Garage doors have for decades been manufactured as sectional doors that raise and lower electronically, either by a remote device or a keypad. We’re all accustomed to pressing a button as we pull into our driveways, trusting the door will open on command without having to get out of the car. We depend on the security of these devices as much as we count on our house or car keys. We tend to take for granted, as well, the mandated safety features of modern garage doors that include the low-key, low-to-the-ground photo eyes that trigger a reversal of motion when their line of sight is blocked, whether by a sack of groceries or a playful toddler. This essential device is the focus of this blog, as so many rides on its reliable performance.

What It Is, What It Does

The garage door photo-eye is a small light sensor system placed roughly six inches off the floor with units on both sides of the garage door. The two sensor mechanisms each project an invisible beam that points directly to the sensor on the other side. When this beam fails to connect with the far port because its path is interrupted by a physical object, it instantly triggers a circuit breaker to the electronic operation of the door, stopping its descent. Garage doors, especially solid wood or glass doors can be quite heavy, and a collision with items left in its pathway can cause damage to both. These items can be as inconsequential as a bag of mulch, or as important as a new car you’ve pulled into the garage but left a few inches shy of clearing the door. Most critical, of course, is the risk of serious injury to people – especially the small children who may be scurrying around without paying attention. Likewise, don’t forget the family pets who will be responding to you, not the door.

How Important Is a Garage Door Photo Eye?

OK, let’s say you don’t have kids or a dog, and you park your car in the driveway. You only use the two keypads (one interior and one exterior) to open your garage door, so you aren’t likely to be in the pathway of a descending door with any frequency. So, what could go wrong?

For starters, complacency, and inattention. Consider the photo-eye as a backup system to human lapses of attention, even momentary distractions. All it takes is one quickly developing a chain of unexpected actions to lead to costly or even injurious consequences. The minimal effort to install and maintain the photo-eye is far outweighed by the potential problems incurred by not having it. Also, not incidentally, it is required by code.

Be Alert to Any Malfunctions

Generally, a faulty photo-eye system isn’t too hard to recognize. Things that mean trouble:

  • A blinking light on the sensor. (Don’t overlook the obvious.)
  • A garage door raises but won’t lower all the way, or abruptly reverses direction without cause.
  • The garage door lowers on top of something, failing to stop when there is an object in its path.

If the sensor is bumped out of alignment, gets soaked, or becomes the chosen residence of a family of spiders, you should anticipate malfunctions, so run the basic test of placing an old 2 x 4 across the eye’s path and testing it.

Things You Can Do; Things We Do

Often, faulty performance can be corrected at your end with a simple adjustment. Some things you can do:

  • Again, start with the obvious – is there something in the way? A box too close to the door or dried leaves blew against the eye’s sensor; anything that might interrupt the beam is a possible culprit. That includes dust or cobwebs on the eye itself, which is quite small and remember, close to the floor. Sometimes a few seconds with a damp cloth is all it takes.
  • It has to line up! If the sensors can’t read the beams, your system is inert. Get down on your knees and carefully realign the units to face each other squarely, then test the system to see if that did the job.
  • Is it getting juice? Intermittent performance issues may be a sign of faulty or frayed wiring. If you enjoy this sort of thing, have at it. If your electrical skills are minimal, we can help troubleshoot and fix the system.

At ADS Automatic Door Specialists, we thrive on diagnosing the problem with a faulty garage door system and providing the best remedy. This means you, have quick, cost-effective repairs that help you avoid more troubling or expensive problems down the line. We like to think of our customers as the first line of defense to keep their garage doors running smoothly. But we also know there are times we are the best resource to handle repairs and maintenance you can’t or would rather not tackle yourself. Call us at 858-544-5757 and ask about our Annual Door Service Program – the best way to keep your garage door, and your photo-eye system, running efficiently.

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