Everyone has experienced some type of power outage in their lives. Whether it’s related to weather, an accident, or another fluke like a system overload or blown transformer, it’s frustrating to lose power. It can also quickly go from being a slight inconvenience to becoming a serious issue for you, your family, and the day-to-day things you have to do in and around the home.
One of those things is being able to open and close the garage door, even when there is no power. If you’re late for work during a power outage, or even worse (and hopefully not), one of the kids is injured or you have some other emergency that requires you to access your vehicle and remove it from the garage.
Even in the midst of a power outage, life will carry on, accidents can happen, and you can’t depend on just “not needing” to get your vehicle out until the power returns. If you have an electric garage door opener, you’ll be happy to know that manual overrides are available to help you access your garage from inside and outside, which could quite literally save your life in some instances.
Power out? Problem Solved!
When your garage door is linked to an electric garage door opener, you can’t access it during a power outage because the electrical connection is interrupted. Here’s how to bypass that.
Before getting started…
Make sure that no one is in the garage, including the kids, the family pet, and anyone else who could be in harm’s way. Safety first, above all else!
The garage door springs hold a lot of tension, just like your tired toddler who has had just about enough of no Internet, which means no videos of their favorite shows. You need to work carefully and be mindful of what you’re doing.
Remove the Garage Door Opener Plug from the Outlet
Wait—the power’s already out, so why do you need to need to cut the main power? Well, let’s just say that Murphy’s Law is on your side, and you hastily run out to open the door without thinking. Suddenly, the power is back out of nowhere and you’re either reeling from a painful electric shock, or you’re smacked right in the face by a moving trolley!
Trust us, no matter what the image above says, it would not be a funny picture in reality.
Let your light shine!
While a flashlight is great, an LED headlamp is even better! It will give you powerful illumination and keep your hands free to access the garage door and get the job done quickly.
Actually, let’s stop right there. The first step here should be to have a headlamp ready and available in the garage or in a place that’s easy to access. That way, if the power goes out, you will be ready to get into the garage and do what you need, whether that’s access the door, find candles, etc.
When the power’s out and you’re running around like someone in a movie, scrambling for candles, flashlights, batteries, and any other source of light, you’re going to waste a lot of time and look a little crazy. Having a headlamp accessible saves time and saves face, so it’s well worth the investment.
Consumer Reports has great tips for those who want to learn more about protecting and preparing the home for long-term power outages.
From Inside: Manually Accessing Your Garage Door
Step 1. The door needs to be closed.
Ok, we know a lot of you are thinking, “Of course it’s closed! That’s why I’m here!!” But there are situations besides a power outage where this may not be the case.
Even if the door is only partly open, disconnecting your opener could be very dangerous! Doing so runs the risk of serious injury or even death in severe cases!
Let’s say your garage door has a spring broken or the door is out of balance. This isn’t a power issue, but the door still can’t open properly.
If you release the opener now, under these conditions, the full weight of the door (hundreds of pounds) could slam down on you, a family member, a car, or anything else in its path.
Another useful, yet simple tip:
Don’t switch to manual mode unless it’s absolutely necessary. Try to wait out the power outage and see how it goes. Do you have other options here?
For the most part, power outages usually don’t last long enough to make the process worthwhile, especially because reconnecting can be such a pain sometimes.
If you can use your spouse’s car that isn’t in the garage, or if you don’t have an urgent reason to leave, do not bother with disconnecting the opener. If you do, you’ll find that it’s a lot more work than it was probably worth because, by the time the power comes back on, you’ve got even more work to do. And if you’re not sure you even did it right, that can add to the stress before you even get started. Just don’t do it unless it’s absolutely necessary.
Step 2. If it is necessary, find the bypass handle
Provided that your garage door opener isn’t as old as you, there should be an emergency rope (usually red) hanging from the middle rail of the garage door where the opener runs.
Ok, we’re stating the obvious again. But when emergencies and power outages happen, people tend to panic and might not act rationally. So, when the door is down, look for the manual release close to the garage door itself.
Usually, the handle is red, too. It’s for emergencies, after all.
Step 3. Pull that Emergency Handle
Now you need to disable the trolley operator by pulling the emergency release cord. This trolley is connected to the motor and the garage door and is what helps the garage door move up and down when you activate the automatic garage door opener. Once the cord is pulled, the electric opening will be disengaged.
After disconnecting, make sure you slide the trolley about an inch away from your garage door.
Step 4. Lift the door using the manual handle on the middle or bottom panel.
This handle will be somewhere near the middle or bottom of your garage door. It’s usually made of metal and fairly easy to see.
Provided that your springs are well‑balanced, you should have no trouble lifting it with one hand. Whether it’s a 1-car door (approx. 9’ x 7’ft.) or a 2-car garage door (approx. 16’ x 7’ft.), this should be simple.
