Saturday, January 7, 2017

Monitor your garage door

We've always had a burglary alarm system.  We also have cameras in and around the house as well as lights that we can program to turn on and off when we're out and about.

But the one thing that we didn't have until October last year was the ability to monitor our garage door.

Then one night, something really strange happened. The garage door kept opening and closing, every few minutes. We thought it might have been due to a low battery in one of the remotes or perhaps one of them had gotten bad. I unpaired all of them but nope, it was still happening. Our theory was that there was something in the neighborhood that was controlling it somehow, perhaps someone's visitor because it never happened again. That night, we just went ahead and locked it so that nothing but the wall controller could operate it. Even when it was locked, we could tell that something was still attempting to open it because we'd hear clicks and see the lights "blink", which is what happens when you try to open the garage door with a remote when it's locked.

This got me searching on Amazon. It's about time I filled in that gap in my security system. Lo and behold! I found just the right product:

It was compatible with our LiftMaster opener. All I needed to do was replace our existing wall controller with the one that came with it and connect the Internet gateway to my modem/router.  My modem happens to be in the garage too but I believe that the wall controller can still communicate with it even when it's indoors.

I did have a problem connecting the wires.  Our wires were too short. The two terminals on the new wall controller are spread farther apart than those on my old one.  Had to run to Home Depot to get extenders.  Other than that, it was really very straightforward.  Don't forget to turn off the circuit to your wall controller before doing this!

It works just like a wall controller.  Surprise! :)  I read a funny review on Amazon saying that the open/close button was too small.  They obviously didn't realize that the panel "door" itself could be the button. You just press it and it would press the little button inside.

Of course, it's more than a wall controller.  It has a motion sensor that can turn on the opener lights when it detects motion.  But I dunno, I have this feature turned off.  I don't feel the need for it.

You can also configure how long before the door automatically closes if you forget.  There's also a Hold Open button when you don't want it to auto-close.

Most importantly, it has the ability to talk to the gateway, which then talks to your MyQ account.

I don't remember running into issues registering my device and creating an account.  One thing though, I created two accounts, one for LiftMaster and another one for MyQ.  Me thinks that the former was perhaps unnecessary.

Anyway, so I have the app on my phone. Unfortunately, my alarm provider could not add this device to my existing account.  You might want to check with your provider.  But having a separate app for this is no biggie.

So what can you do with the app?  

  1. First off, you can check anytime whether the garage door is open or closed.
  2. You can set up alerts when the garage door opens and/closes.
  3. You can have alerts going off any time or only during certain times.  I have it alerting anytime.
  4. You can have it alert you on your phone and/or send you an email.  I initially had it doing both but we thought the emails were too much so we're only doing phone alerts for now.
  5. You can open or close the garage door using the app, should your usual remote fail to work.  Note though that closing it using the app will trigger a loud'ish beep that will go for about 15 seconds before finally closing.  It's supposed to be a safety measure, warning people that may be there.  I have yet to re-try this but I think the auto-close feature I mentioned works the same way.  They probably should have added an option to mute it.  Otherwise, the beep is not too loud that it would wake up your entire street... maybe just your next door neighbor if their room is next to your garage.  A reviewer on Amazon did some physical hack to minimize (or totally remove?) the noise.  Something you can look into if it bothers you.
One other gripe that some people have is the fact that you can only have one account and one email per device.  This doesn't bother me.  We log in using the same account on both my and my wife's phones.  No biggie.  By the way, the app works with the iPhone's Touch ID.

I'm happy I bought and installed it.  No more wondering and no more turning back only to find that you did indeed close the garage door. :)

Keep trusting your informed gut,

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