Lawmakers in California recently passed Senate Bill 969, a law requiring all garage door openers to be equipped with a battery backup system in the event that a home’s power goes down. The new California garage door opener battery backup law is said to save people from becoming trapped inside their houses when there is a power cut, making it easier for them to get out in the event of an emergency.
The California garage door opener law was proposed by California senator Bill Dodd, and was named “Senate Bill 969”. The new law will come into effect on July 1, 2019, with several notable manufacturers such as Chamberlain, Liftmaster, Genie and Marantec now scrambling to make sure that their newly-produced garage door opener models are all installed with adequate battery backup in line with the new law.
According to the bill’s legislative counsel digest, there could be strict fines in place for people who do not follow the new California garage door opener battery backup law, with Senate Bill 969 stating:
This bill, beginning July 1, 2019, would [now] require an automatic garage door opener that is manufactured for sale, sold, offered for sale, or installed in a residence to have a battery backup function that is designed to operate when activated because of an electrical outage”.
The bill would make a violation of those provisions subject to a civil penalty of $1,000. The bill would, on and after July 1, 2019, prohibit a replacement residential garage door from being installed in a manner that connects the door to an existing garage door opener that does not meet the requirements of these provisions”.
So this means that for any homeowner who uses our garage door repair service and requests that we replace their garage door and/or automatic unit, after July 1st, we would be forced to install a new garage door opener which comes with the battery backup solution, enforced in the bill. Although this may initially make garage door openers more expensive to purchase, the additional safety that Senate Bill 969 brings is maybe worth the additional price. After all, a decent garage door opener can add a lot of value to your home!
Why California Garage Door Opener Law is coming into force?
The recent October wildfires claimed many people’s lives in Los Angeles and California, although many of these deaths could have been prevented. You see, as the fires burned down people’s homes, some people became unable to leave their house via the normal doorways due to intense heat and flames. As a result, many people headed to their garage to try and escape the fire via their garage door, but the wildfires caused widespread power cuts which caused the garage door opener to stop working while some homeowners and residents didn’t know how to use the opener emergency release cord or door was too heavy for them to operate manually.
At least 5 people’s remains were found in their garages following the fires, with the victims unable to escape from any entrance of their house. If their garage door opener had been working due to battery backup, this could have all been prevented and there could be 5 more people enjoying their lives in the California sun today. Senator Dodd, from D-Napa, commented on the matter in the Times Herald Online:
With the looming threat of more wildfires, we must do everything possible to keep people safe. Requiring backup batteries on garage door openers will save lives and ensure no one is left vulnerable.”
In addition to serving the people of his community, Senate Bill 969 has been somewhat personal for the senator, as he realized the fragility of the garage door situation when he was forced to evacuate his own Napa home during the October fires. While evacuating his house, he found that he could not open his heavy garage door and the power had gone out, so the opener motor wouldn’t work. While Senator Dodd acknowledges that most models of garage door can be manually disconnected and slid open manually, this is not always realistic for people with certain medical conditions and bodily states. For example, seniors and people with disabilities may find it extremely difficult to reach the manual levers of a garage door, and may find it hard to use enough strength to actually release the door and open it manually.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Senate Bill 969 passed the Assembly, winning by 53 to 6 on the vote. The bill was signed into law by California Governor Jerry Brown, who was commended for his dedication to safeguarding California residents during turbulent circumstances. The Consumer Federation of California supports the new California garage door opener law, in addition to many well-known garage door manufacturers.
One Santa Rosa resident named Cheryl Diehm, who was stuck in her Oakmont garage during the October wildfires, testified before lawmakers that she believes in the law due to her own personal near-death experience. Diehm did not mince her words when she addressed the lawmakers:
Thanks to Senator Dodd, we have a common-sense solution to what we discovered in October to be a widespread problem. Make no mistake — this legislation will help save lives.”
Potential problems with Senate Bill 969
Although voting for more safety is always a no brainer, the new California garage door opener battery backup law has not been without its critics. While these people obviously do not want to jeopardize the safety of local residents, many critics claim that this could lead to expensive legal compliance problems for both garage door opener manufacturers and homeowners who are soon to replace their garage doors after July 1st. For instance, the new law virtually bans all AC motors. This is because battery backup systems are only available on DC motors, and DC motors are not ideal for many types of garage door. For instance, heavier, fully custom garage doors often require an AC motor to be able to lift them, yet, the new bill effectively outlaws AC motors, meaning that manufacturers will have to get creative if they are to comply with the battery backup laws for their larger doors.
According to DASMA, battery backups are not life-safety equipment as such, stating in a formal opposition to the bill:
Garage door openers with backup batteries are not designed to serve as life safety devices. Battery backup systems require regular maintenance and must be regularly tested and periodically replaced.”
The California Senate itself estimated that the backup batteries need to be replaced every 3 years, meaning that it’s easy for homeowners to quickly forget about their battery backup system and end up with a battery backup system which doesn’t work anyway. Even if homeowners do remember to periodically check and replace their batteries, we could see a huge demand for replacement battery backup packs, costing homeowners in California a lot of money.
For garage door repair companies like ourselves, this means that we’ll be forced to install garage door opener systems which are compliant with the laws after July 1. So, if you need your garage door repairing or replacing after July 1, you may have to pay more if your door isn’t already equipped with a battery backup system. Either way, we plan to help educate people on the dangers of power cuts and garage door openers.
You see, some people have argued that Senate Bill 969 could lead people into a false sense of security, saying that the law “defeats the safety of knowledge” since homeowners may become too reliant on their battery backup and not bother learning how to manually open their garage door in the case that their power is out and their battery backup fails. Nonetheless, this still ignores that fact that some homeowners may not be able-bodied enough to manually open their garage doors despite their knowledge.
Garage door openers in compliance with California Law
There are some garage door opener units which are already compliant with Senate Bill 969, meaning that they already come installed with battery backup. As a garage door repair service, it is our duty to keep you informed about the products you can buy which prioritize your safety and remain compliant with new state laws. Here, we list some of the most common garage door openers on the market which are already compliant with the new bill.
- Liftmaster 8550W
- Liftmaster WLED
- Liftmaster 8360WLB
- Liftmaster 8160WB
- Liftmaster 8500W
If you already have one of these door opener units, then you’re in luck! Simply check the battery and continue using your door as normal if the battery is okay. On the other hand, if your current garage door opener does not come with battery backup, be wary that you will be forced to buy one of these models if you need to replace your unit after July 1st.
Furthermore, there are garage door opener manufacturers who offer external battery backup systems for some of their models. For instance, the Genie company offers battery backup units for their garage door openers, which features a 1-year warranty and can perform for up to 50 cycles 24 hours after a power outage. The European manufacturer, Marantec, also offers Battery Back-Up System for Synergy 360/370/380 Garage Door Openers. The Marantec battery can perform 10-12 operations 24 hours after a power outage and it is the only backup battery system which can keep powering your door opener’s lights when the power is out, making it easier to see what buttons you’re pressing in the darkness.
California Garage Door Opener Law – The bottom line
The new California garage door opener battery backup law is sure to help save the lives of many Californians in the future, although residents should still know how to operate their garage door manually in the event that a backup battery fails at the worst time. As a provider of garage door repair and installation services for Orange County and Los Angeles homeowners, it is our responsibility to ensure that we encourage fire safety and encourage local residents to purchase the garage door opener unit which will best protect them and their family in the event of a power outage or similar deadly event.