If you have ever owned a pet, you know that your dog or cat is actually a member of your family and their loss is painful, in some cases, it can even be traumatic. When that pet’s death could have easily been avoided, the trauma is so much worse as one family in Rouses Point, New York recently discovered.
On September 2018, according to the Press-Republican, Heather Gadway headed out to some grocery shopping on a sunny Saturday afternoon with her 7-year-old son Lukas in tow. Realizing that she had left her sunglasses on her husband’s workbench in the garage, she got out of her car to retrieve it. Earlier that day, she left the garage door open about 8 inches above the ground so the recently washed garage floor could dry. To re-enter the garage and get the forgotten sunglasses, Heather needed to open the garage door. Surprisingly, when she hit the button for the automatic garage door opener, the garage the door didn’t open, instead, it came crashing down right on top of the family’s dog, Brady, killing him immediately, while Heather and her son Lukas watched in horror.
To make matters worse, Heather and her husband, Jamie, discovered that the sensors or garage door safety eyes on their garage door, that were supposed to be installed no more than 6 inches from the garage floor were installed at a height of 16 inches. This means that the safety eyes system would only cause the garage door to reverse if it detected anything higher than that. The sensors system cannot detect anything lower than the safety eyes infrared beam.
The garage door safety eyes are meant to prevent the garage door from closing if something and/or someone is obstructing the path of the door, thus preventing harm to anything, including pets, objects, small children or adults lying on the garage floor. The Gadways discovered that since the top of the sensors were any higher than 6 inches, the sensors did not detect their dog, Brady, that was below the level of the electric eyes infrared beam, and with the Gadways garage door already opened 8 inches, when Heather hit the button, the garage door slammed closed on their dog. An unfortunate garage door tragedy that could have been avoided if the company that had installed the garage door had followed their own garage door safety regulations and the federal legislation guidelines for automatic garage door openers. In addition, had the Gadways known that it is recommended to schedule a regular garage door maintenance by a certified garage door repair company, at least once a year, just to make sure that the garage door system and electric eyes working properly, their beloved pet might still be alive.
Garage Door Openers Safety Features and the Law
Between 1982 and 1992, 54 children between the ages of 2 and 14 were killed by garage doors closing on them. There are no known figures to the number of family pets or the amount of property that was lost or damaged due to those heavy garage doors closing. However, the deaths of those 54 children caused the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to decide that something had to be done to help protect the lives of children, and so they dictated that any garage door opener manufactured after Jan. 1, 1993 conform to the Underwriters Laboratories standard for safety under UL325.
UL325 Standard of Safety for Garage Door Openers
The UL325 Standard of Safety for Garage Door Openers requires that all residential garage doors openers contain one of these safety devices:
- An Electronic eye system that detects anything obstructing the path of the garage door, causing the garage door to reverse to fully open before the door actually touches the object. The top of the sensors is to be placed no higher than 6 inches from the floor and the sensors should be no further apart than 20 feet (with exceptions to the 20 feet rule).
- Door Edge Sensors: Door edge sensors are somewhat like electronic eyes and function like the sensors on elevator doors causing the door to open if an obstruction is detected. This type of sensor works best for sliding garage doors rather those doors that open by rolling up overhead.
- Constant Contact Override Function: In case that the safety eyes system isn’t working properly, this safety feature requires a person who operates that garage door to press and hold the wall console’s button continually, until the door closes completely. If the hold is removed, the garage door backs up. This allows the person who’s operating the automatic garage door to keep an eye if something is obstructing the garage door and release the button if needed.
In addition, all garage door openers feature an entrapment warning sticker that is to be placed near the wall mounted garage door control panel/wall console.
Garage Door Safety Eyes Wrongly Placed Is A Common Garage Door Opener Installation Mistakes
Improperly placed safety sensors are extremely common among people who install their garage door openers themselves, but improper installation can also happen when the garage door opener is installed by a supposed professional company, as the Gadways learned much to their horror. Properly installation of garage door electric eyes requires knowledge of wiring, accurate measurements and adjustments to the electric eyes themselves. No garage door sensor installation should be completed without testing to make sure that proper installation has been accomplished.
