Opening Your Garage Door When the Power’s Out: A How-To Guide for Homeowners

Power outages happen no matter where you might live. We’ve all experienced them before. There are few things as stressful – coming home to a house with no lights or waking up to the fact that you’ve overslept because with no power your alarm clock doesn’t work. And being without electricity has implications for just about every area of our lives, and that includes something as seemingly simple as getting out of the house.

Houses with garage doors. Thunder and strike storm

Chances are good that you don’t really think much about getting out of your garage. You press the button, and the door opens. Another press and it closes. However, that’s only possible when the power is on. Throw an outage into the equation and things become much more challenging. Just how are you supposed to get the door open if the power’s out and the opener doesn’t work?

Whether you need to get to work or you have a medical emergency and need to rush to the ER, it’s important to know how to get out of the garage. In this guide, we’ll explore what you need to know about opening the garage door when the power is out.

Don’t Let a Lack of Power Be a Problem

There’s one reason why you can’t open your garage door when the power is off. The door is directly linked to the automatic garage door opener. With the power out, the opener won’t work and the door won’t move. With that said, there are things you can do. No power doesn’t have to be a problem.

Safety – Your #1 Rule

Before you do anything, make sure there’s no one else in the garage. That includes your pets. You need to go solo on this project.

Caution, Caution, Caution

Remember, your garage door springs are compressed and that means they’re under incredible pressure. A single mistake here could have major ramifications.

Unplug the Opener

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

Why should you bother unplugging your garage door opener? After all, the power is out, so you should have no worries, right? Wrong.

How long do you think it will take you to complete the process we’re going to outline below? While it’s not lengthy, there are many reasons that it might take longer than you estimate. And what happens if you’re halfway through and the power comes back on? The garage door opener comes back to life and you’re either hit in the face with a loose trolley or shocked by electricity. Neither is a desirable outcome, so go ahead and unplug the opener.

Let there be light!

Without power, there’s no light and your garage is dim even at the best of times. We highly recommend having portable lights on hand. Yes, you can go the route of a flashlight, but we think that an LED headlamp is even better.

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

We really recommend that you have a headlamp dedicated to the garage. That way, you don’t have to worry about wasting time searching through junk drawers. You can just grab your lamp and get to work.

Interested in further prep and safety tips to help protect yourself, your family, and your home? Check out these great tips from Consumer Reports.

Opening Your Garage Door: Working the Interior Mechanism

1. Make sure the garage door is closed

Yes, it should be obvious that if you’re trying to open the garage door, it must be closed in the first place. However, this process can be used in other situations, so if you’re going to try to manually move your door, always start with it closed.

Image of closed garage door from the inside

Why keep it closed? Trying to disconnect the door from the opener with it open is a dangerous decision.

For instance, suppose your power is on. You press the open button on the opener, but the door doesn’t move. One likely issue is that the door is out of balance. Another is that a spring is broken.

Disconnecting the garage door and opener when the door is up could allow the door to crash down on you, causing serious injury or even death.

As you can see, you should always start with the door closed. Also, if you find that your garage door is stuck in open, you should stop what you’re doing and contact a garage door specialists right away.

Here’s something else you might not have thought about:

Wait a few minutes before you try to manually open your garage door. Have patience and see what happens in the next 15 to 20 minutes.

In most cases, power outages are very transitory. They might last five minutes or an hour, but they rarely last long enough to be real problems. Of course, there are obvious exceptions to that statement, but if you don’t urgently need to get your car out of the garage, the best advice is to sit tight and be patient.

2. Find the handle/cord.

With modern garage doors, there is an emergency release handle and cord. It should be located in front of the garage door opener on the end of the trolley (not the tracks that the door rides up and down on).

With the door closed, look near the door itself for the cord/handle. It moves back and forth as the door opens and closes.

Image of a garage door opener bypass release handle

The handle and cord are both red so that they’re more visible during an emergency.

3. Pull the cord.

Once you’ve located the cord/handle, pull it. This will disable the trolley operator, which effectively disconnects the trolley/door/door opener.

One of our garage door installer testing the emergency release cord

Always move the trolley a few inches back from the door after disconnecting it.

4. Find the handle on the door and lift.

Locate the manual handle on your garage door. Chances are good that it’s mounted down low near the ground in the middle of the door. However, some models have the handle installed higher up the door.

