When we bought our second car, we managed to clean out the second bay of the garage to begin parking it inside with the other. But the garage door opener from 1979 just couldn’t accept a remote. I couldn’t find an option online, nor could an expert find any way to make it happen. In the winter, this was especially frustrating, as it meant my wife could not close the garage on her way out in the morning, letting all that nice cold air in.

So I set out to have it replaced. After it took a friend and myself 12 hours to install my Ryobi opener about 4 years ago, this was a project I was confident I did not want to do myself. I also decided that I hated that Ryobi opener enough that I wanted it replaced too. I found an installer who estimated it would cost me about $300 to install both, so I ordered a couple Chamberlain openers and setup the appointment. I wanted the better Liftmaster models, but just couldn’t justify the price. So this project was estimated at around $800 altogether.

The day before the appointment, the guy who will be doing the work calls to find out what exactly I ordered so he can give me an accurate price. He tells me it would cost me $800 each to have them installed, because the Chamberlains come in a zillion pieces and they take much longer to install. I guess their dispatch assumed I was buying something from Liftmaster, which don’t need to be packaged to fit onto store shelves. They come in larger pieces that are significantly faster to install. So my options were: cancel the appointment, install the Chamberlains for $2100 total project cost, or install Liftmasters for $1200 total project cost. Since I originally wanted the Liftmasters anyway, you can guess which option I chose.

The guy comes out the next morning and starts to see what he’s working with. And it’s not good. All the equipment, aside from the Ryobi opener, is original from 1979 when the house was built. One of the tracks are bent, some of the rollers are busted, and even the springs are too weak. I think odds are they are too weak because they were replaced at some point, but I have no record of that. So he can continue with the installation, but he’d have to void the warranty and couldn’t promise the openers would even move the doors. Newer models are much more sensitive for safety, and might detect the extra weight as an obstruction. He could refurbish the hardware, but that means replacing the tracks, taking the doors down, etc. which takes a lot of time. To refurbish the doors and install new openers, would be $3200 total project cost. This project has grown in price significantly from the $800 originally expected.

Alternatively, it would cost the same $3200 to have brand new insulated steel doors installed. That means new hardware, new openers, and new doors, which effectively takes refurbishing off the table. So I could cancel the project and live with the crummy door that we can’t close remotely, install the openers that may not work and have no warranty, or spend a lot more for the only “good” option.

I chose to get the new doors. It took about a month to get the parts, and they were installed today. I’ve already noticed some pretty astonishing differences.

Traditionally, on a cold night like tonight, when the 800sqft living room above the garage turns the heat down at midnight, the ambient temp would drop from 67F to 58F in about 30-45 minutes. With the new doors, I’m writing this at 3am, it’s 30F outside, and the room has lost only 3F. In fact, the garage, with no heat of its own, is still 58F. This is an incredible difference, especially since heat rises.

So on the first night, I’m already pretty happy with this out of control project. This seems like a substantial energy improvement. Sure, it’ll take a long time for this to pay for itself, but that wasn’t my goal in the first place. I just wanted my wife to be able to control “her” door when she leaves for work...