Ultimate Garage Door Automation
by Doug Smith

The garage door in most of our homes nearly screams out for automation. After all, it's probably the only remote controlled motorized door in the house! Here's a multi-part automation idea for your garage door that uses many of the components for more than one function for cost efficiency. You can do the whole project or just pick out the parts you like.

Parts Needed

Qty. Part used in...  Item Approx. Cost Comments
1 1 X-10 AM466 Appliance Module $12 Rated 15A, 1/3 HP. May need another brand heavy duty module if door opener is too large.
2 2,4 X-10 UM506 Universal Module $16  
1 2,3 Normally open magnetic security switch $15 "Normal" means when the magnet is next to the switch. May need a wide gap model.
1 1,2 X-10 MT522 Mini Timer $20 Not needed with a central controller, ie. HomeVision, Time Commander, ActiveHome, CP-290, etc.
1 3 X10 PF284 Powerflash interface $18 Sometimes called a burglar alarm interface.
1 3 Leviton 6400 Uni-Base wall mounted controller $43 6450 plugs into the 6400 base.
1 3 Levition 6450 Modular transmitter keypad $12 Various models available with different numbers of buttons.

Wire up everything as shown in the diagram. Mount the normally open switch so the magnet is aligned with it when the garage door is closed. I like to put it at the top of the garage door to keep the wire run short and easy. Most of the modules can be installed together on a power strip which can be fastened to the garage ceiling or rafters near the opener. The Leviton switch can be installed inside the house in any convenient electrical box and the timer can be plugged into any outlet.

Set both universal modules to momentary, relay only and your choice of house and unit codes. Set the Leviton switch to your desired house and unit code. Set the Powerflash module input select to 2 (contact closure), the mode to 3 (single unit code on and off), and the house and unit codes to match the appropriate button/LED on the Levition switch.

Part 1: Security lock out
Unless you have a newer model garage door opener, it's not too hard for someone to find out your code and open your garage while you're not home. You can completely turn off the opener when you're away so it will not work even with your remote.

Plug the garage door opener in through the appliance module. Schedule the module to turn off any time you don't want the door to be opened, such as when you're on vacation, at work, or sleeping. Schedule it to turn on again shortly before you will arrive home. Be sure to have a way to get in if you decide to come home early, ie. call into your system from a cellular phone or see part 4.

Part 2: Auto close at night
I hate getting up in the morning and seeing that I left the garage door open all night. I've seen other solutions to this problem but they sometimes don't work if the door is only part way open. This solution also has the advantage of being integrated with the other parts.

When the door is in any position other than fully closed, current will flow through the magnetic switch, allowing universal module A to close the door. When the door is fully closed, the switch opens and no signal from the universal module can reach the garage door opener, so nothing happens.

Using the mini-timer or some other controller, schedule universal module A to activate whenever you want the door to close, ie. every night at 11pm. If the door was stopped part way open while going down, the timed signal will fully open the door instead of closing it. Sending the signal two or more times with a short delay will then close the door. This also insures the door gets closed if the first signal is blocked by noise on the power line. I like to activate it four times at three minute intervals just to be sure.

A word of caution: only use this if your garage door opener has a safety beam feature to make sure it doesn't close on the neighbor's cat (or worse).

Part 3: Inside status indicator
I like to know at a glance if my garage door or fence gates are open. Leviton makes a nice wall switch with up to four buttons, LED status indicators, and a place for your own labels. It has a built in receiver that updates the LED's from the signals on the power line.

Whenever the garage door is opened, the magnetic switch activates the Powerflash module which will send a signal and light up the LED on the wall switch. The LED will only turn off when the door is fully closed. The extra wall switch LED's could be used to monitor other doors or gates by adding more magnetic switches and Powerflash modules. The extra buttons could also be used to close the garage door using the method in part 2.

Part 4: Reliable door open
There are times when it can be useful to close the garage door from your home automation system. Unfortunately, X-10 just isn't reliable enough because power line noise can occasionally activate a module. You wouldn't want that module to open your door when you're not home. A reasonable solution is to require two signals before opening the door.

Be sure the universal modules are set to different unit codes or even different house codes for more security. To open the garage door, just activate both universal modules. Because the universal modules are set for momentary operation you have about two seconds to activate both modules.

What to use it for? If you have a central controller, wire your doorbell into it. Program the controller so that if you lock yourself out of the house you can tap a code on the doorbell and have the garage door open to let you in. (While you're at it, make your lights flash when the doorbell rings too.)

Additional information - After this entry was completed I came up with a few other ideas. The most useful of those would be an additional safety feature for closing the garage door. Those with a central controller in their automation system might want to check a motion detector for no motion before closing the door.