A couple of years ago, we bought an old farmhouse about 90 minutes from our home. The house has a lot of character, and we’ve been trying to rectify it a bit at a time. Several weeks ago, I got a call from a neighbor there, asking if we were around. When I told him no, he informed me that our garage door had been open for a few days; would we like him to close it? After muttering some selections from my non-PG vocabulary, I asked him to do so. He checked around the place, closed the door, and said everything seemed OK. We’re up there a lot, but during those periods when we can’t make it, it would be reassuring to know the place is secure. The recent arrival of a Chamberlain HD950WF for this sponsored post will be a big step in the right direction; not only will we be able to tell if someone (who shall remain nameless) forgot to close the garage door AGAIN, but we’ll get an alert any time the door is opened.
Our garage is detached from the house, so at least we weren’t providing easy entry to the house itself. Many people use their garage at the main entrance to their home, though. We’re fortunate to have good neighbors, who keep an eye on things for us. No matter how safe your neighborhood, though, it’s not a great idea to leave your front door wide open. Since my few remaining brain cells seem to be rapidly failing, it would be great to have a way to double-check the garage door, without having to bother my 6’4”, 250-pound neighbor. I’d like to try and stay on his good side.
A Tidy Package
The Chamberlain HD950WF is a complete package, making use of MyQ Smartphone technology and built-in WiFi capability to get you connected right out of the box, with no additional components required. Included in the system are a wall mounted control panel with LCD display, two three-button remotes, and a wireless keypad, where you can program both permanent and temporary access codes.
The Chamberlain HD950WF can be purchased right at your local Home Depot. You can also order it online, and they’ll bring it right to your door for free. That’s how mine arrived; the entire door opener assembly came in a tidy 35-pound package. The box even has convenient carrying handles built into the side, so when it showed up on the porch, my wife was able to schlep it into the house a whole lot easier than the 105-pound DeWalt DW735X planer that showed up a few weeks earlier.
The Chamberlain HD950WF box also has a feature I wish more vendors would provide: a list of the tools you’ll need to assemble the unit, and a list of items that you need but which aren’t included. In my case, that was only the light bulbs. Nice to know these things while you’re still in the store, so you can toss them into your cart, rather than finding out when you get home.
If you’re installing the unit as a replacement for an existing opener, you probably have everything you need. If you’ve never had an opener on your door, there will likely be a couple more things you need, which are NOT listed on the package. These would include a support bracket for the opener, and possibly reinforcement pieces for the door, if it’s lightweight. If your door is over 7’ high, you’ll also need a rail extension kit. More info is available on the Chamberlain website.
Installing The Chamberlain HD950WF
Installing a garage door opener, especially one with fancy schmancy electronics, may seem intimidating. If you don’t know your asp from your elbow grease, the folks at the Home Depot can get you set up with someone to install your unit. If you have moderate DIY skills, though, and you follow the instructions (yes, ALL of the instructions!), you should be fine.
The installation booklet that comes with the Chamberlain HD950WF is a step above many instruction manuals I’ve encountered. It seems to have been written by a native English speaker (always a plus!), and it’s well illustrated. Be that as it may, do yourself a favor: before you tackle the installation, make a bag of microwave popcorn, and spend a few minutes perusing the Chamberlain Wi-Fi garage door opener installation video. It gives a good overview of the process, and also has links to other videos for processes with multiple steps, like setting up the safety sensors or installing the keypads.
Before you get started, you’ll want to use your cellphone and make sure you have a good Wi-Fi signal, so the Chamberlain HD950WF can communicate with its new home planet. If your signal is puny and weak, Chamberlain has a video showing how to improve your Wi-Fi signal strength by relocating your router. Alternatively, you can use a range extender to improve your signal strength.
I also recommend taking a minute or so to lay out and check the parts. This is a step I frequently skip, but I guarantee in this case it will save you some time after you get started. The manual has good illustrations of each piece, so when they call for the ¼” – 20 X 1 ¾” bolt, you’ll know just what to grab. The instructions in the video tell you installation should take a couple of hours. If you’re a pro, or have installed an opener or two in the past, you just might be able to do it. For mere mortals (like me), or if you’re doing the installation by yourself (like me), allow a good half-day for the project. A good bit of that time is being thorough with the instructions; trust me, it’s time well spent.
The components of the system seem sturdy and of good quality. Since the instructions for the Chamberlain HD950WF are so detailed and thorough, I won’t spend a lot of time going through them. Note: if you are replacing an existing opener, you may be able to re-use the header and door-mount brackets, along with the opener support bracket. You should also be able to use the safety sensor and control pad wiring. Here’s a quick overview of the process:
Snap the rail sections together and attach the rail to the opener body, along with the trolley and belt drive.
Install the header bracket on the front wall, and a support bracket for the opener unit if there isn’t one already there.
Connect the unit to the brackets, and install the light bulbs and emergency rope.
Install the door bracket and connect the door arm to the trolley and the door.
Install the wall-mounted door control, and wire it to the opener (just a couple of wires; a lot easier than it sounds).
