I know you’ve gotten 5 minutes down the road and asked yourself, “Did I close the garage door?”.
Now, instead of turning around or leaving your garage and house vulnerable to thieves, you can check and close it with your phone with your choice of home automation protocol!
Z-wave? Of course.
Insteon? Why not?
We’ll cover the installation and setup in detailed steps so that anybody can do it.
Smart Garage Door Opener Shopping List
Here’s what you’ll need:
- 120 VAC relay for the US ($5) – the link is to the one I picked that came with a handy terminal block, any will work as long as the coil voltage will work for your power source. It happened to come with a nice terminal block that made making connections much easier.
- Smart outlet or plug ($29-45) – Here’s where you choose your protocol. I used a Z-Wave outlet, but you could get a WeMo (WiFi), Insteon, or proprietary outlet that works with your home automation hub.
- Old (or bought) power cord (Free) – Have old electronics still hanging around? Just cut the cord off and re-purpose it.
- Garage door sensor – Standard entry sensors or tilt sensors can work here, just anything to let you know whether the garage is open or closed
- Small wire (~22 AWG) – This is to connect the relay to your garage door opener. You can use the same size as the wire used to connect the existing garage door controls so that you know it’s sized correctly.
- Possibly a new outlet cover ($2) – This would have saved me a trip to the store, so I’m including it here. The outlet I picked up requires a square cover, which was different than what I had originally installed.
- Possibly mounting hardware for the relay – Zip ties will work if you have them, as will a nut and bolt.
Please don’t laugh at me for keeping dead electronics. Occasionally, I am glad I threw them in the shop. You may notice, I’m using a hair dryer cord.
I will warn you that the shipping on that particular relay took forever, slow boat from China speed!
How Does it Work?
The button on your wall that controls your garage doors are most likely momentary contact (normally open, often abbreviated as NO) single pole, single throw (SPST) switches. They usually connect via a wire to two terminals on your garage door opener.
I say usually because you may have a wireless opener (especially if it requires power or batteries), in which case you should definitely heed the warning below.
Make sure you check the manual for your opener to confirm the right terminals are availableIt’s possible that your garage door opener doesn’t accept open/close commands via an exposed terminal, but most do!
We will be using those terminals to connect our “smart switch” in parallel with (AKA at the same time as) your existing garage door controls. That way, you can still use the manual controls if you need to.
There is one catch:
The default control for smart outlets is to turn on and stay on.
But, we need a momentary switch!
So, we’ll have to do some work on the hub side to make our switch close and then reopen so that the garage door doesn’t get confused and reverse the initial command. Consider it a virtual momentary contact switch.
If your hub doesn’t support that level of programming, don’t sweat it. There’s a workaround possible, but it does add some complexity.
Setting up Your Smart Garage Door Opener
You can probably tell where this is going, but we’ll be using the smart outlet to control the relay, which then sends the signal to the garage door opener to open and close. We’ll go through the steps to install everything in that order.
First, here are the tools that you’ll need:
- Screwdriver (Philips + flat to be sure)
- Knife, lighter or wire strippers
- Turn off the power to the outlet that controls your garage door opener at the breaker (always test that it’s actually off before starting your work).
- Remove the existing outlet.
- Follow the instructions to install the smart outlet. For the one listed above:Use the included wire nuts to connect the flying leads (fancy name for wires attached to the switch) to the wires in the outlet box. It will simply be white to white, black to black, and green to bare copper in most cases. If you have something different and don’t know what you’re looking at, seek help before flying blind!
- Cut the power cord to length and strip 1/4″ from the cut end of the cord, then connect those across the coil of the relay. This voltage is what causes the relay’s switch to open.
- Strip 1/4-1/2″ from both ends of the signal wire that you’re using and connect it from the relay common and normally opened (NO) terminals to the terminals on the garage door that you identified via the manual or by following the existing wires back to the opener.
- Mount the relay somewhere on your garage door opener
- Add the new outlet to your home automation hub using the instructions for your hub. Usually,it’s as simple as selected “Add device” and then pressing the button on the front of the outlet.
