When choosing an opener for your garage doors – there are a couple of things you need to think about before you get to horse power at all. First of all – how many cars do you have (in other words, are you using single or two-space doors). Next, what kind of door is it? What’s it made of, does it have a window? Is it insulated and what with? In the end – and this may sound silly but it’s true – what’s the weather like in your area?
So, let’s get in to it.
Traditional steel doors – one sided, non-insulated and without windows – can weigh as little as 150lbs, even if they’re really wide (16 feet counts as really) and even less if it’s more narrow. Typically, especially if you live in the Northeast, the door doesn’t look like this – they’re usually insulated with one plate of steel on each side. That would make the door twice as heavy than a traditional one. The best way to test it is to check whether you can lift it by hand.
Custom wood doors are of course much heavier, especially if they have wood veneer installed. It’s also important to remember that no matter how well you take care of the woodwork (painting, staining, adjusting etc), the door will absorb moisture during seasonal changes. This can make the door 1/3 heavier than when you first installed them. The trouble may not be with the motor itself, but with the springs, chain or the screws in the drive system, which was calibrated for the door as they were when you bought them.
Now let’s get to the horsepower itself.
1/3 HP is perfectly fine – if the doors are well balanced it could lift basically any size, but it presents you with the oldest dilemma in the book. Would you rather pay less for the equipment itself, and pay extra for the maintenance in the long run, or the other way around? If it’s used for lighter, single doors, 1/3 horse power can last you a pretty long time, but if it’s used with any more substantial door you would need to replace the opener more frequently.
1/2 HP is the most common motor used for residential garages. It can lift both single and double sized doors. It can be used for steel doors with 3 layers or less, and wooden doors less than 15 inches thick. Remember it will only work if the doors are properly balanced and like with the weaker one, some parts have to be replaced on a regular basis.
3/4 HP motor can be used on any door no matter how thick or heavy they are. If you have thick wooden doors with windows (more than 16ft wide and 7 ft high) this is the best option for you. Also, if you have a lighter garage door, but you don’t want to deal with worn out parts for quite a long time – this could be a great one-time investment for your home and peace of mind.
In the end. the motor isn’t the only part you should think about – it’s important to match the drive system with it. It’s a common misconception that the belt drive system is less noisy than the chain one. This isn’t true, the noise doesn’t have anything to do with the chain, it comes from the motor itself. Chain drive systems are more reliable and can be adjusted more easily (without professional help) than the belt ones.
So, like with almost everything else, there is no one size fits all solution – choose the motor power of your garage door based on your needs, priorities and level of handiness. Just remember that spending less the first time often means spending much more in the long run.