The garage door is usually the heaviest moving object in your home and technical failure or breakdown can lead to a disaster, therefore, safety is of the utmost importance for any home. A garage door has many moving parts that all must work in unison in order to be effective, and a single fault in one of these garage door parts can compromise the entire system. Though experienced garage door repairman can effectively repair any faulty components, it is important to have a garage door that is safe in the first place, in terms of its design and features.
Seeing as a garage door can weigh several hundred pounds, safety standards are strictly enforced. A several-hundred-pound deadweight crashing to the ground could have serious consequences for your home, family, or vehicle. In the ‘80s and early ‘90s, there were 54 deaths and 37 serious injuries incurred by young children due to garage doors with inadequate safety measures installed. Though this is a fairly modest figure for a 10-year timespan, the ideal amount of child deaths is zero. For these reasons, UL325 safety measures for moving garage doors, gates, and other similar systems have been enforced and regularly updated. All licensed garage door repair specialists and manufacturers are aware of these measures, and reliable ones will comply with them.
What is UL325?
UL325 is a safety protocol enforced by UL (Underwriters Laboratories) that relates to garage doors and other similar products. UL is a safety standards company that specializes in product testing and certification, ensuring that commercial products are safe enough to be sold to the public. UL-compliant products must therefore undergo rigorous testing and must meet strict safety standards. Although UL standards are not legal requirements and are not obligatory, most manufacturers seek to bear the UL logo as it represents a recognizable certificate of safety and authenticity for consumers. It also means that their products are safe!
Underwriters Laboratories is considered the leader in the safety certification field, though other similar companies (such as ETL) do exist too. UL has no skin in the game when it comes to garage door safety, meaning that they can provide objective and unbiased reviews of products. Although UL-compliance is voluntary, many local building and architecture companies can request that components of their projects be UL-compliant.
UL standards can also be enforced via laws, even though they are not laws themselves. For example, a state or county could theoretically enforce a law that demands that all garage doors are UL-compliant (i.e. meet the UL325 standards). Some states even prohibit the repair of garage doors that were constructed before (or in spite of) the UL325 standards, demanding that the door is replaced with a UL325-compliant one instead.
UL325 (in its full definition) is the “Standard for Safety for Door, Drapery, Gate, Louver, and Window Operators and Systems”. To be more specific, UL325 applies to electric operators for doors, draperies, gates, louvers, and windows (as well as any other opening and closing appliances) that are rated at 600 volts or less.
The latest version of the UL325 went into effect as of March, 2000, though additional provisions regarding wireless technology were added in 2011. UL claims that its latest UL325 guidelines are designed to certify the general safety of the aforementioned products, as well as to address fire safety, electrical safety, and the general safety of the public. Furthermore, the latest UL325 guidelines are designed to cover the installation of products under the requirements of the National Electrical Code, and ensure that all products are able to be adequately tested for their safety when it is deemed necessary. Products that wish to carry a UL325 safety certification must meet several criteria.
How does a residential garage door meet the UL325 standards?
Though the UL325 standards are a large, complex, and multifaceted list of requirements that pertain to several different types of doors and systems, we can simplify them down a bit when it comes to residential garage doors. Garage door repair and installation specialists must be fully aware of these standards, as well as any citizen who wishes to install or repair their own garage door. As well as the door being generally robust and properly installed, the garage door must meet the following standards:
Inherent entrapment protection
Inherent entrapment protection must exist as a primary form of entrapment protection. This means that sensors (RPM sensors) must be fitted that cause the door to reverse if it comes into contact with an obstruction when closing. The RPM sensors sense that the motor is slowing down or struggling to close the door (due to an obstruction) and therefore automatically reverse the door away from the obstruction.
Secondary entrapment protection
This is in addition to the primary entrapment protection. Secondary entrapment protection usually takes the form of photo-electric eye sensors or garage door safety eyes that detect obstructions in the door’s path before it closes in the first place. Any object in the garage door’s path that is around 6 inches or taller should cause the door to refuse to close, as an obstruction has been detected. Anything shorter than 6 inches may not be detected by the photo-electric eye sensors but should be detected by the RPM sensor when the door is unable to fully close, causing it to reverse back up.
Manual release cord
A manual release cord must be fitted. This cord usually hangs down from the rail of your garage door opener system, and pulling on the cord allows you to disconnect the door from the motor in the event of an emergency. Bear in mind, however, that disconnecting your garage door from its motor could cause it to come crashing down to the ground, especially if your torsion springs are faulty or if you are in need of general garage door repair.
Wireless technology (such as mobile apps etc) that closes and opens your garage door must also meet the aforementioned standards. You cannot use an app or wireless motorize garage door system that will try to “force” a door to close despite an obstruction, for example.
Though we’re oversimplifying the UL325 requirements here, these are the main ones that pertain to modern residential garage door openers and systems. Always be aware of them if you buy a new garage door or have any garage door repair work done in the future.
Has UL325 been effective?
Here is a brief timeline encompassing the history of UL325 and its effect on garage door-related deaths and injuries.
March 1982 – October 1992
Young children under the age of 15 see approximately 8 serious injuries or deaths per year as a result of garage doors that would not stop closing or reverse.
1989 – 1991
DASMA (Door Operator and Remote Controls Manufacturers Association) works with UL and sever other safety organizations to address these garage door-related deaths and injuries. New safety regulations and technology requirements begin to be implemented and proposed.
November 16, 1990
US President George H.W. Bush signs the federal legislation that ensures all garage door openers produced after 1993 must meet the entrapment protection safety standards as dictated in UL325 at the time. (Public Law 101-608, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 1990).
Dec. 31, 1991
The third edition of UL 325 is published, encouraging photo-electric eyes and edge sensors as entrapment-protection devices.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission requires that all residential garage door openers manufactured or otherwise sold in the United States must come preinstalled with entrapment-protection devices, such as photo-electric eyes and sensors.
Today, the number of serious injuries and deaths caused by UL325-compliant garage doors is almost zero. This is a great result that shows the strength and reliability of the UL325 guidelines, with manufacturers and garage door repair specialists continually seeking the coveted UL325 seal of approval.
Where do we go from here?
Garage door safety is inevitably an ongoing battle. Though the UL325 regulations have reduced injuries and deaths to near-zero, technology continues to march on. As more and more people’s homes become “smart” and laced with technology, it will be more important than ever to ensure that Siri, Alexa, or an app on your smartphone doesn’t try to force your garage door closed despite warnings otherwise.
If your door is in need of repair, remember that it’s always best to call out garage door repair specialists. Garage door repair and installation specialists are fully aware of the UL325 guidelines, and having your maintenance or installation performed by qualified professionals ensures that you don’t land yourself in hot water should a garage door-related injury, fatality or vehicle accident come your way! Always hire UL325-compliant garage door repair and installation specialists for any garage door-related work you are undertaking.