Using Your Garage Door During a Power Outage

Power outages happen in all areas of the world, no matter what the weather is usually like. Almost everyone has experienced one at one time or another, be it due to a thunderstorm, rolling blackout, or a blown fuse that ends up affecting the entire street. The last time it happened to you, maybe you were coming home from an exhausting day at work. Maybe it was a family trip when everyone was ready to get home and comfortable, or maybe you were already cooped up inside with a gaggle of rowdy children ready to get outside for some fun… No matter the situation, a power outage is a source of frustration and a wrench thrown in the day that no one wants to have to deal with.

Houses with garage doors. Thunder and strike storm

Turning No Power into No Problem

If you’ve never been in a power outage, however, while needing to use your garage door, you might not even think twice about that being a problem. However, the first time it happens to you will be very unpleasantly surprised. You could have your car stuck inside the garage making you late for work, delayed on the way to an urgent care appointment with a sick kiddo, or headed to the airport for a flight that leaves in a couple of hours. You won’t be able to just throw your hands up and say, “no worries”.

The world doesn’t stop turning when the power goes out, so you need to take power back into your own hands and know how to manually open your garage door (from the inside or the outside). That way, you won’t ever be stuck in a mindset that struggles for a solution.

This “How To” guide could literally—or figuratively—save your life.

Your garage door stops working during a power outage because the tracks are linked to an automatic garage door opener. This prevents it from moving without electricity. We’ll show you how to solve the issue.

Before You Start… Start Here

The first thing you’ll need to do when the power goes out and you need to open your garage is to clear it of all living things: children and pets included. You should be the only one there, with maybe another adult for assistance if one is available.

Be Careful!

Remember. The springs holding your garage door in place are under a great deal of pressure—just like your boss or spouse can be under a lot of figurative pressure and “lose it” over the smallest frustration. You’ll want to make sure you aren’t in the way if your garage door springs open in a way you aren’t prepared for.

Unplug Your Garage Door Opener

Funny picture: Someone who seemed to have received an electrical shock

We know, we know… there isn’t any power! But think about what could happen if it unexpectedly comes back on in the middle of your job! Getting electrocuted on top of everything else would not make anyone’s day easier, trust us.

Let the Light Shine

Odds are this could happen during evening, nighttime, or early morning hours. Times when there isn’t any natural light shining into your garage (and we all know most garages don’t have very large windows, anyway). If your power is out, that means the garage lights won’t be working either. Always keep a flashlight handy, so that way you have light to work with. Consider purchasing a headlamp, so your hands are free to do the important work! Keep one or both of these in an easily accessible place in the garage, so you always know where they are when the time comes.

A picture of Brightest Headlamp, Super Bright 18000 Lumen 6 LED Work Headlight With Red Warning Lihgt 8 Modes Rechargeable Waterproof Flashlight

No one wants to be running all over the house, searching through messy drawers and closets in the middle of an emergency. This will waste precious time and energy that you need to be using to focus on getting out of your garage.

If you need additional tips to prepare your home for an extended power outage, visit this Consumer Reports blog.

How to Manually Open Your Garage Door from the Inside

Memorize these 5 steps or keep them handy for when you’re stuck in this situation.

Image of closed garage door from the inside

Step 1 – Make Sure Your Door is Closed

We know… if your door was open you wouldn’t need this advice! However, if you disconnect your garage door opener from your garage door when it is even partially open it could be extremely dangerous.

If, for example, you’re struggling to open your garage but a power outage isn’t the problem, it could be because of a poorly balanced or broken spring.

If you release the garage door opener when your door is open, the entire weight of the door could come crashing down onto your body. And would result in serious injury that would be difficult, if not impossible to recover from.

If your garage is stuck in a partly open position, don’t try to fix it yourself but contact a garage door expert first.

Another simple—yet important—point, is to not try to manually fix the door unless you absolutely must. If you have the time, just wait, and see if the power will come back on. Or think about other options. Do you have a second car, or can you call a transportation service? These might be easier than manually fixing your door without light and in a stressful time. Most power outages don’t last long enough to warrant the work necessary to unhook and reassemble power from your garage door.

Step 2 – Find the Bypass Handle

If your garage was made sometime within the modern age, there should be a rope that hangs down near the rail running from your opener to the door. (Note: Don’t look on the garage door tracks, but on the opener rails.)

Image of a garage door opener bypass release handle

When the door is closed, this handle should be near the actual garage door. Usually, the handle is red—red for emergency!

Step 3 – Pull the Cord for Emergency Release

The opener trolley is connected both to your door and to the opener monitor. When you open or close your garage using electricity, the trolley moves. When you pull the red emergency cord, it will disable the trolley operation system that normally moves the door.

One of our garage door installer testing the emergency release cord

Once the trolley is no longer connected, slide it back a couple of inches away from the door.

Step 4 – Find the Lifting Handle and Lift the Door Up

This step should seem fairly self-explanatory: use the manual lifting handle (usually on one of the two bottom panels) and lift the door all the way up. If the spring system on your garage is appropriately balanced, this should be relatively effortless. Even if you have double garage door!

If it seems heavy or as if you need more than one person to lift the door, stop! You might have a bigger problem than the power outage on your hands. Carefully close the door (if you’ve opened it at all), step away, and make sure no one comes into the garage until you have had the mechanisms inspected and repaired. Or until maintenance has been done.

Call your local garage specialists as soon as possible; a door that’s too heavy to lift once it’s been disconnected from power is a sign that one or more of the springs are broken or not functioning properly. Usually, springs last between five and seven years, so it might be time for a replacement.