Install, align and wire the safety reversing sensors. This is an important part of the installation; the Protector System keeps the door from crushing a child or pet – or your sporty new Ferrari or vintage Yugo! The Chamberlain HD950WF won’t operate until the system is installed; again, the instructions are very well done, so don’t be intimidated.
Program the travel limits – basically telling the system when the door is all the way down or up. Again, a quick and easy process.
Test the safety reversal system. This is done by laying a 2X4 on the flat side under the door, and closing the door. When the door hits it, it should reverse and go all the way up.
Install the backup battery. This enables you to open and close the door, even if the power is out for a day or two. Hint: the battery comes with plastic clips covering the terminals. Remove them before trying to connect the power wires.
Install the wireless keypad. This is very fast and easy; drill a couple of holes for the mounting screws, install the battery, and program a secret pin. The whole deal takes about five minutes.
And that wraps up the installation – now it’s time to get connected!
The Chamberlain HD950WF – The Ultimate Remote Control!
Up to this point, you could have been installing pretty much any garage door opener. Now it’s time to do the final setup, so the Chamberlain HD950WF can team up with your smartphone to work its long-distance magic! Before you start the MyQ setup, you’ll want to write down some pertinent numbers. (You could memorize them, but if you were able to do that, you probably wouldn’t need this app!). You’ll need the password for your home network, and the MyQ serial number located on the garage door opener, to the left of the “learn” button.
Press and release the yellow “learn” button three times, while chanting “All Hail HomeFixated!” (You could skip the chanting, but why tempt fate?). The opener will beep once, indicating it is now in contact with its home planet. Go to Settings > Wi-Fi on your mobile device, and select the network with the “MyQ” prefix that has magically appeared. Launch your device’s web browser; at this point, my phone automatically went to the setup page. If yours doesn’t, just go to setup.myqdevice.com, and follow the prompts to add the opener to your home Wi-Fi network.
On your mobile device, go to the App Store or Google Play Store and download the MyQ app. Launch it, sign up for a MyQ account, and add the serial number to it. That’s it – you’re connected, and you can start exerting your dominance over your garage door right away!
When you launch the MyQ app, it shows a picture of your garage door, in either the open or closed position. You also get a little status report on how long it’s been in that position, e.g. “Open for 5 hours.” If you get the message “Open for 5 weeks,” and you’re not there, you need to download ANOTHER app to remind you to check your garage door status. If you find one, please send me a link.
If you discover that your door is indeed up, and you’d like it to close, just tap on the bottom of the door. If you’re far away, you won’t know this, but back home in the garage, lights are flashing and the opener is beeping, warning anyone in the area that the door is about to close. After about ten seconds, the door closes; you’ll see a little animation of it doing so, along with a counter telling you how long it’s been closing. After it’s down, the status will change to “Closed for X,” with the X indicating how long it’s been down, not that it’s out watching garage porn.
The same app will also let you open the door remotely, in case you need to let someone in, or you’re worried the neighbor’s cat might be in there tearing the place up. Tap the top of the door, and it opens immediately, likely scaring the crap out of the little neighborhood thugs who were tagging it with spray paint.
The MyQ App has another very useful feature: you can set rules. This is much the same as setting rules for teenagers, except the MyQ App will actually follow them. I created a rule that whenever the door is opened or closed, I get a notification on my phone and an email. You can also set it so it does only one or the other, or that it only does it when it opens, or that it only does it if the door has been opened over a certain length of time. Five days, for instance. This is a handy way to know that your kids or spouse have arrived home, or if you have no kids or spouse, that it’s time to go see who the heck is in your garage. The app also provides a history of comings and goings.
Random Closing Thoughts
You may be wondering if the Chamberlain HD950WF will be able to handle your garage door. Unless your garage is the size of an aircraft hangar, you’re in good shape. Standard garage door openers are usually ½ or ¾ HP. Our garage has a single door, 18’ wide by 7’ high. That’s a pretty big door, and the opener that came with it was a ¾ HP unit. The motor in the Chamberlain HD950WF has 1-¼ HP; it should be able to lift that door with one opener tied behind its back. The advantage to a beefy motor, aside from the ability to hoist a big door, is that no matter what size your door is, it won’t be straining to move it. Even with frequent use, it should have a long and happy life. Chamberlain apparently agrees, as the motor is backed by a lifetime warranty.
The door operates VERY smoothly and quietly. Drive belts are much less noisy than chain drives, and if you’re worried about how well it’ll hold up, it’s also backed by a lifetime warranty. The rest of the opener is backed by a five-year warranty, and the backup battery and accessories are covered by a one-year warranty.
Speaking strictly for myself, my phone is smarter than I am, so being able to use it any time to see if our garage is open, and to close it from anywhere, is very comforting. The notification feature works great, and the little visual of the door going up or down is hugely entertaining. Okay, moderately entertaining. The Chamberlain HD950WF is a well-made product, pretty easy to install, and provides peace of mind at a reasonable price. Hopefully, the engineers at Chamberlain are hard at work developing solutions to resolve my other senior moment questions – where did I park, what did I come downstairs for, and where the hell are my keys and sunglasses?
The Chamberlain HD950WF is available from the Home Depot for $268.