For that reason, it is not only recommended that your garage door opener and electric eyes be installed by reputable licensed garage door repair technician, but that you also query about the installation of the sensors and make sure that the technician actually tested the door after installation is complete.
Things That Can Affect Your Garage Door Opener’s Safety Sensor
Even sensors that are properly installed can fail to function properly. There are a few different things that may affect the way those sensors work:
- Sunlight: Sunlight hitting your garage door electric eyes can damage their lens overtime and fool the system into thinking that there is an obstruction in the way. This results in your garage door reversing and refusing to close. Replacing the electric eyes system or finding a way to shade your sensors from that direct sunlight will fix this sensor problem.
- Garage Door Repairs: Although garage door repairs are necessary to the continued functioning of your garage door, sometimes making those repairs can result in bumping those sensors out of alignment. A good garage door repair technician will check your garage sensors after repairing your garage door. If they don’t test the sensor when they complete the repairs you should ask them to do the testing for you.
Why Testing Your Garage Door Electric Eyes is Important?
You may think that because you don’t have any small children or pets that testing that garage door sensor isn’t really that important, however, you couldn’t be more wrong. Your garage electric eyes not only protect people and animals from injury or worse, it also helps to prevent damage to any possession you leave in the doorway and to the garage door itself. Replacing your possessions or repairing damage to your vehicle and/or garage door can be expensive. In addition, killing a neighbor’s cat who happens to stray onto your property can be a cause of a great deal of stress for you and result in hard feelings with your neighbors.
How to Check Your Garage Door System and Safety Eyes
Under UL325 regulations, it is recommended that consumers check their garage door system once a month and ensure that it is working properly and safely. If you have an older garage door opener manufactured prior to Jan. 1, 1993 and doesn’t feature safety eyes system, the following tests are irrelevant, otherwise, here are some steps you should follow in order to check the safety of your garage door and electric eyes:
- Height Check: Once the garage door and/or garage door opener installed, you should take the time to measure the height of its sensors to make sure it is 6 inches off the floor, no more and no less. If the sensors heights are off call the installer and ask to correct the problem.
- Sensor Alignment Check: To check your electric eyes monthly, the first thing you need to do is to look at the sensors. There should be an LED light on the exterior of the sensor. If one of these lights is blinking or off, it means that your sensors are out of alignment. If that is the case, you need to get your electric eyes properly realigned. If there are no blinking LED lights, the sensors are properly aligned and you can go on to the next step your safety check.
- The Cardboard Box Test: The cardboard box test is designed to ensure that your electric eyes can detect obstructions in the path of your garage door and the door is reversing properly. Place a cardboard box in the path of the garage door just slightly above the safety eyes infrared beam and close your garage door. If the sensor is working properly, the door will reverse right away. If the sensors are not working the box will be crushed, although now days, garage door openers will require the use of the Constant Contact Override function in case there’s a problem with the electric eyes system.
Troubleshooting tip: if the garage door won’t close, even when there’s nothing blocking the electric eyes, clean both sensor’s lens since dirt, dust and cobwebs may blind the electric eyes. If the garage door still won’t close, the electric eyes may be out of alignment and/or the RPM sensor may be faulty and it is time to call in a professional garage door repair company to inspect your garage door system, its safety eyes and to make any necessary repairs.
Here at Champion Garage Door Repair we offer regular garage door safety inspections, maintenance and repairs to keep your garage door and garage door electric eyes functioning right. Whether you are looking to have a garage door opener installed, or in need of an emergency garage door repair service, we stand ready to get you up and running again. As qualified garage door technicians, we take your safety and security seriously and have the training, experience and skills to perform our job right. As part of our qualifications, when installing a garage door safety eyes system, we make sure that we accurately measure the height of as well as make any necessary adjustments to ensure that you, your home and family are safe.