The California garage door battery backup mandate, going into its third year of enforcement, is now part of the long list of responsibilities of being a homeowner. It provides a critical safety feature that, in a crisis, can make the difference between surviving or not. We associate it with the devastating firestorms of the past few years, and accounts of people, generally elderly or frail, who were unable to drive to safety because a power failure made their openers inoperable, leaving them trapped in their homes. But the value of this law, and the shortlist of vital things homeowners need to be aware of to make it work for them, are important things to know and practice.
In a power failure, there are now two ways to move your car out of the garage. The first is the manually operated safety release, a long-standing feature. It is easy to use if you are tall and strong enough, and know how it works. If you’ve never used it, take a few minutes to learn how. Waiting to figure it out in a live emergency, especially at night in a power outage, is not a good plan. It is released by a bright red cord with a bright red plastic handle that dangles around eye level. If you have an instruction manual that came with your door, refer to it. If you are having a new door installed, you can be sure Automatic Door Specialists will walk you through the steps. Every able-bodied person in your household, holding a driver’s license, should have hands-on experience operating this device.
For the elderly or disabled, the second way out, with an active battery backup, becomes critical. Whether that describes you, your parents, or even a next-door neighbor, please learn about and properly maintain this feature. It only works if it works, and neglect or indifference can negate its value when you need it most.
1) Make sure you have battery backup, and it is properly installed and working. Most models will say Battery Backup on the opener. If your opener goes back earlier than July 2019, you will likely not have one. At that point, you should carefully consider the risks of lacking backup, even if you are not yet required (the installation of any new garage door in California will require an opener with battery backup). Remember, fires can start anywhere, as can flooding, earthquakes, power blackouts, and other acts of man or nature. For those living in areas where strong Santa Ana winds can lead to power shutdowns, having this system in place is especially important. In a medical emergency, who can get the car out of the garage, and how will they do it? These are questions you need to have answers for.
2) So what does battery backup actually do? This device, somewhat like an emergency spare tire, is specifically for limited emergency use. It will operate for a limited number of times, up to 24 hours after a power disruption. You should test it regularly—a couple of times a year—by unplugging the opener from its regular power source and testing its operation via your remote or control panel. Needless to say, don’t forget to plug the opener back in once you have tested the unit.
3) These systems require batteries to function, and those batteries need to be charged. Openers with battery backup will show the current charge with a sequence of lights, generally green (operational) orange or yellow (running low if flashing, solid if too low to function), or red, meaning the backup battery needs to be replaced, generally every other year or sooner. And yes, they will emit an audible beep that can be heard every two seconds when the opener is operating on battery power, and every 30 seconds when the battery power is low and requiring charging or replacement.
4) Learn how to replace your battery. A red light on your opener means the battery backup is nonfunctioning, and will predictably mean it’s past time to replace the battery. You should be able to find the instructions you need on the manufacturer’s website, but you are encouraged to call Automatic Door Specialists with your questions.
Preparing for the future. If you are planning to replace your garage door anytime soon, you should factor in the opener and battery backup. It is required by state law, but, more than that, it gives you an extra level of safety for you and your family. Even if you’re content with your garage door and looking forward to long years of use, you should consider the benefits of upgrading your opener to a battery backup model. If you have elderly parents still living alone, consider helping them install a new opener with battery backup. That is only one of the important features the newest models provide (see our blog on Smart Garage Door Openers).
Our ADS garage door specialists are opener specialists and can install a new opener system in short order. Call 858-266-9563 to discuss any questions. Your family’s safety comes first.