Does Getting Into Your Garage Really Need To Be Difficult?

Probably the last thing anyone wants when coming home from a long day at work or a trip is to be hassled at the last possible moment — gaining entrance to your house. But for some home automation enthusiasts, that’s just what happened when they suddenly learned that their own garage doors had betrayed them.

The story basically boils down to this: Chamberlain, a US company that commands 60% of the garage door market, recently decided to prevent “unauthorized usage” of their MyQ ecosystem through third-party apps. Once Chamberlain rolled out the change, users of Home Assistant and other unauthorized apps found themselves unable to open or close their doors with the apps they were accustomed to.

Those of us with custom smart home setups can relate to how frustrating it is when something disturbs the systems you’ve spent a lot of time tweaking and optimizing. It’s especially upsetting for users who both Chamberlain hardware specifically because it was supported by Home Assistant, only to have the company decide to drop support. This feels like false advertising, but we strongly suspect that buried in the EULA users must have agreed to at some point is a clause that essentially says, “We can do anything we want and tough noogies to you.” And if you read through the article linked above, you’ll get an idea why Chamberlain did this — they probably didn’t like the idea that users were avoiding their ad-spangled MyQ app for third-party interfaces, depriving them of ad revenue and the opportunity for up-selling.

We feel the frustration of these users, but rather than curse the darkness, perhaps this will light a candle of righteous rage that leads to a clever workaround. The Home Assistant blog article mentions a dongle called ratgdo, which should allow any door with plain old dry contacts to work via MQTT or ESPHome. It’s extra work that users shouldn’t have to put in, but maybe getting one over on The Man would be worth the effort.

Thanks to [KC] for the tip; please keep us posted on your workaround.

78 thoughts on “Does Getting Into Your Garage Really Need To Be Difficult?

  1. Replace the Chamberlain opener’s electronics with something open source which will always work with Home Assistant. At some point in there the door opener just connects the motor to power. Anything proprietary in the way of that can be replaced.

        1. Who is going to look at the ads anyway? I’m driving my car. I push a button to open the garage door. Where in there is “look at an advertisement?”

          I am at a complete loss as to why anyone at Chamberlain should expect anyone to look at their ads.

          1. The ads are plastered on the main app page above the button to operate your door. They’ve become increasingly intrusive that some need to scroll down just to operate their garage door through the app.

        2. No, it’s not just ads. There’s a real profit motive: Amazon Key. It’s a system where the Amazon delivery driver scans your package, which relays a message to MyQ to open your door for them; the driver puts your package in your garage, and the door closes.

          Amazon loves it because it reduces their costs of stolen packages. Chamberlain loves it because Amazon pays them for each opened door.

          So now Chamberlain is doing anything they can to prevent others from cutting into their revenue stream. They’re literally “gatekeeping” because they’re afraid people will set up a trigger that will open their garage doors when they receive a package delivery notification from Amazon.

          You can also install FedEx and UPS integrations that use their APIs. And here’s an integration where you can set it up for emailed notifications of deliveries, like from USPS:

          1. Being able to send API calls from Home Assistant doesn’t get in the way of Amazon Key also controlling the door opener via the same or a different API. There is literally no impact to Chamberlain partners, except if somehow the traffic from “unauthorized” apps is causing downtime (for which there are standard site-reliability engineering solutions which Chamberlain seems unwilling to invest in).

    1. Fortunately, garage door openers are inherently extremely simple: a mechanism activated by closing a pair of contacts. That’s as hackable as it gets. No need to be stuck with someone else’s claim to all the foo-foo it takes them to close those contacts.

      1. Not that easy. The two wires going to the door opener aren’t usable with a dry contact relay.

        On some doors, the two wires are just power. The wall button is actually an RF remote.

        On others, the two wires run power and a rolling code protocol. That’s what the ratgdo (open source) product deals with. Additionally you get to see current state and error condtions (eg door hit an obstacle)

          1. Switchbot on garage remote with their hub and a cheap camera mounted in garage pointing at door to verify door position. My old Sears Craftsman door is a lot smarter now lol.

        1. I have a myQ opener and have never used their internet stuff. Like you pointed out, you can’t operate the door by closing a relay across the contacts on the motor unit.

