Sunday, November 28, 2010

Digital Ups and Downs

Digital solid state technology has allowed for the development of many new devices that can perform a variety of functions around the house. They dim our lights, control our heating and air conditioning and open our doors. While they are internally very complex, because they are comprised of integrated circuits with few or no moving parts many can be manufactured inexpensively. As reliable as they are, these devices do fail and often a replacement is the only real option rather than repair. For a light dimmer or door bell, that is no real issue. When the device is part of a larger system, replacement can be a hassle and expensive.

Recently a friend told me that his automatic garage door opener quit working and he had to replace it. He did all the troubleshooting steps found in the owner’s manual like checking the battery, making sure the unit was getting power, etc. He noted that he could open and close the door using the button on the wall but that neither of the remotes in the cars seemed to work. He was surprised that there might be an easy and inexpensive fix.

Rather than replacing the entire system I told him about a way to fix his problem for a fraction of the cost of a new opener. If the radio receiver in the unit has failed, you can bypass it with a replacement radio receiver. The receiver is about the size of a pack of cigarettes and plugs into any AC outlet. It comes with two new remotes for your car which will replace the ones that came with your original opener.

Installation is a breeze as all you need to do is plug the unit into an AC outlet and connect two small low voltage wires to your opener motor assembly. The new unit receives signals from the new remote controls and will operate your door just like the original remotes. The cost of the new receiver and two remotes is around $50 which is about 20% of the cost of a complete new unit.

Most home improvement stores carry the replacement kits or you can go on line to find one that is compatible with your brand of opener.

This is a great example of how digital devices can really save some money. The expensive part of any automatic garage door opener is the motor and lift assembly; the “brains” of the system are contained on a few integrated circuit chips costing pennies. So in this case we kept the expensive parts that were still working and replaced the low-cost brains which were not. An all day job of changing the entire unit is replaced by a job that takes about an hour including going to the store to buy the unit.



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