Getting to Know Garage Door Safety Features

Knowing how to work with your garage door's safety features keeps your family safe and your door operating smoothly.

Your garage door is probably the largest piece of moving machinery at home. Operating it in an unsafe manner can pose a serious danger. Here's what you need to know about safety features on garage doors.

Garage door safety features

In addition to features designed to keep your home safe, such as motion detection lighting and rolling code technology for remotes, garage door openers come equipped with a few standard overhead door safety features to ensure safe operation. The two main types of safety features on garage doors are:

  • Garage door safety eyes
  • Force or sensitivity settings

Garage door safety eyes prevent the garage door from closing on people, pets, or objects that enter the garage door's path as it's closing. In addition, force sensitivity settings control how much force the opener will apply before stopping. Both of these garage door safety devices are crucial to your door's safe operation.

Do all garage doors have safety sensors?

Garage door safety sensors are integral part of all garage door safety systems. Without properly functioning safety sensors, the garage door won't travel downward at all. In fact, garage door opener manufacturers are obligated by law to include a built-in secondary entrapment protection device like safety sensors on all new garage door openers.

A young child in front of a white garage door. Garage door safety systems are important for keeping people and pets safe.

How garage door safety beams work

Since the safety sensors must be installed correctly for the door to close, it's essential to understand how they work.

Garage door safety sensors are installed inside the garage, facing each other, at a height of no more than 6'' above the garage floor. The receiving sensor must detect and uninterrupted beam of light from the sending sensor. So any time there's an obstruction between the sensors, the garage door won't go down unless you hold the wall button.

It's not a good idea to try and bypass this garage door safety feature. Without it, there's a significantly increased risk of injury or death. While you should never cross into the path of the garage door while it's moving, if there's no safety reversal system, there's nothing to stop it from hitting someone. Bypassing garage door safety systems is especially risky when there are children or pets.

How force sensitivity settings work

The force sensitivity setting gives owners control over how far the garage door travels up or down, and also how forcefully the opener will attempt to operate the door.

Setting proper travel limits prevents the opener from pulling the door up too far or damaging the door by trying to push it down too far. The limit settings work closely with force sensitivity settings. By setting the opener to only apply enough force to reliably open or close the garage door, you can prevent damage to the door and opener, and keep it operating safely for anyone who might be nearby. With an appropriately low force setting, the garage door stops whenever the opener encounters too much resistance, such as if the door is binding in its tracks or if something obstructs the garage door.

Garage door safety test

An exclamation mark on cardboard. A garage door safety test ensures your door works correctly and safely.

Anytime you adjust the safety eyes, travel limits or sensitivity settings, you should test the system to make sure everything is working correctly.

Testing garage door safety sensors

To test the safety beam reversal system:

  1. Open the garage door
  2. Place an obstruction such as a cardboard box in the door's path
  3. Press the remote control button and try to close the door. The door should move no more than an inch.

Because the garage door opener will not close the door using the remote if either safety sensor is blocked or misaligned, you know that everything is working correctly if the door doesn't close during the test.

If the door did try to close and traveled more than an inch while the safety eyes were obstructed, it's time to call a professional.

Testing garage door safety reversal system

To test the force and limit settings:

  1. Use the opener to open the door
  2. Place a 1.5" board or 2x4 laid flat on the floor under the center of the garage door
  3. Press the remote control button and close the door
  4. The door should make contact with the board or 2x4, then reverse

If the door stops, but doesn't reverse, you can try setting the limits and force settings again. If the garage door opener continues to fail the test, it's time to call in a professional and get your garage door working safely again.

Testing the battery backup

If you have a battery backup for using your garage door opener during a power outage, you can test the battery by unplugging the opener.

  1. Unplug the garage door opener
  2. Press the remote control button to open and close the door

If the door seems slow it could mean a weak or low battery. Don't forget to plug the opener back in so the battery can charge.

Knowing your garage door safety features

Familiarizing yourself with your garage door and opener can keep you (and your garage door!) from being stuck in a bind and keep everything working safely. Always remember to check both the garage door and the opener manuals for product specific safety information. Your local garage door repair company can help you identify any safety issues before they cause problems, and knowing how your system works can save you time, money, and keep your family safe.

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