For homeowners, June is often a busy, exciting month filled with to-dos that may include opening a pool for the season, bringing the grill out of hibernation and spending more time outdoors with friends and family. It’s also the perfect time to add one more very important item to that checklist: Inspecting your garage doors for safety.
In fact, June is “National Garage Door Safety Month” — and for good reason. According to LiftMaster, a leading manufacturer of commercial door components and garage door operators, more than 70 percent of homeowners enter and exit their home through the garage door, relying on it as “the new front door.” The garage door is the largest moving object in most people’s homes, and its use often increases in the summer months, when children are home from school and homeowners head in and out of the garage to get lawn and garden equipment, bicycles and more.
Now, here comes a word of warning. If incorrectly installed or not performing properly, a garage door can exert strong forces that can lead to injury and even death (even with new guidelines for safety, there are an average of three deaths per year from garage door accidents). That’s why industry professionals and manufacturers are teaming up to educate the public about the importance of performing inspections at least one time per year.
Think this doesn’t apply to you? We’ve seen it firsthand among the homeowners we work with, many of whom are slow to adapt to the changes or aren’t even aware of the new standards until it’s time to replace an old unit. There is ample data out there to support what we see on the job, too. Surprisingly, per statistics from LiftMaster, approximately 1 in 15 homes have garage doors that are not up to current safety standards. When it comes to keeping family, friends, small children and even pets safe, those numbers are simply not acceptable.
Whether you decide to perform the safety check yourself, or you’d like to have a professional check it for you, here are a few tips to keep your garage door operating safely:
Keep an eye on it: Does your garage door have a set of photoelectric eyes with lit green and yellow LED lights on it? Since 1993, when Federal Law UL-325 was enacted, all manufacturers have only sold units with these safety devices on them. The photo eyes detect motion and any objects in the way of the door and then reverse the direction of the door if they pick up on either. All garage doors without this device are considered inadequate from a safety standpoint. New York state is on board with this initiative as well. In 1997, it told businesses that they are no longer to service units without photo eyes. The homeowner must replace the garage door operator if it lacks this safety feature.
Follow the rules: There are established safety standards on where photo eyes and push button operators should be mounted. For instance, photo eyes should be installed six inches off the floor and no higher. Otherwise, or a person or a pet can pass under the beam undetected, creating an unsafe situation. Be sure there are no obstructions between the photo eyes on either side, as any item that blocks interferes with the unit’s ability to communicate. Even cobwebs can affect photo eyes, so be sure to check for those, too.
Also,there is no need to guess where to place your interior pushbutton. The rule of thumb is to mount it at least five feet from the floor and out of the reach of little ones.
Perform a test: The only way to be certain the reversing mechanism is functioning as it should is to try it out. We tell customers it’s a good idea to test the reversing mechanism on a monthly basis, if possible. A simple way to do this is to place a two-by-four piece of wood or a stick under the door, press the button and see if the door reverses when it hits the object. If it doesn’t, it’s time to call in a professional.
Make maintenance a priority: Like any item you use regularly, parts can wear out and break. In this instance, that can cause a safety issue. Perform a regular inspection of your springs, replacing them if they show signs of wear and of your cables, keeping in mind that they should only be replaced by a trained technician because of the dangers associated with the high tension of the springs.
Talk about safety: If you have children in the home or get regular visits from friends or family who do, it’s wise to review the basics of door safety. Remind them that garages are for cars, not for kids; avoid moving doors and keep hands and fingers away from the door and its components; to not play with garage door opener buttons (they are not toys) and to only operate a door if you can see it.