          What does work is connecting a switch in parallel to the switch inside the wall control. I have an ESP32 to do that and to monitor a proximity sensor for closed/not closed sensing.

          Local network only unless I come in via the VPN.

          Basic but it works.

          1. I also have a MyQ-capable GDO, also never connected to WiFi. Finally getting around to connecting it – but not with MyQ… Same, ESP and relay, door open / closed sensors, plus some open / closed sensing of other doors. May do AS5600 to pull out open / closed % / feet / in, but just for added niftyness. Local isolated network only, and encrypted comms on the isolated network as part of my protocol.

            Today, we use the remotes exclusively, the local pushbutton ones. Our garage is detached, and can’t easily see the door from a window in the house. Have left it open overnight a few times, would like to eliminate the triviality of “did I leave it open?” – and will have that addressed, and close at sunset or time of day if open. I am debating on a beeper to indicate “about to close”, at least so it doesn’t just move without warning anyone nearby.

            SOME MyQ capable Chamberlain GDOs CAN use contacts across the 2 switch wires, depends on model. If mine weren’t capable, I’d just wire across the button.

            Add me to the whole “I have zero interest in cloud-centric vendor-locked IoT solutions” group.

    2. That is exactly why the article links to ratgdo at the end.

      ratgdo is open source and has Home Assistant support by way of either MQTT or ESPHome, and talks the Chamberlain wired remote protocol for additional features that the official app doesn’t support.

  2. “Someone’s else computer” strikes again. That’s why I de-cloud any so-called “smart” appliances that appear in my house. Having connectivity is *sometimes* useful. Depending on some proprietary services, not so much.

      1. I’m not familiar with MyQ. From what you’re saying I assume that it was an official solution to integrate HA with the proprietary cloud. Kind of misses the point of de-clouding.

        OTOH if the integration had communicated with the device directly, there would be nothing to “remove” as long as you have it installed.

      1. Two good reasons for the cloud-
        You can remotely open your garage door for a delivery person to leave a parcel inside, thwarting porch pirates. Of course you have home surveillance cameras to see all this.

        Second, one guy found out his wife was cheating on him by the garage door app telling him the door was used, during an afternoon romp, when she was not supposed to be home.

        But having mega-corp data-mining when I am home or not, monetizing my private info – I’ll just use an ESP8266+mosfet SSR. 4 years now, it WORKS GREAT.

        1. It never ceases to amaze me how different US and UK habits are. Opening the door for a delivery seems like a great way for the contents of your garage to get nicked!

          Just park your car on the drive, like us Brits! Problem solved.

          1. heh – this reminds me of a scene from Bowling for Columbine. Michael Moore went to Canada and found people who left their front door unlocked and he asked them if they were worried about petty property crime and they said “no” and then he asked them if they had been victims of petty property crime and some of them said “yes”. they knew it was a problem they just didn’t think worrying about it made their life better??

            attitude really influences the subjective experience!

    1. Yeah. I am having a hard time mustering up sympathy. Maybe this is their first try with this type of stuff and, like me, once enough. For me it was a Bluetooth timer unused for my coffee pot. Needing an app made me very skeptical. Sure enough a year or two later- bricked.
      I also (unknowingly) got a replacement sprinkler timer that needed an app and cloud. Nope. Right back to the store.
      Tried to get my mom a bird feeder that takes photos. Needed sketchy Chinese language app and a lot of information. Nope.
      And so on. So I’ll be optimistic and hope whoever thought needing an app with cloud connectivity to get into their house was a good idea. Now they know better.

      1. “Tried to get my mom a bird feeder that takes photos. Needed sketchy Chinese language app and a lot of information. Nope.”

        Bird feeder that opens for particular birds once identified. Sprinkler that understands the weather. Coffee pot that reads your caffeine levels. BTW there already is security systems that look through one’s cameras and take action if needed. Not cloud but still remote.

      2. The difference is that Chamberlain garage doors frequently get sold standard with new house construction, so it’s not a choice the homebuyer necessarily had a chance to influence. It’s how they cornered 60% of the market.

        I’m definitely more sympathetic to it than a small appliance, switch, or plug that the consumer can realistically research before they buy.

