The Wacky World of Garage Door Openers

So, one of my neighbors asked me if I knew of any smart garage door openers to suggest. Fresh off of knee surgery, well past my bedtime and heavily medicated on painkillers, I threw a few generic answers his way, and not to be surprised, none of them were what he was hoping to hear. I owe him an apology, I should have told him that I would have to get back to him the next day. Garage door openers, like a lot of things in home automation, aren’t to be addressed flippantly, because it’s not that simple. Neither are my clients!

There are a few questions one must answer before coming to a conclusion:

  • Do you want local control, or are you happy with cloud support?
  • Do you already have a garage door opener, or do you need a new one?
  • Do you have a Smart Home Hub?
  • Do you have Google Home or Alexa?

The question about local control versus cloud support has to do with data leaving your house, and going to a server elsewhere to process, and then returning to your house to execute.

For example, if you push the lock button on your Nest Yale Lock App, the app sends that request to Nest servers, they process the request , and then send the command from the servers to the lock, to lock the door. This all happens pretty quickly and the delay is generally not even observable to users.

With local control, the command goes from your phone, or voice assistant, to a hub or router in your house directly to the lock. The signal, or data, never leave your house.

There are pros and cons to each method. With local control, your command executes much faster. There is nearly no lag between the time you give the command and the time your device acts. Also with local control, if you lose the internet, your devices will still work. On top of that, if you’re smart on network security, you can really lock down your network so that there is no way for an outsider to intercept your traffic.

With Cloud Support, you get a robust, stable and professionally maintained support system. If there are ever any issues, you have somebody to reach out to and get assistance. Cloud services tend to be very secure in that the data is encrypted between your house and their servers, and their servers tend to have several layers of redundancy in them so that if one fails, another is ready to take control with no interruption in service. However, with cloud support, your events are all recorded and stored on the service providers server, and they can, if they so choose, sell your data to advertisers, or release your data to Government Agencies conducting investigations. You do not have control over your own data when it’s on somebody else’s servers.

If you already have a garage door opener, then all you need in order to turn it into a smart door opener is a device called a controller. The myQ controller by Chamberlain is the industry standard here. It will work with many smart home hubs like SmartThings and Hubitat, and is easily programmable to your vehicles on board garage door opener buttons. There is no local control option with the myQ, so it does rely on internet availability, and the myQ servers in order to operate. It also does not have Google Assistant or Alexa support.

Another popular controller is the Nexx Garage Controller. It has a number of advanced features, such as geofencing, where the door can automatically open when you get close, without you having to tell it to, or press a button. Unlike the myQ, the Nexx does have Google Assistant and Alexa support, which a lot of users really appreciate. However, like the myQ, the Nexx is also dependent on cloud support.

Finally, for controllers at least, we have the GoControl Linear. It uses the Z-wave plus (as do the myQ and Nexx) protocol, and will work with pretty much any smart home hub available. It also is compatible with Google Assistant and Alexa. Unlike the myQ or the Nexx, the GoControl Linear is able to be managed locally and does not rely on cloud support. It’s a viable option for those looking for a local control, z-wave, controller to attach to their existing garage door opener. However, buyer beware, as the reviews on this are mixed. There seems to be an issue with prolonged dependability, with many users saying that they are only getting a couple of years of use out of it, while others state they have had no problems.

So, it seems that for those users that want a locally controlled, z-wave compatible, smart garage door management option, they are out of luck. Well not so fast!

As with most things in home automation, if there is a will, there is a way. The work around here is to use a z-wave relay switch, and a z-wave tilt sensor to turn your existing garage door opener, into a smart one.

With this method, you connect the relay switch to your existing control switch, and the tilt sensor to the garage door. Then you can configure your automations on your smart hub of choice.

Finally, if you just need a brand new garage door opener, freshly installed, then there are several options on the market.

Here, the industry leader is the Chamberlain B970 Smart Garage Door Opener. It uses the myQ controller already installed. If you aren’t a fan of the myQ option, you could always buy just any old garage door opener, and implement the relay and sensor option.

My neighbor was specifically looking for a locally controlled, z-wave compatible, controller. The bad news is that the market only really has one of those to offer, and it’s a roll of the dice to purchase it. The best solution for him, and many other, is the out of the box, creative work around solution of a z-wave relay switch, and a z-wave tilt sensor. It pays to take the time to listen to your client, in order to help them find the solution that fits all of their needs. It’s a wacky world our there for garage door openers, I hope this article helps you navigate it to a solution that works for you.

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1 Comment

  1. Good news for Chamberlain owners like me that purchased and installed the system prior to knowing that the Google Assistant integration is behind a paywall!

    For an unknown amount of time, it seems that Chamberlain is allowing a free subscription to integrate with some of these platforms, making myQ a little less of a PITA than before.

    https://www.androidpolice.com/2019/07/01/chamberlain-myq-free-google-assistant/

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