If it isn’t easy or the door is heavy, STOP IMMEDIATELY.
There is clearly a much bigger issue here!
Close the door as carefully as you can, stay away from it, and keep everyone out of the garage – even the dog and stray cats – until the door is serviced, inspected, or undergo maintenance and repairs.
This is clearly a sign that something isn’t functioning—either a spring is broken, or the garage door is just done—they usually only last 5-7 years.
Most people assume that the garage door opener “lifts” the door. It doesn’t. The springs are responsible for lifting the door, while the opener merely guides the door up and down as the springs do their work. Think we’re panicking or overreacting? Keep reading.
Let’s say your garage door weighs 300 pounds. Yep, that’s a lot.
That means your springs need to exert forces of up to 300 pounds to open and close the door easily. Due to the huge amount of force, there’s also a HUGE amount of pressure.
Physics = Danger, Will Robinson!
If the springs aren’t working correctly, the full weight of the garage door will be on you or your garage door opener. The counterbalance of the springs is gone, so your opener isn’t going to want to do the job. And you shouldn’t bother trying to lift a door this heavy, you’ll certainly injure yourself!
Step 5. Reconnecting the opener
Made it through step four without any troubles? Nicely done!
Once power is restored, you’ll need to reconnect your opener to the garage door. Fortunately, it’s a fairly simple process to reset the system:
- Ensure the door is fully closed.
- Pull the emergency release handle with a broom handle or other tool.
- 3. Lift the door manually until the connection is made:
To do this, you’ll want to run a complete cycle of the opener after you lift the door. This will cause the door to go all the way up and then all the way down. Once the trolley and carriage connect, you’ll hear a “click” and your garage door opener will be functional once again.
Getting in from the Outside
An outside quick release is a great choice if you don’t have a manual access garage door.
Otherwise, there’s only one way in and out of the garage, which is totally impractical, not to mention a serious fire and safety hazard.
- Locate your quick release on the outside of the garage and put the key into the lock.
- Turn the key and then pull the tumbler out with the key. This engages the release on the door opener system.
- Use the handles to open the door manually.
- Drive your vehicle into the garage and then close the door, manually again.
- Push UP on the release lever to re-engage the mechanism (using a broom or outdoor tool handle). You could also pull the cord toward the motor until it clicks if you prefer.
- Before you exit, make sure there is another access to get into your home for your safety.
There’s a better way!
Avoid the hassles and get into or out of the garage, whether there’s power or not.
This all sounds like a lot of work, doesn’t it? Not only that, but if your garage door system is already older and needs some TLC, you might be considering just changing the system altogether. If so, there’s no better time than now!
Move on up to the modern world and choose a garage door opener system that has a battery backup. Then, no matter what happens, you will always be able to get your vehicles into and out of your garage.
You’ll find several great models of opener systems, depending on what types of features you want and what type of space you have available to work with.
Smartphone and smart home fans will love the next generation of LiftMaster garage door opener systems. These include premium features and smartphone app access to manage and monitor your garage door from anywhere!
Recently, Chamberlain’s LiftMaster division made big upgrades to their garage door systems. This included WiFi connectivity, along with the integrated MyQ technology that allows owners to control their doors from any smartphone or tablet that they choose, no matter where in the world they are.
What you can see on your smartphone when you have an integrated camera on your garage door opener.
The LiftMaster 87504-267 also comes with two-way audio and an integrated camera so that you can talk to people in real-time and always know what’s going on in the garage. It’s also the quietest operating model available.
Maybe a camera is a bit too much for your taste? Then consider the LiftMaster 87802 automatic opener, with all the smart features but none of the camera elements.
A smartphone alert example shows you what to expect.
The MyQ app is included to ensure that you can operate and monitor your garage door from a smartphone, and it also comes (of course) with an impressive battery backup option.
Perhaps you don’t have a lot of ceiling room, or you want to save that space for storage?
The LiftMaster 8500W is a wall-mounted model that could be ideal for your space concerns. It mounts on the wall and optimizes overhead space so that you’re not running out of room. This unit can mount on the wall beside the door, saving space and providing better access, too.
You’ll also enjoy access to the MyQ app to manage the device from your smartphone, Battery Backup, and an automatic garage door lock along with the built-in WiFi that gives you more control from anywhere in the world.
Want some assistance with your garage door upgrades?
Contact the local experts for everything to do with your garage door at 1-800-545-3667.
At Door Systems Metro Boston, we’ve been working with garage door systems for years and we are committed to providing you with the expertise and solutions that you need. Perhaps you’ve already got a quality LiftMaster or Chamberlain opener and just want a battery backup for power outages—we can do that too.
If you’re looking to replace the automatic garage door opener that you have with a newer, quieter option with better technology to assist in the event of a power outage, we’re here to help. Ask about our free email quote that will help you see what your options are. Only need a checkup service? We’ve got you covered there, too.
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