Archive for Thursday, April 24, 2008

Garage door openers

April 24, 2008

While cleaning my garage, I found a garage-door opener that I had replaced several years ago and naturally saved it thinking that someday I would try to figure out why it stopped working. So I started wondering about the history of garage-door openers. Who was the ingenious person who figured that out? We are all spoiled by this convenience, but it sure is nice.

The garage door follows the history of the automobile. Early on there were parking garages not at the house, or a carriage house was used. But folks did not want to walk to the parking garage or put their brand new automobile in with their horses. As a result a building similar to the carriage house was built to house their new cars. The name garage comes from the French word "garer" which means to shelter or protect. Naturally these buildings needed doors, so they were originally built like barn doors and strap hinges were used for the doors and opened outward. The disadvantage of this type of door was that they were difficult to open. Also, after a snowstorm, the snow had to be shoveled out of the way first. A better way was needed.

In 1921, C. G. Johnson invented the first overhead door. This door could be lifted upward, folding parallel to the garage ceiling. Five years later, in 1926, Mr. Johnson also invented the electric automatic garage-door opener.

The first garage doors that I remember were very heavy wooden doors that required heavy counter-balance. As time went along, lighter materials were used. Our garage has doors of translucent fiberglass. The doors are very light and were installed almost 40 years ago.

Now most of the doors are better insulated to keep the garage warmer, and we have remote control so the door can be opened from the comfort of our home or car. They also have more safety features. Just be sure the electric eye is not hindered by a leaf or cobweb to make the door go back up. That has happened to us a few times.

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