How to monitor the open/closed status of a garage door?
August 1, 2019 5:19 PM   Subscribe

Because Reasons, it can be difficult for us, inside the house, to be sure our garage door is closed. For over two decades we've had a simple monitor we purchased on SkyMall (!!!!) that has a battery-run sensor that sticks on the garage door, and a small plug-in monitor that we put inside the house. Green light = closed. Red light = open. Only, 20 years in, it broke. I can't find a simple replacement.

I really want something just this simple. The company that made it -- DesignTech -- seems to be gone. Googling is finding me:

-- Garage door monitors that are meant to be used in conjunction with a bigger security or house monitoring system.
-- Monitors that work only with a different brand of garage door opener. We have a Genie and I have zero interest in swapping out the entire unit.
-- Things that look sketchy, that come with an app so you can do it via your phone. I'm really not interested in this. Mr. BlahLaLa is a huge technophobe and I'd really like something simpler.
-- And finally, this -- which seems just right, except for the design of the in-house monitor. Because this is an old house with few plugs, it'd mean I'd literally have to plug it in somewhere where I'd have to bend over and peer under a table to see what the light says. (Our current monitor is on a cord, so it can be plugged in underneath the table and sit on top.)

Does my dream product exist nowadays? If not, do you have other ideas?

The simplest solution would be for us to buy a big convex mirror and mount it in a spot where we can see, from inside the house, the garage door itself. But it wouldn't work in the dark, and the spot where it'd need to be mounted isn't ideal, aesthetically.

Hope me?
posted by BlahLaLa to Technology (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Can you use option 4, which seems to meet your needs, just plug it into an extension cord, which plugs in under the table?

Or also, since it's on a USB stick, do you have a computer or other place where you could plug in the USB that might be more handy?
posted by hydra77 at 5:24 PM on August 1, 2019 [10 favorites]

Pressure sensor. I haven't the time to google for you, but there HAS to be a device that you can put under your door, when the door is down it closes the circuit and the light comes on. No light, the door is open, or device not working, = fail-safe.
posted by GeeEmm at 5:47 PM on August 1, 2019

This possibly discontinued unit from Chaimberlain / Liftmaster looks like it might be similar to the old sensor you have.
posted by bradf at 5:48 PM on August 1, 2019

Yeah, for option 4 you can either plug the plug into an extension cord or get yourself a USB extension cable - it's harder to find the really long 25/32' ones in white to be less obvious on most walls/baseboards, but they're out there or you can paint a black one.
posted by Lyn Never at 5:52 PM on August 1, 2019 [3 favorites]

Wyze sensors are marketed to do this job. We have some around our house and love them.
posted by _Mona_ at 11:53 PM on August 1, 2019 [1 favorite]

I understand my solution doesn't tick all your boxes, but when I chased this problem about a year ago I ended up with a device from Chamberlain that works with many garage doors.

What I wanted was something that would yell at me if it was open, and ideally close on its own if I didn't respond or whatever. This doesn't exist, for reasons that you can suss out if you think it over. The MyQ thing, though, can be configured to hassle you if the garage door stays open for X minutes, plus gives you the ability to control it via your phone. I wasn't super happy about that aspect -- after a 30 year career in software, I know how the sausage is made and have ZERO interest in "Internet of Things" type stuff -- but it turns out to be pretty handy.

I have this configured to hassle me at 5-minute increments up to an hour. Works great, never failed yet. The remote control aspect also allows me to let folks into the house when I'm not there, if I need to (this has happened only once, but it still solved a problem).

Re: pressure sensors, I think that most of these are using gravity switches instead, which are easier to deal with.

Unfortunately, I think the advent of the smartphone-and-Internet mediated solution means that most of the "dumber" approaches have been chased out of the market.
posted by uberchet at 6:50 AM on August 2, 2019

Can't be too sure but the receiver thingy on #4 looks self-contained (i.e. that's just a regular USB charger power brick they stuck a sticker on to brand it, and all the smart bits are in the bit you plug into it), so you could potentially plug it in anywhere that's got a free USB port on it? If using an extension cord (of either USB or regular AC power) isn't feasible, surely there's something handy around that has a USB port on it that could be used. For that matter, from the pics it looks like the wall plug bit comes off of the power adapter anyway; I wouldn't be surprised if it had a standard kettle/figure-8 hookup internally you could plug a standard cable into.
posted by mrg at 9:15 AM on August 2, 2019

Could you point a cheap little security camera at it, maybe even from inside the garage so you don't have to mount it on the exterior and deal with finding one that fits in with your aesthetic? That way you can just look at the feed to tell if it's open, without specifically needing to attach a sensor to the door itself.
posted by DSime at 11:24 AM on August 2, 2019

DSime beat me to it. You can get insanely cheap wi-fi cameras now, and then just check the image on your phone. We have a cheap camera pointing out a bedroom window at our backyard garage door.
posted by w0mbat at 2:11 PM on August 2, 2019

That way you can just look at the feed to tell if it's open,

As can just about everyone else. Which one may or may not consider relevant regarding whether one's garage door is open, but DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCE use them for anything one might consider even a little bit privacy-sensitive.

Keep in mind that the S in IoT stands for Security.
posted by Stoneshop at 4:13 AM on August 3, 2019

I am not naive. I ran nmap on that camera. It has no ports open. It is far more secure than a more expensive IP surveillance camera, each of which is a badly secured Linux server.
It talks only to the relevant cloud server on which I have a strong password. If someone wants to go to great lengths to gain access to pictures of my garage door though, that's life.
posted by w0mbat at 11:33 AM on August 19, 2019

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