        1. Yeah we’re saying the same thing. But that is so common that it should practically be expected when buying any cloud-reliant or app-reliant device. If that compromise is worth it to the buyer, more power to you. Fortunately for me having to turn on my coffee pot manually after the timer was bricked by Mfgr was annoying but not a disaster. I got burned once and will never buy some device in the name of convience (let’s be real- lazyness) that needs an app. And if it came with the house, I’d wait for this inevitable scenario, get pissed anyway, but replace it with a traditional non-garbage door opener.

  3. Cloud-based authentication is terrible – any dropout of your home WiFi, or the phone app, or the opener’s controller – means you are locked out, or can’t leave for work.
    You can’t upgrade Chamberlain controller board firmware, it’s a replacement as a board swap. There are issues with it having bugs to the cloud control.

    Installed a friend’s Chamberlain door opener and vowed never to buy one. The pee wee DC brushed motor, the loss of trimpots to set open/close limits, the total reliance on the cloud just to open/close a door – it’s outrageous.

    This gets a level worse because you must first disarm your home alarm system before opening the garage door.
    Honeywell cloud-based AlarmNet is notoriously unreliable, servers malfunction for days.
    The phone app has some kind of memory leak and needs to be uninstalled/reinstalled periodically.

    I just repair my old low tech garage door opener, you can buy replacement gears. It has an AC induction motor 10x more powerful and you aren’t dying of old age as the door slowwwllly creeps open. Simple 372MHz remote or switch contact control.

    1. Can we all imagine the day the server gets compromised and the “open sesame” command gets sent to every garage door in America?
      Oh and then there will probably be monthly fees they want to collect to finance their cloud servers. Does nobody remember Insteon? Imagine paying fees for your IoT gear to work.

    1. Someone else can probably chime in, but I’m guessing Chamberlain didn’t technically have a public API and people had reverse engineered what they were using.

      Of course I could be totally wrong and they’re just dicks because it couldn’t be monetized.

    2. If you use their app, it works. Ergo if it doesn’t work, you are not using their app, and thus using an unauthorized app.
      Obviously people who have been using their app won’t complain.

  4. An SSR tied to the button and an ESP 8266 or 32 makes quick work of the button press portion. Tapping into the open close sensors of the door opener is childs play. Disconnect the myq part from wifi, and you never worry about them mucking with your opener again.

    The only reason I’d be upset about this is if a non-techy family/friend had bought it and I had set it up for them integrated with home assistant. I’ve found my hacker solutions to sometimes need a little effort to maintain…though, I haven’t needed to touch mine in a very long time. So If I still knew anyone with one of these, perhaps I’d just go with the hacker solution.

  5. It’s been years since I’ve been able to fit a car inside my cluttered garage, but I know how I’d handle this task if I needed to. I’ve already got a home automation system based on ESP32 devices flashed with Tasmota firmware, using WiFi to communicate with an MQTT server, which also runs some software I wrote in C++ to do all the custom logic that I feel like automating around the house.

    The “Shelly 1” is a tiny ESP32 device with a relay capable of switching up to 16A, up to 240V AC or DC. It’s more than capable of momentary closure to mimic a pushbutton for any garage door opener/closer I’ve ever seen. The Shelly 1 device requires power, of course, but it’s pretty well omnivorous, able to run on 12VDC or on 110-240V AC or DC. Also, the Shelly 1 has contacts that can be connected to a switch input, which a clever hacker might be able to use to sense whether the garage door is currently open or closed. All of this can be supported by the Tasmota firmware . Of course it’s not the only device that can do the trick, but it’s one that can be hooked up with very little effort, and which can also be adapted for a lot of other tasks involving wireless connection to switches and relays.

    If you control access to your home with anything remotely like this, you’d be wise to put this on password protected WiFi of course, using a password protected MQTT server, with everything behind a firewall. And I would NEVER EVER connect any home access device to any cloud-based system!

  6. I’m waiting for a IoT trousers fly. Moving my hand 2 feet to reach it is such a chore, I’d much rather use an app since I’ve got my hands and eyes constantly riveted to my screen. Obviously, the trousers should also come equipped with a servo.
    I also need a robot to hoompa my wife because that’s too much hassle too.

