A remote-controlled garage opener is a cool gadget. It’s almost impossible to imagine a household with a garage without it. If you want to know when were remote garage door openers invented, you need to go back into a Great depression.
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Who invented remote garage door openers?
Many people are wondering when were garage door openers invented? The invention of remote-controlled garage door openers is closely related to mass car production. Back in 1921, an entrepreneur and innovator from Hartford City, Indiana, C. G. Johnson invented the “upward-lifting garage door”.
Back then, Ford Motor Company produced more than one million cars annually and there was a high demand for garages and car storage space. Ford’s Model T, produced from 1908 to 1927 was sold in 15 million pieces, which makes it eighth on the top-ten list of best-selling cars of all time.
Johnson saw an opportunity and founded his first factory in Detroit, Michigan, home of Ford Motor Company. The factory had a production capacity of one door per day. Three years later, Johnson moved the factory to Hartford City, Indiana, naming it the Overhead Door Co.
Bad reputation and safety risks
Like with every invention, the beginning wasn’t so smooth. The remote door opener was an expensive toy and it wasn’t affordable to the ordinary, working-class people. It was mainly reserved for wealthy people and companies.
During the 1970s, with the tech development, remote garage doors became cheap enough to be affordable for mass home use. A crucial production innovation happened: a split rail. It allowed many other producers to jump into the market.
Yet, people started to report the incidents with remote garage doors. Multiple incidents, sometimes even fatal, were occurred with children. There were reported 46 deaths related to garage doors between 1982 and 1990. All of them were children. It triggered the US Government to issue multiple safety standards directly related to garage doors.
When were garage door sensors invented
A major safety improvement happened in the mid-eighties when companies started using IR waves. As Tom Bricket from garagedoorclicker.com told us, the main inventor was Colin Wilmort, an engineering director of the Chamberlain Group, which owns four of the largest garage door brands: LiftMaster, Chamberlain, Merlin, and Grifco.
He used IR technology which was used in the TV industry. The idea was simple: mount the IR emitter on a side door frame, or a few centimeters above the ground. If the beam was interrupted at any moment, the door mechanism would be stopped and reversed.
Since this was a technology beyond the abilities of an average person, the installation was performed by the producers only and it was expensive.
In 1988 two children were killed in separate door accidents in the US State of Minnesota. It alerted local authorities to issue stricter safety standards for all manufacturers. Wilmort generously refused to patent his invention and shared it with the competition.
Soon, from the 1990s, other US States followed a Minnesota example and created the same safety standards. His IR “electric eye“ became mandatory for all garage door producers. LiftMaster was the most adaptable and most innovative manufacturer and soon they took over the entire US market.
Remote garage door openers today
Since the major inventions and safety standards in the 1990s, nothing much changed. The mechanism works the same way, but, due to technology development, the price of remote garage doors reduces every year.
Original components for door openers were produced by Sharp Technologies. Later on, LiftMaster company found vendors from China, which reduced costs. Today, buyers can choose different variations of openers. Manufacturers are constantly improving safety, introducing pin code, touchscreen, or even fingerprint technology. Remote garage openers can be linked to a cellphone or a computer.
In 2015, annual global sales of remote garage door openers exceeds $1 billion for the first time. It’s reported that more than 50% of installed door openers are produced by LiftMaster. They are an absolute leader in the market.
Today, more than 80% of door openers were installed by homeowners or local vendors. The technology is so simple that almost everyone can read the manual and do it on his own. People consider it safe and affordable. No one asks anymore when were remote garage door openers invented and what’s the background story behind it. People just use it and don’t think about it.