It’s really that easy. If you have any questions about something that you have that’s different than this setup, don’t hesitate to ask them in the comments.
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Setting up the Hub
Remember how I said we have to make sure the outlet switches off after you turn it on?
There are a couple of ways you could do that:
- Manually turn it on and off
- Set up a task to turn it on and then immediately turn it off
- Wire in a circuit to create a momentary closure.
Number 1 is the easiest to implement but could make future automation hard. Of course, it depends on the features of your hub’s software. What if you wanted to automatically close the garage door when you went to bed?
Number 2 gets the job done (just right in my book).
Number 3 is possible, but requires from extra components and wiring.
For my purposes, I just set up a task to turn the smart outlet off whenever the state of the garage door sensor changed. In other words, whether the door was opening or closing, turn the outlet off. That obviously results in some unnecessary commands to the outlet when I open it using the wall mounted switch, but it does the job in my book. Normally, I’ll just toggle the outlet myself. But with those automated actions, I can easily trigger the door closing automatically as well.
What about door number 3?
Option 3 is a bit more involved and requires adding a capacitor and resistor in series with the coil so that the effect of the switch is only temporary until the capacitor charges up. You could do that more easily with a DC power source and relay than you could with the AC components I picked out above.
In my book, the extra components and connections make it a non starter when there is another acceptable solution. But if your hub doesn’t allow you to easily turn the outlet back off quickly and reliably enough to make your garage door happy, you may have to consider that approach.
If there’s enough interest, I can put together a detailed schematic and instructions for you.
What’s the Competition?
Some of you are wondering, “Why not just buy a connected garage door kit?”.
For one, they can be pricy. Some are up to $350 with a compatible opener.
Two, some people might not have support for their home automation protocol of choice. Whereas, smart outlets are easy to come by for any protocol.
But if your hub supports a commercial solution without the DIY hassle, then by all means, go for it.
Here are several options for you:
MyQ by Chamberlain – Chamberlain sells a kit that works with other openers similar to the GarageIO for $130.
GarageIO – We wrote about the new GarageIO opener previously. When controlling more than 1 door, this isn’t a bad solution. But, it’s expensive for just 1 door.
Linear Garage Door Controller – This Z-Wave controller bundles a garage sensor and a controller that has the intelligence to provide the momentary switch closure without extra tinkering.
Linear FS20z-1 Switch Module – I’ve seen some people suggesting and writing up the Linear Z-Wave switch module as a potential solution. It will do the same thing as the solution above if it’s compatible with your hub. But, I wanted to write about something that could be more universally used. After all, there are plenty of home automation hubs that DON’T have Z-Wave support.
Your Smart Garage Door Opener Options
|Solution||# of Doors Supported||Cost ($)||Protocol||Notes|
|Garageio||up to 3||200 - 220||WiFi||IFTTT support|
|Gogogate||up to 3||135||WiFi||IFTTT support|
|Linear GD00Z-4||1||90||Z-Wave||More secure than relay solutions|
|Linear FS20Z-1 + Tilt sensor||1||63||Z-Wave|
|Smart outlet + Relay + Tilt sensor||1||72||Any||See our how-to guide!|
A Brief Word of Caution
One word of warning about this solution and the FS20Z-1 switch module is that the security associated with the Z-Wave interfaces implemented by these devices are less secure than (some) dedicated garage door solutions. It has to do with additional encryption used for the command to open or close the door, over and above that required from the hub for other devices that are paired with it. In practice, it isn’t something that’s likely to be exploited since all sensors have to be manually paired with your hub anyway. And, it’s tough for a hacker to insert himself into that process to capture the keys exchanged that allow future communication with devices. But, you should be aware that the possibility exists.
If you run into any issues, just let me know in the comments, and I’ll do my best to sort them out. And, feel free to share your own ideas and improvements to solve your garage door problem or check out our ranking of other great home automation ideas.
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