There is nothing like a garage door, which is why companies such as Total Garage Solutions specialize in their sale, installation and repair.
As the International Door Association likes to point out, the garage door is the largest and heaviest moving part in a home.
Patti Nelson, co-owner of Total Garage Solutions in Forked River, Lacey Township, said garage doors are also important because they form on average about 30 percent of the front of a house.
“That kind of makes the garage door a main contributor to curb appeal as well as the perceived value of the home,” said Nelson, 51, also of Forked River.
Those two factors have helped keep the garage door industry growing despite the deep slump in new home construction. Zoller Consulting, the Ohio firm that tracks an IDA Garage Door Activity Index for the door association, said in the current edition of International Door and Operator Industry magazine that replacements and retrofits have more than offset the market deterioration from new home construction.
In the first quarter, the Garage Door Activity Index increased 5 percent to a level last seen in 2008.
Total Garage customers have spent as much as $25,000 on custom wood doors, Nelson said, and as little as $399 on a garage door.
New features are part of the appeal.
Garage doors can now be monitored and opened or closed from anywhere with a smartphone or other Internet device, using technology such as LiftMaster MyQ.
That enhances a common use for garage doors nowadays as the secure, keypad entrance to the home for children, Nelson said.
“The systems are awesome for people who travel a lot or have kids who come home from school when they’re not there,” she said.
Another new feature is battery backup for door openers, “so people don’t get trapped in the garage even if the electricity goes out.”
Safety is the motivator for many innovations in garage door technology.
From 1982 to 2003, there were 66 deaths and 68 injuries to children younger than 15 from automatic garage doors reported to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
The rate of those incidents have fallen as manufacturers have switched to systems that stop if the door hits someone or something in its path.
“We make sure the manufacturers we use for openers have RPM sensors,” Nelson said. “They detect the speed that the motor’s running, so if the door’s coming down and something is blocking it, an object or a human, it stops the garage door immediately.”
Such systems also alert owners to emerging maintenance issues that increase the load on the motor, and every service call Total Garage Solutions makes includes a free 18-point safety inspection.
The International Door Association, which includes Total Garage and 48 other N.J. installers among its members, recommends testing the door reversing mechanism monthly by closing it on a timber.
The latest safety issue is not from the doors at all, but the remote vehicle starters that have become popular the past decade. Vehicles accidentally or absentmindedly started in a closed garage can quickly create dangerous levels of carbon monoxide in the garage or even the house.
Six months ago Total Garage started offering systems with carbon monoxide sensors, Nelson said, which open the door if CO is detected.
More commonly, owners want a parking-assist laser for less than $50 to tell them where to stop when pulling the vehicle into the garage, she said. Other products seal the door better, conserving energy.
The majority of emergency calls to Total Garage are the result of operator error, Nelson said.
“More frequently than you’d expect somebody needs a new door because they backed out and broke the garage door,” she said.
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