You’re looking for a solution to open your garage door from a remote location. Package deliveries, the housekeeper, your tool-hoarding neighbor. This is one of several products out there that will do the trick. If you’re a garage door tech, move along. You know...
You’re looking for a solution to open your garage door from a remote location. Package deliveries, the housekeeper, your tool-hoarding neighbor. This is one of several products out there that will do the trick.
If you’re a garage door tech, move along. You know this already. If your a DIY homeowner with grand plans, you must read on - This is what Chamberlain should tell you about their system but doesn’t.
While generally easy to install, without an Introduction or Basic Principles of Operation as a preamble, you will likely have the same issues I did. Read on for the lessons I learned and tips that will save your hair. I will explain each of the major elements of the system and provide suggestions to improve your probability of a successful installation.
The Door sensor: This sensor communicates with the smart hub using Bluetooth to indicate door operation and open/ closed condition. During installation it is paired to the smart hub which is best performed with the unit attached to a closed door between 3’ and 10’ from the smart hub. By design, Bluetooth distance is limited to 33’ but don’t count on consistent operation at this extreme end of the range. Consider this distance during installation and future operation.
Your 2.4ghz cordless phones, baby monitors, etc., can cause Bluetooth interference. Get them out. If your wireless router has a setting for Bluetooth coexistence, enable it.
Your Wireless (Wi-Fi) Network: The Chamberlain documentation says that 2 bars of 2.4ghz WiFi signal is enough for consistent operation. This can be checked by looking on your phone. I say, your mileage may vary. I installed a dedicated access point for the smart hub as I couldn’t get the system to work reliably. A wired connection is also supported.
Configure the smart hub with a static IP Address on your wireless network. This will help ensure the Chamberlain service can reach the smart hub quickly and easily when you activate the door. The additional time for the router or server to lookup a dynamic IP Address and establish a connection could create timing issues.
The Smart Hub: The smart hub includes a Bluetooth receiver for the door sensor, a 2.4 ghz radio to connect to your wireless home network for the system to communicate with Chamberlain’s servers on the internet, and a radio frequency (RF) transmitter to send HomeLink rolling codes to your garage door opener (on a channel in the 300-400mhz range depending on your garage door opener) - just like your remote clicker.
I discovered that the RF transmitter in the smart hub is fairly weak. While your car can transmit a signal a half block away, the smart hub can''t. The instructions make a recommendation for placement of the smart hub but will make an explicit statement here - install it within the 4-6’ “recommendation”. Consider this when planning your installation. Apparently, orientation is important for maximum reach. If it doesn’t work reliably, flip it 180 degrees on its mount. Finally, like other garage door remotes, if it loses power you might have to re-program the system with the garage door learn button. They don’t tell you this so I will.
Finally, the smart hub needs to be located where it can communicate with; 1) the door sensor (Bluetooth), 2) the garage door opener (RF) and, 3) your wireless (WiFi) network to work consistently! Each has its own distance limitations so placement of the hub is critical.
Your garage door opener: You obviously have one to which you are adding this system. Do your homework and make sure it’s compatible before you buy. If you’re not positive, call or email them with your make and model numbers in hand. Mine is a Craftsman (Chamberlain) made in 1999 with the door sensors so I was good to go. NOTE: Garage door openers have a limit to the number of remotes they can support. My Craftsman supports 4 remotes. With two HomeLink-connected cars, the remote door opener, and the smart hub I am now at the max allowed by my opener. As a result, I had to decommission my "clickers". Do your homework and factor this into your plans.
The Phone App: A basic, functional, app with a few frills. It works well enough though some settings are best changed on the web site (that I didn’t know about). When installing the smart hub your phone will need to be on your 2.4ghz wireless network to complete the setup. After that, it doesn’t matter what your phone is connected to - your home network or a cell connection. The system can be setup entirely from your phone. I set up an open alert, a close alert and a 10pm door not closed reminder. The alerts can be sent to you via Text or email.
The Chamberlain service: Does not support Alexa or IFTTT (without a fee) and that’s fine for me. I always have my phone handy and I don’t need the security concerns that come with IFTTT. Also, multi-user accounts are not (yet) supported. I just program the wife’s phone with the same username/ password and off we go.
The system is fairly rudimentary and in my opinion could use some added intelligence. If the system components exchanged more status information it could probably avoid situations where the “door [is] not responding” or better error status information could be presented to the user. Sometimes I think it’s just that Chamberlain''s servers are slow.
LED & Florescent lights: I hear you asking “why is this important?”. Both can emit radio and electromagnetic interference that can mask the signal between the smart hub and your opener. If you experience unreliable operation - out they go. The last thing I did was remove an LED lamp from a motion sensor fixture nearby and replaced it with a standard incandescent. Since the light is only on for a few minutes I’m not worried about the power usage if it means the garage door will close when commanded.
I give Chamberlain credit for trying to make the install easy. Considering the different operating environments and variables, it’s a challenge to cover all the bases. Unfortunately, a quick start guide simply isn’t enough in this case and the online instructions are no better. They have made some assumptions about what you need to know (or don''t need to know). The above precautions should be spelled out to avoid customer frustration and reduce the number of calls to their help desk (and returned product).
The good news for me is that after 2 months of trial and error and multiple calls and emails to their help desk, I think we may finally have all the issues cleared up. My fingers are crossed.
Now you know everything Chamberlain should tell you but doesn''t. Best of luck!