Most people, if asked, would tell you that the garage door openers do the work of lifting. However, most people would be wrong. The garage door springs are actually what lift and lower the door.

Physics and Functioning of Doors and Springs

Let’s break this down. If your garage door is 300 lbs., then the torsion springs connected to it need to exert 300 lbs. of force to make opening and closing the door easy. This is a huge amount of force, meaning that the torsion springs are under a large amount of pressure.

If the springs aren’t functioning the way that they should, your opener—you, if you’ve disconnected from power—will have to assume to force of that weight. When the springs aren’t doing their job of counterbalancing the weight, chances are that the opener isn’t strong enough to do it either. As the springs weren't designed with that capacity in mind.

Step 5 – Reconnect the Door to Power

If you achieved Step 4 without coming across faulty springs—whew!

Once the power comes back on and you are ready to hook it back up to power, the process is quick and easy.

First, make sure the door is closed. (Remember that part?) Then, pull on the red emergency release handle with a broom handle. Lastly, lift the door with your hands until you feel it connect again.

To reconnect the trolley to the garage door opener, all you must do is run the opener cycle completely, all the way up and down. When the trolley and carriage cross paths, there will be an audible click, meaning that they are connected, and you can use your door with power once again.

How to Get Your Garage Door Open without Power—From the Outside

If your garage isn’t equipped with an access door, it’s highly recommended that you install an outside quick release. Otherwise, you can only get in and out of your garage through one door, and that’s a huge fire hazard as well as being quite impractical.

Picture of an Outside quick release 1702LM

Follow these steps to open your garage door from the outside manually.

  1. Find the outside quick release (if you have one) and insert the key into the socket.
  2. Turn and pull the tumbler out of the lock, engaging the release mechanism on the opener carriage.
  3. Lift the door until it stops moving.
  4. Bring your car inside and manually bring the door down.
  5. Engage the release mechanism again by pushing the lever upward with a broom handle. This can also be done by pulling the release cord upward (toward the motor or door) until you hear a click.
  6. Make sure that you have another access point into your home before you leave the garage.

Want to Avoid All This Hassle? Get in and Out Easily—Even Without Power

All of this may feel overwhelming. You may know that getting maintenance on your garage door is going to be more of a pain than it’s worth because it’s old or malfunctioning. It may be time to explore a different option for a garage door opener.

Picture of an included battery backup 485LM

Advances in technology have created garage door openers with a battery backup that can be used without power. You won’t ever have to worry about a power outage again!

There are many brands and types of garage door openers for you to choose from depending on your needs and wants.

If your smartphone is like a third hand for you, and if you also like to save time and control all aspects of your life through the apps on your phone, then the new LiftMaster might be the brand for you!

LiftMaster, by Chamberlain, has continued to improve its products year after year, and now their garage door openers can connect to Wi-Fi. The MyQ technology that is built into most LiftMaster machines means that you can completely control your opener from any phone or tablet.

An image of a MyQ alert sent on a smart phone

If you have this machine and app installed, you will get alerts that look like this.

Model 87504-267 of the LiftMaster even has an integrated camera that has capabilities for two-way audio. When you have this technology installed, you’ll be able to not only see every movement around your garage door but have a conversation with those people. It also is the quietest model in their line.

What you can see on your smart phone when you have an integrated camera on your garage door opener

If, however, you don’t feel the need to have a camera installed around your garage LiftMaster's 87802 automatic openers will probably fit the bill. It still comes with the MyQ app to monitor and open/close your garage door from your phone, and it will send you alerts and notifications. This machine comes with a battery backup, too, obviously.

If your garage ceiling is low, cathedral-style, has an obstructing beam, or if you want to keep the ceiling free for storage, then the LiftMaster 8500W might be for you!

A picture of a wall-mounted LiftMaster 8500W with included side lock 841LM and LED light 827LM

This wall-mounted garage opener optimizes the ceiling space in your garage since you mount it on the sidewall. It mounts easily on either side next to the garage door.

It also comes with essential features, such as Wi-Fi accessibility, the MyQ app, as well as a battery backup, and an automatic garage door lock.

Looking for More Assistance?

If you want more help choosing your perfect garage door opener, you can contact your local experts. Helping families find their perfect system is our passion and area of expertise, and we have been doing this for years. We offer free quotes and maintenance checkups, too!

Call Hicklin Door Services!

Ames: 515-233-4210

Des Moines: 515-276-3700

If you already own a LiftMaster or Chamberlain system and would just like to outfit it with a backup battery, we can get it done in the blink of an eye.

If you’d like to upgrade your automatic garage door opener for one that is quieter and/or high-tech, we can help you find the perfect choice that fits your budget.

If you think it’s time for an entire garage overhaul and would also love a new door, we can help you there, as well!

These garage doors are Princeton P 12, in 9'x7' size, doors and overlays in Ice White Color, 8 lite Panoramic windows. Perfect for the farmhouse and the modern farmhouse styles!

If you like the look of these doors, you’ll want the Princeton P‑12 Design. The doors and overlays are in Ice White with eight Lite Panoramic windows. These doors are just the ticket if you’re going for a farmhouse style!

Use our guide to help you choose from 3 styles of garage doors to freshen up the outside of your home and boost your curb appeal. You can also look through our album of photos for more inspiration. Then, you can use our Design Centre (which works on phones, too!) to build your custom garage door with a few taps of your finger. Make it your own: change colors, window designs, or decorative hardware! You can even put these designs on the front of your own garage to see how they look—virtually, of course.

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