In the growing Smart Home market we are seeing with each month more major products that start from a “smart first” perspective—meaning specifically, primary devices that are intended to do some basic function (wash your clothes, vacuum your house, etc.), and also have smart capabilities to go along with them. For instance, think about the Philips Hue line of light bulbs, which are lights first before anything else, and they also happen to connect to your wireless network for something better. In contrast, some manufacturers are releasing adapter kits for standard light sockets that allow you to take a “dumb” light bulb and make it a smart one.
Among the Smart Home manufacturers is Chamberlain, which has a series of smart-first products around garage door openers and light switches; these items are intended to fully replace your existing non-smart-first devices. I’ve been considering replacing our garage door opener with a smart-first garage door opener for some time, and amidst moving and some other craziness in our lives, thought it best to wait. That said, I had opportunity to test out Chamberlain’s myQ Smart Garage Hub, a non-smart-first device that alleges to convert a standard garage door opener to a smart garage door opener with some fairly basic installation steps and configuration.
The unboxing was friendly and intuitive, and upon opening, all parts to this adapter were immediately visible; this includes the wi-fi hub, door sensor and installation hardware. The quick start guide was concise and easy to follow, although iOS users will need to refer to the special instruction insert that is not a part of the quick start guide in order to fully configure the Wi-Fi hub. Mounting the door sensor to the top door panel was straight forward and could be done either with included adhesive strips, or with two screws (which were also included).
Next came configuring the wi-fi hub, which was not nearly as straight forward as I had hoped it would be. It was after 3 attempts following the quick start guide that I looked for additional instructions in the packaging (the aforementioned iOS device insert), which involved leaving the myQ app and connecting wirelessly to the hub; this step was not much different from connecting to a temporary wireless network when configuring a new router. After completing, the app worked as advertised and the installation continued with the mounting of the wi-fi hub.
I found the wi-fi hub’s range to be surprisingly large, as during configuration it was 30+ feet from the door sensor and still worked. There is no physical connection between the hub and your opener, nor is there a physical connection between the hub and your home router. With that in mind, it makes sense there should be some range—and most users should not find themselves limited by the approximately 3’ power cord that comes with the device (although extension cords work just fine, if required). I happened to have a small section of 2×4 mounted to my garage ceiling which made an ideal home for the hub; in theory, any downward-facing surface available to you in your garage (a joist, a metal bracket, etc.) would also work for secure mounting.
After physical installation, the final configuration of the hub was completed by pairing the device to my particular opener, which was a fairly straight forward process. Fortunately I just bought a new house and was familiar with the location of my opener’s “program” button, but if in doubt check your particular manufacturer’s instruction manual, likely on-line. It’s worth noting that Chamberlain claims compatibility with most openers since 1993, but be sure to check their website before you make a purchase decision. Also worth noting, the programming of the myQ wi-fi hub seemed to wipe the programming from my existing opener, but reprogramming that was straight forward as well.
As far as the actual operation of the thing is concerned, it has done a fine job on all fronts. The app gives you a clear indication of how long your garage door has been open or closed. It also has configurable push notifications that will inform you when your garage is opened or closed, and can be further customized to alert you when certain time thresholds of “openness” and “closedness” are reached. You can also setup close schedules, allowing you to automatically close your garage door based upon some predefined calendar. And of course, the most basic of features, after you program your hub to be able to open and close your garage door (and not just monitor its status), you can do so easily with your smart phone from anywhere in the world.
The product has a couple of downsides as well. For starters, I would love to see some integrated location-based activities that will automatically open your garage door when you reach a certain set of coordinates, so that when you pull in your driveway your garage door is already open. Second, when closing your garage using your smart phone, the wi-fi hub emits a surprisingly loud series of beeps, undoubtedly for safety reasons. Still, it would be nice to be able to suspend this beeping, or at least suspend it when you are within wi-fi range of your home network. The app itself looks a bit outdated, and it lacks iOS widgets that would make opening and closing your garage door easiest without having to dive too deep into an app. Also, strangely, this product is not (yet) compatible with Amazon Alexa or Apple HomeKit, which is frustrating and not entirely unexpected. According to Chamberlain’s website, HomeKit compatibility can be added by purchasing the myQ Home Bridge.
In total, installation required about 45 minutes of my time, and that included some troubleshooting and “wheel-spinning” as well. The operation is simple and straight forward, and for only $100 my old garage door opener is now among my Smart Home devices. As indicated, there are a handful of annoyances and “under-developed” features, but I wouldn’t consider any of those to be deal breakers with this purchase. The myQ Smart Garage Hub does what it’s supposed to do, is relatively easy to configure, and doesn’t break the bank—and as far as Smart Home adapters are concerned, it’s an easy purchase to justify.