WiFi garage door openers are some kind of magic

Listen to these wise words from Nelson:

The #1 upgrade you should do for an older house is a dishwasher; they got a lot better about 15 years ago. But #2 may well be the garage door opener.

Nelson’s Weblog: tech / good / liftmaster-87504-267

I agree with both points Nelson made here, wholeheartedly. One of the most popular types of questions on Ask MetaFilter is along the lines of “what are ways I can greatly improve my life by paying just a little extra for something vastly better?” and I’d say both of these recommendations fall squarely into that category of things where for a little bit more, you get a ton of bang for your buck.

Quiet, good dishwashers aren’t that expensive!

Most dishwashers that come with new homes are cheap units that might look ok but only offer basic features. The funny part is even for contractors they probably cost around $500-600 for a basic dishwasher.

You know how much a precision dishwasher that looks great and can get any food off any plate and do it while making barely any noise? They are about $1,000-1,500 and in my mind are worth every penny. I’m a big fan of Bosch dishwashers and I remember when researching them ten years ago, the Bosch website had decibel ratings for all their dishwashers and I picked the 2nd quietest one and never regretted it for a second (it barely lets out a gentle hum).

I call my garage a car hole

Garage doors are ubiquitous on American suburban homes and the motors that open them are often loud, clanky, and lack features beyond basic security. A new cheap as hell garage door opener that comes standard on most homes runs about $200-250.

You know how much a fancy one with WiFi costs? About $300. That’s right, just fifty bucks more. And if you want all the options like a streaming video camera and bright-as-the-sun lights that turn on automatically with motion sensors, they’re about $500-600. So for just a bit more, you get gobs more features and functionality.

Another point worth mentioning about any garage door motor that’s about $300+ is they are often belt driven vs. the cheap bicycle chains you normally see. A belt drive is TONS quieter in operation and if opening a garage door in your house sounds like a jackhammer of noise in the middle of your home, going with a new belt drive motor will be significantly better.

What good is a garage door on WiFi?

First, there’s an anxiety-reducing component. You will never have to ask anyone or nervously wonder “Hey, did I remember to close the garage door?” when you’re hours away from your house because you can open your phone’s garage app at any time to see the status and position of your garage door in real-time.

Next, you can put your garage door on systems like HomeKit, which means you can open and close the door from Siri (ask Siri to open it 30 seconds before you arrive and it’ll already be open for you) but you can also daisy-chain other HomeKit devices. In my own garage, whenever a door opens, it automatically flicks on a wall switch and turns on all the overhead lights and keeps them on for 10 minutes before shutting itself off, so no one ever has to pull into a dark garage. This also means you can open and close the door over the internet, which means the range of your garage door controller doesn’t matter as much, giving you flexibility to open it sooner, later, or from far away.

Lastly, you can give others access to your garage using the apps that come with it. For my liftmaster garage door opener (though not as nice as Nelson’s), I can share a code with UPS and Amazon drivers so they put my Amazon packages inside the garage. I can also open the door remotely if someone is visiting or give them a sort of temporary pass if they’re coming in and out while say, house sitting.

In a few years, the question of buying a smart garage door opener vs not getting the WiFi option will be moot, because the few dollars in electronics needed will just be default in everything, but if you ever have the need to replace one, by all means go for the new ones with much better features.

note: for any listeners to Roderick on the Line or my long time twitter followers that have heard jokes about my shitty wifi garage doors, I’ve been playing with the tech behind them for the last 10-15 years and the first versions were pretty unreliable and yeah, I actually have been locked out of my house when my phone refused to connect to a door, but I haven’t had a single hiccup from any wifi garage door in the past 5-6 years at two different homes where I’ve had them. They really have matured into something reliable and dependable.

2 responses to “WiFi garage door openers are some kind of magic”

  1. Totally agree! The other improvement we found when getting a new garage door was wall-mounted garage door opener motors (like this – https://store.geniecompany.com/products/wall-mount-garage-door-opener). The idea being you avoid having that center track and motor suspended from ceiling which helped us solve a tricky storage issue w/ the 2nd level of our garage.

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    1. Yeah, the “screw type” motors are something I seriously considered, but they do cost about 2x as much as a belt drive and the garage guy I talked to said it wasn’t going to be all that much quieter, but I don’t think I agreed with his assessment. It seems like any motor attached to the main header spanning a whole garage is gonna shake the whole house a lot more than a small motor on the side of one wall.

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