  7. Looks like the ratgdo already provides the workaround to the chamberlain policy change. Esp32 board + 2x mosfets for the opensource version = more features than chamberlain for a $10 upgrade and zero subscriptions ongoing. I wonder how much they’ll lose when people realise that you don’t need a subscription service to open your own doors?

    The last part of the last sentence.. a subscription service to open your own doors… It looks like someone already lit THE AUDACITY!! candle of righteous rage.

    1. You need a subscription to open your door *with an app*. (and at the moment you don’t need a subscription, you just need their official app)

      The button on the wall, and the remote clicker button in your car still work just fine.

  8. I’m still waiting for the utopian version of a smart home. You know, where local control is not sacrificed for the privilege of shoving ads in my face…

    Give me a simple 3-position center-off Decora style toggle that can set a light’s state and brightness based on a short or long press. I also want to control the light from multiple locations without a hub or network. Non-local control is the luxury that comes with a hub and network, but local control is a non-negotiable requirement. Insteon still has that, but most “smart” devices seem to have discarded that intuitive usability and local first principle.

    And don’t get me started on so-called smart bulbs…

    1. I cant agree more. When I start making my home “smart” thinking it will be better. Over the time I have learnt that I hardly use all the features. Then, I ended up setting up Home assistant Yellow, with Zigbee & all stuff offline.

      Remotely, all I use these days is check if I left garage open, turn on/off outdoor lights, and some automations to turn off stuff.

      I hate smart bulbs. I used some Philips hue zigbee, but then its stupid to have a smart bulb, that wont work if switch is off.

    2. I have long been looking for a simple 3-position switch: ON (not subject to automation) – AUTO (can be remotely operated) – OFF (not subject to automation). Have not been able to find one (but perhaps I am not looking in the right places.)
      For super-bonus-points, have the switch be a “latching bellpush” type switch. i.e. you can push to turn ON/OFF, but it returns to AUTO afterwards, unless you hold the switch for a second, or push past a detent, after which it latches in ON/OFF position as described above.

  9. We live in the world where instead of electronic home access controls being an easier to use version of basic business access controls with a different set of default behaviors, they’re a “smart home” gadget that can’t work without an app and has to talk to a bunch of other services just to perform its own functions. I can’t help but think it’d be less problematic if it was otherwise.

    Businesses have a lot of employees badging through doors with no issues, so I’d like that ease at home. And opening a gate at a business or a garage door at home is a pretty similar job too. I’d probably prefer a remote for gates and garage door and a fob with pin fallback for the rest if it had to be electronic. But if you must use a phone, the modern business readers often support phones via nfc or even ble. And the systems support management from a web browser, so if you allow access to their network remotely (hopefully behind a company VPN with good security) you can log in and open and close something from anywhere. Seems like all the functions are there and it’s a matter of reframing things? IDK.

  10. Another great workaround for any garage is device. Local or cloud, and it’s a simple ESP32 based device, and a small business. Also has sensors to detect distance to an open door or to a car. I can now automatically have my garage close when the car leaves!

  11. The obvious solution is to hire some ronin like goons to go track down whoever signed off on the decision to break interoperability in favor of corralling users into some crapware app and cave their skull in. If this happens to enough suits word will get around ;-)

  12. my electric garage door opener died for the old fashioned reason — *somebody* hooked it briefly to 240 instead of 120. whoops! so i discovered this great work-around…there’s a little handle you pull and the garage door decouples from the electric motor. voila

    that worked great until the springs died. solid wood garage doors are heavy!

  13. I bought a Chamberlain add-on device a few years ago, and LOVED the ability to say, Hey G, is the garage door open, or Hey G, close the garage door (actually, I had to say, Hey G, ask MyQ if the garage door is open, yadda, yadda, yadda), because I was incredibly bad at remembering if it was closed or not. Part of the appeal of the purchase was that I could do that. Then it stopped working. Tech Support said it was because they no longer worked with Google for that feature. So I still had an app that would open and close the garage door, which was handy when I had a phone but no keys, but the appeal was voice control. And even when I replaced my garage door opener with a new one, it had the MyQ feature built in, but still no voice control. So, is Chamberlain my favorite company? Nope.

  14. I use a Shelly one and a garage door reed switch sensor for like $35. Then connect to Home Assistant using MQTT. Shelly is running tasmota firmware so open source and no cloud dependency

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