Do you know what common household items can save your life in an emergency?
Fire extinguishers and first-aid kits top most lists, and many households maintain smoke detectors and carbon dioxide detectors for this reason. Less obviously, furniture can brace a home’s doors against intruders, and flashlights will illuminate the way out of a dangerously darkened home.
But did you ever imagine that your garage door opener could be part of this lifesaving suite of objects, too? It can, and as of July 1, 2019, California law requires that all garage doors in the state have a battery backup.
A battery backup is a new patch for your computer’s operating system. It makes your garage opener safer during a power outage, and all new garage doors and openers in the state must have it to comply with the law.
How and why did California pass this backup battery law? The law largely responds to the devastating California wildfire season of 2017.
1. California Wildfire Experience
As the wildfires of that summer ravaged northern and southern reaches of the state, many homes lost power. One result of these power outages was that garage doors, which typically run on electrical power, would not open. Many people became trapped in their homes because their electrical garage doors did not work. They could not open the garage doors manually, and they had no battery backup system for their opener’s electronic operation.
At least five people were found dead in their garages after being unable to open their garage doors. One was an 82-year-old retired doctor who died inside the convertible parked in her garage. Another 80-year-old couple died as well — one in the car parked in the garage, and the other in the driveway. An 86-year-old woman also died trying to flee through her garage. Presumably, these elderly residents did not have the physical strength to raise their garage doors manually after the power went out.
Additional residents were saved only after passersby witnessed their struggles and stopped their own flights to safety to help strangers struggle with their heavy garage doors.
In the United States, 4.5 million homes are at high or extreme risk of wildfire, according to insurance analyses. Two million of those homes are located in California. Additionally, the number of acres burned each year during wildfires is increasing. From a low of slightly more than one million acres burned in 1984, that number has climbed to a staggering 10 million acres in 2015 and 2017. 2018 saw 8.8 million acres burned.
2. State Senate Action
Spurred by numerous stories like the ones above, California state senator Bill Dodd — who also could not open his garage door during the wildfires — introduced a state senate bill to prevent similar tragedies. Senate Bill 969 proposed a law to require that all installations of new garage doors and garage door openers in the state of California include a battery backup.
SB 969 enjoyed overwhelming support in the legislature. The chamber read the bill for the first time in January 2018. The bill then went to committee for review. In August 2018, the Senate voted unanimously to pass the bill with a vote tally of 37 to 0, and the bill passed the California State Assembly that same month with a vote tally of 64 to 7. Governor Jerry Brown signed the bill into law in September of 2018, and its provisions went into effect several months later.
3. Protection and Penalties
By requiring that all installations of garage doors and garage door openers include a battery backup system, the law protects consumers from becoming trapped in a garage with no power.
The law mandates penalties for manufacturers and sellers who fail to comply with the new law. Manufacturing, selling or installing a garage door opener without the required battery backup incurs a fine of $1,000 per violation. The law also imposes a $500 fine for any “installed and operational” garage door opener that lacks the required battery backup.
How Do Battery Backups Help With Power Outages?
A battery backup helps with power outages by acting as a failsafe mechanism. In a power outage, as we know, the electronic mechanism of the garage door opener will not work, and the garage door will not open. The battery backup is there to make sure users can still operate the door safely and easily.
1. They Provide an Easy-to-Use Safety Feature
When a garage door opener cannot operate electronically, you can pull the hanging red cord of the device to separate the garage door from its electronic mechanism — a feature that was already required by law. Ideally, you can then open the garage door manually in the event of a power outage.
However, just because the door detaches from its electronic mechanism does not mean it will open easily — or at all. Garage doors, especially double doors with windows, often weigh hundreds of pounds. Many people, especially elderly citizens, children and people with physical disabilities, find a massive garage door impossible to lift. The new bill helps address this problem by requiring a backup system that does not depend on an individual’s body strength.
2. They Provide Backup Protection That Users Can Monitor
Your battery backup contains a few indicators to let you know how the system is functioning. Battery backup openers typically have bright green, yellow and red LED indicators to tell you how much charge the battery has left.
Of course, it’s important to change your backup system’s batteries every couple of years, even if you have not used the garage door opener on battery power. Consult your owner’s manual for specific recommendations on when garage door opener batteries require replacement.
Don’t forget to test your battery backup system so you’ll know how it functions when you need to use it. You can test your battery backup by unplugging your electronic garage door opener and operating the garage door with the battery backup system instead. However, use the battery backup only for short durations — it is intended for situational rather than long-term use. A backup battery system typically supplies extra power for only 24 hours and will lose its charge if used continually.
You may think a backup battery is a wasted feature because you’ll never use it. But backup battery garage door openers are useful in situations beyond emergencies, too.
Power outages occur frequently, for a variety of reasons. The U.S. Energy Information Administration reports that in 2016, Americans experienced an average of 1.3 power outages and went without power for four hours during the year.
Additionally, in 2017, 3,526 power outages affected 36.7 million people across the country — more than double the number of Americans affected in 2016. California is one of the most egregious offenders in this regard. Residents experienced a combined 438 power outages during the year, outdoing the number-two state, Texas, by a staggering 246 outages. Texas only experienced 192 outages total that year. Nationwide, the average power outage lasted for over an hour and 20 minutes.
