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The Truth About Garage Door Openers

COMMUNITY CENTERGreen Homes & BusinessesJan 5, 2016Elizabeth Vaughn

Author: Elizabeth Vaughn


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I recently moved into a house with all sorts of fun new amenities, one of which is a garage with an automatic door opener.  I didn’t have such luxuries growing up.  We had a two-door garage with a massive wooden door that my family and I would have to heave up by hand anytime we wanted in the garage.  My parents are champs and continued to do so up until just a couple years ago when they entered the new millennium and got an automatic opener.  Now you just have to press a button and like magic, the door opens.

But after the novelty of this opener wore off at my own house, I started to wonder just how much electricity it took to make this magic happen.  I found myself opening and closing the door for every little thing – sometimes 5-6 times a day – and the tiny environmental voice in my head was telling me this was probably wasteful.  So I did what I always do when I have these types of questions: I googled.

Research Results: I don’t understand wattage.  It’s confusing and there’s a lot of math involved.  Thankfully after a little more digging I found a really useful tool that made it easy for me to compare wattage use between appliances.  I found that the usage for the garage door opener actually wasn’t all that much.  Things like a toaster, a hair dryer, a vacuum cleaner and an iron all use more energy (another excuse to rarely vacuum and NEVER iron!)  A surprising find to me?  Coffee makers use more than double the amount a garage door opener uses.  I had no idea!

There is a catch – phantom loads.  Phantom loads describes the power used while an appliance isn’t in use but is plugged in.  Garage door openers are basically always on because they have to be ready to receive the radio signal to open up.  So while you may only actively use the opener a couple minutes each day, the machine is always drawing a small amount of power.  That can add up.  While you probably won’t disconnect your opener from the electrical source after each use, you can certainly take that lesson on to other appliances in your house.  Unplug everything you’re not using to keep from wasting energy.

So it doesn’t look like I have to completely stop using the garage door opener which I’m happy about because apparently putting a key into a keyhole and twisting it is just too much of a struggle for me.  (I do plan to never iron again – just for the sake of the planet, of course.) But I will try to use the front door instead of the garage door whenever I can since any wasted energy, no matter how small, is still wasted!