The garage door opener will run on the garage’s circuit. Therefore, the demands of the garage’s circuit should influence your decisions.
- Are you trying to extend a circuit from the main house to the garage?
- Do you have an existing circuit in the garage?
- Would you prefer to add a dedicated circuit?
The answers to these questions will determine your next step. 15A circuits are more than adequate for most garages in residential settings.
That means installing 14-gauge wiring. If you prefer 20A, use 12AWG.
The gauge won’t change regardless of whether you’re installing a dedicated circuit or adding a sub-panel. The wire size should always match the breaker size.
Keep the length in mind. The more distance you expect the wires to cover, the higher the gauge required. The goal is to minimize the voltage drop.
Garage door openers are light-duty devices. However, you can’t wire a panel with the opener in mind. The circuit will probably accommodate other loads, such as refrigerators and power tools. You need a circuit size you trust to run every appliance in the garage.
If you’re wondering why homeowners pay so much attention to the garage circuit, you need to remember one key fact. People usually plug the garage door opener into an outlet. You can hardwire it. However, it means cutting the cord, an act that voids your warranty.
Naturally, you can ignore this concern if you don’t need the warranty. However, if you have a restrictive budget, a warranty will lower your repair costs. Therefore, you are better off plugging the garage door opener into an outlet.
This is encouraging if your garage has a 15A or 20A circuit. You can trust the wires behind an outlet on a 15A or 20A circuit to meet the door opener’s needs. And if you’re struggling to identify a suitable wire size, you can make do with any gauge that fits the breaker size.
Also, pay attention to the legal demands in your area. The NEC expects homeowners to add GFCI technology to garage outlets. That means your garage door opener needs a GFCI.
But what does the local code say? Does it agree with the NEC? If it provides contradictory information, follow the local code. Fortunately, the presence of a GFCI doesn’t affect your wire size selection.
So long as you wire the hot and neutral correctly, the GFCI will work regardless of the gauge.
The Best Wire Size For Garage Door Opener
14AWG is a great size because it is thick enough to run the garage door opener and most of the conventional appliances you typically find in a garage.
22AWG seems small, but garage door openers are not heavy-duty devices.
Garage door opener draw 3 amps or even less. They won’t exceed 5 amps. Therefore 22AWG is more than adequate for their electrical needs. The same gauge you find in thermostat, telephone, and bell wires can run the garage door opener.
Check the manual for confirmation. What does the opener’s manufacturer say? You can trust any gauge they recommend.
How Do I Know The Perfect Size Wire For Garage Door Opener?
As with most devices, the opener’s electrical demands will shape your decision. You need a gauge that transmits the current a garage door opener uses without overheating.
You don’t have to concern yourself with the pre-existing outlets. If the garage has a conventional 15 or 20A circuit, you can trust the wiring to withstand the opener’s electrical demands. If you think the opener’s wires are too thin even after matching the gauge to the opener’s electrical needs, get clarification from the manual.
It will recommend a suitable gauge. And if the manual is silent, contact the manufacturer directly. Some brands have technicians on hand to install their garage door openers. If the option is available, allow an expert to make this selection for you.
What Can Change The Garage Door Opener Wire Size?
There’s no reason for a garage door opener’s electrical demands to exceed the limits of the 18 to 22AWG conductors contractors typically use. Admittedly, many people use a garage circuit to run multiple items.
The opener’s 5A draw is unlikely to overwhelm the circuit. But what happens when you pair that 5A load with a 12A refrigerator? You need breaker and wire sizes large enough to carry the total load, not just the demands of the garage door opener.
If the opener is your only concern, keep the length in mind. The resistance increases with the length, and a higher resistance can lead to overheating unless you raise the gauge. In the absence of such considerations, you can stick with 18 – 22AWG.
What Happens If I Use Thin Wire For Garage Door Opener?
Thin wires are the worst-case scenario. Electrical wires have insulation that protects consumers from electrocution. Unless you strip the insulation away and touch the conductors directly, a garage door opener’s wires are unlikely to shock you.
However, every form of electrical wiring is vulnerable to overheating. This is your biggest concern. Electricity generates heat when it encounters resistance while running through a conductor.
That resistance increases in thin wires. Compare it to a large volume of water flowing through a narrow pipe. In the case of electricity, the wires will overheat if you overwhelm them with more current than their rating allows.
This is why the NEC publishes tables showing you the limits of each gauge. They want you to know the number of amps each wire size can carry. Exceeding those limits can lead to fires. Even though garage door openers are weak devices that use low-voltage wires, they can still start fires if a surge, malfunction, or short circuit forces more current to flow than the conductors can tolerate.
This explains the interest contractors have in 14AWG and 12AWG wiring. Even though door openers can run on 22AWG, 14AWG is the safer option. It can withstand surges and spikes.
You shouldn’t blame every problem on thin wires. Garage door openers are susceptible to various faults. For instance, if you connect the opener to a wall switch, a defective switch will prevent the opener from working.
CNET wants you to confirm your suspicions by detaching the two wires from the switch and touching them to one another.
If the opener starts working, you have a faulty switch. You don’t have to replace your 22AWG wiring unless you notice signs of wear and tear.
What if the door refuses to close? The sensors have probably identified an obstruction. Remove these obstructions to solve the problem. You should also look for broken door seals. The wires are not always at fault.
What About Using Thick Wire For the Garage Door Opener?
A thicker wire is more than acceptable. Thicker wires are safer because they are less likely to start fires. They can transfer more electricity without overheating.
If you want to cover a long distance, a thicker wire is the answer. It only presents a challenge during installation. Thick wires are not as flexible. They are also heavier. This is why people are hesitant to use the highest gauges even though they are the safest. The cables in question may not even fit the available space.
And even if installation is easy, can you afford them? 14AWG is more expensive than 22AWG. If you want to save money, stick to 22AWG.