly more powerful SOMMER 1052V000 Direct Drive 1.0 hp Quiet, Durable and Strong Garage Door Opener model.
Sommer Direct Drive Installation
The installation is a breeze, and Sommer even has a very helpful YouTube video to quickly step you through the installation. I recommend watching the video first, then stepping through the instructions - as they show more detail in the assembly process.
Note that the garage door travels just slightly slower with the Sommer opener compared to the Genie opener. But, the Sommer incorporates a unique feature when it starts to open (or starts to close) the garage door. The traditional style of garage door opener is "instant on" - meaning it appears to yank the door to start opening (or closing) it. That can wear chains, screws, belts, and trolleys out quicker. For example, I had to replace my drive trolley every few years because the gear teeth would wear down to the point of making the gears skip & chatter - sounding like something was breaking. I would have to lower the entire Genie unit down to the garage floor and disassemble the screw-drive rail to replace the worn-out trolley assembly. What a pain...
The Sommer unit starts by slowly ramping-up the speed, then opening/closing at full speed, then slowly ramping-down to a stop. To me, the speed difference is hardly noticeable, and it can extend the useful life of the door opener & it's parts.
So, whether you're about to install a garage door opener after a remodel - or you're needing to replace your worn-out or broken opener, I recommend taking a look at the Sommer Direct Drive garage door opener.
Is this the best garage door opener? For my situation, it was just what I needed. And, the bonuses I got are that it's quiet - and, I don't have to deal with messy lubrication hassles every few years. And, yes, I've been telling my friends and family members about this nice garage door opener. You'll be telling your friends, too.
TIP 1 - Electrical Outlet Alignment In Low Ceiling Installations
When installing (or having installed) an electrical outlet to power your garage door opener, I recommend having your electrician offset the outlet box so that it doesn't line up immediately above the drive channel - causing a potential issue just trying to plug-in the opener.
TIP 2 - Training Your Vehicle's HomeLink Transmitters
Getting my two cars to learn the transmitter code was a challenge because the syncing methods outlined in the Sommer directions and the owners manuals for my two foreign cars did not work. Fortunately, I found a YouTube video (made by a Sommer engineer) that shows the way that actually works. This is a different video than the installation video mention above. See the HomeLink set-up video here.