As you can see, power outages consistently occur in our daily lives, especially in the Golden State. Power outages can be nuisances, but they can also pose risks to safety. For these reasons, it’s beneficial to have and use a battery backup garage door operator. It will save you from the inconvenience of struggling with your garage door manually during a routine power outage, as well as making escape much quicker and easier in an emergency loss of power.
LiftMaster, a company that specializes in garage door opener systems and accessories, offers several different options for garage door opener battery backup systems.
1. 8160WB model
One option is the 8160WB model. This model features built-in Wi-Fi capability, and you can use the myQ app with it. The myQ app offers the convenience of operating your garage door opener directly from your smartphone. You can even set a recurring schedule — for example, to open your garage door automatically at 5:30 on weekdays, right when you get home from work — and get alerts about your opener system on your phone.
Additional features include:
- Sophisticated sensors to protect humans, pets and vehicles by allowing the system to detect obstructions in the pathway of the door and stop the door’s motion.
- A DC motor with a powerful, durable chain drive that offers many quiet openings and closings.
- An industrial-strength chain that won’t rust, corrode or break after a couple of months or years of use.
- A four-year motor warranty and a one-year warranty for the chain and other parts.
In select locations, using the myQ app with this battery backup model allows Amazon Prime to deliver packages securely into your garage, too. That way, your packages won’t be vulnerable to theft by sitting on your front porch. You can schedule and monitor your deliveries via your phone.
2. 8360WLB model
Another option is the 8360WLB model. Like the previous model, this battery backup garage door opener comes with Wi-Fi capabilities, meaning you can control your garage door from your phone using the myQ app. In certain locations, you can use the app to schedule and track Amazon Prime deliveries as well.
You’ll also find the following features with the 8360WLB:
- A durable chain drive that can withstand many opening and closing cycles without requiring maintenance or replacement.
- A quiet DC motor with smooth starts and stops.
- Safety sensors that prevent the door from closing when people, pets or objects obstruct its path.
- Compatibility with Automatic Garage Door Locks that will deadbolt the door once it’s closed. You will just need to buy the lock separately.
- Motion-sensor lighting that responds to your entrance and automatically activates the bright LED for added convenience and safety.
- A lifetime motor warranty and a one-year warranty for the chain and other parts.
3. 8500W model
The 8500W model is part of LiftMaster’s elite series. Unlike other models LiftMaster offers, this style of opener mounts to the garage wall rather than overhead. This innovative design frees up overhead space, so you can more easily hang tools, bicycles and other odds and ends in your garage. A wall-mounted garage door opener also reduces the noise and vibrations you hear and feel when the garage door opens and closes.
With this model you’ll also get:
- Wi-Fi capability, and in select locations, compatibility with Amazon Prime deliveries through the myQ app.
- Automatic garage door locks that will deadbolt the door once it’s closed.
- Safety sensors that prevent the door from closing on people, pets and objects.
- A 1,500-lumen Wi-Fi controlled LED light that can be turned on or off with your phone.
- Motion sensors that activate the lights when you walk into the garage.
- A timer feature that will close your garage door at a set time.
- A lifetime motor warranty, a five-year parts warranty and a one-year warranty for the battery and remote control.
4. 8550W and 88550WLB
The 8550W and 8550WLB models also form part of LiftMaster’s elite series. These models of battery backup garage door openers use belt drive systems rather than chains for whisper-soft operation.
These models also feature:
- Wi-Fi compatibility
- The ability to schedule, track and receive Amazon Prime packages securely through the myQ app.
- Compatibility with automatic garage door locks for enhanced security
- Soft starting and stopping operations that keep repair and replacement costs to a minimum.
- A timer feature to schedule when you want the door to close.
- A lifetime motor warranty, a five-year parts warranty and a one-year warranty for the battery and remote control.
- A lifetime belt warranty, so you won’t wear out the softer belt in a few years and need to pay for a replacement.
The WLED model also offers a nearly silent belt drive rather than a chain drive. As its name suggests, it stands out among automatic garage door openers by offering brilliant LED lighting of 3,100 lumens for a dazzlingly illuminated garage.
With this model, you’ll also get:
- Wi-Fi compatibility.
- Ability to schedule Amazon Prime deliveries with the myQ app.
- Automatic garage door lock compatibility.
- Motion-sensor lighting.
- Security sensors that prevent the door from closing when an obstruction is in the way.
- Timer features so you can decide when your garage door closes.
- Soft starting and stopping operations that are also featured in other LiftMaster battery backup garage door opener models.
- A lifetime motor and belt warranty, a five-year parts warranty, a five-year LED warranty and a one-year warranty for the battery and remote control.
Protect Yourself With a Battery Backup Garage Door Opener From Door Pros
Garage doors in Sacramento, San Mateo, Marin County and San Francisco all have one thing in common: New doors and openers now need battery backups.
Opening your garage door in a power outage shouldn’t be difficult. Make your home safer and comply with the new California garage door opener law by investing in a garage door opener with a battery backup system. These systems do more than just comply with regulations. They give you the peace of mind that comes from knowing you’ll never become trapped in your home because of a garage door that won’t budge when the power shuts off.
Door Pros is proud to offer knowledgeable, friendly customer service and years of expertise in the garage door business. We promise superior product performance, quick, professional service and 24-hour availability to our customers. We want to help you get the battery backup garage door opener that best fits your home and will keep you protected for years to come. Contact us today to get a LiftMaster battery backup for your garage, or use our online tool to find a dealer near you. Contact Door Pros at 800-983-2608