In a well‑balanced system, you should be able to lift your door quite easily with just one hand. That’s true whether you have a single door (9 x 7 feet) or a double garage door (16 x 7 ft.).

Do you have to strain to lift the door? Does the door not move at all? Stop what you’re doing and back away from the door.

If the door raised a little, lower it with care. Then leave it alone. Make sure that no one else goes near it or tries to open it. Immediately have your door checked. It will either need maintenance or repair.

Get in touch with your garage door experts right away.

A door that won’t move or feels very heavy is a good sign that you have a spring that’s either stretched out of shape or that has broken. If it has been five to seven years since the door was installed, this is about the time you will start to notice those problems.

It’s tempting to think that the opener is what actually lifts the garage door, but that’s not the case. It’s actually the springs that do all the hard work, not the opener motor.

It’s All about Physics

Your door should weigh 300 lbs. or more. The torsion springs exert an equal amount of force against the door, essentially making it weigh around 10 lbs. Because of that, the springs are under a lot of tension.

How It Works

If the springs are stretched or damaged, something else must take the garage door’s weight. That might be the opener, but if you have it disconnected, it will be your body. Neither you nor the opener is designed for that kind of impact.

5. Reconnect everything.

Were you able to raise the door in the previous step? Great! Pull your car out and go about your business. Then, when the power comes back on, it’s time to put everything back together again. It takes just a few steps to do that.

  1. Close the door.
  2. Use a broom handle to pull the emergency release handle on the door.
  3. Raise the door until you feel/hear it reconnect with the trolley.

Once you’ve done that, just run the opener through a full cycle (one open and one close). Once the carriage and trolley pass each other, they should connect with a loud click.

Opening the Garage Door: Working the Exterior Mechanism

Does your garage not have an exterior access door? In that case, you should really install an outside quick release.

Picture of an Outside quick release 1702LM

Without one of these, the only other option is to go in through the house and open the garage door from the inside. However, with a quick release, you can get easy access to the door and open it manually from outside. This is not just of practical value. It’s an important safety feature in case of a fire or other emergency.

  1. Find the release and insert the key.
  2. Turn the key. You should feel the tumblers engage.
  3. Raise the garage door manually.
  4. Drive inside and close the door manually behind you.
  5. Push up on the release mechanism with a broom handle to re-engage it. You can also do this by pulling the release cord toward the motor until you hear a click as the trolley and chassis re-engage.

A Better Solution: Power Outages Are No Hindrance to Battery Power

Does all of this seem like a pain? Wouldn’t you rather just press a button and get out the door? If it’s time to upgrade your garage door opener, replacing it with a battery-enabled model has a lot of benefits!

Picture of an included battery backup 485LM

Today, you’ll find a wide range of garage door opener models made with a battery backup so that you never need to worry about being stuck if the power is out. There are even models that help you save space in the garage.

You’ll even find that modern LiftMaster garage door openers allow you to open, close, lock, and unlock the door right from your smartphone.

Chamberlain’s LiftMaster brand was one of the first to introduce Wi-Fi operation in garage door openers. Today, you can use the MyQ app with most LiftMaster products, ensuring that you have full control over your garage door from anywhere in the world with an Internet connection.

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

With an integrated camera, you can see everything that goes on.

There’s more than just remote locking/opening! With a model like the LiftMaster 87504-267, you get a built-in camera and even two-way audio capabilities. That means you can see and hear what’s going on, and even communicate with the people in your garage.

Feel like a camera is overkill? No worries! Opt for a model like the LiftMaster 87802 automatic opener. It’s got all the other bases covered.

An image of a MyQ alert sent on a smart phone

Get alerts like this delivered right to your smartphone.

You’ll still get the MyQ app, which is the key to enjoying remote monitoring and open/close capabilities right from your smartphone. You’ll also get real-time alerts and notifications. Oh, and there’s a battery backup so you’re never stuck if the power goes out.

Low ceiling? Want to save space for storage? Consider something different!

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

This is the LiftMaster 8500W. It’s wall-mounted, so it leaves all that space on your ceiling for whatever need you might have. You can install it on either the right or the left side of the door and it comes with all the bells and whistles, including MyQ, Wi-Fi operability, and a battery backup. There’s also an automatic garage door lock for increased peace of mind.

Get a Helping Hand Making Your Choice

Need a helping hand to make the right choice? We’re only a phone call away.

Contact us at 1-800-957-5865.

At All-Mont Garage Doors, we’ve been the leading garage door specialists in the area for decades, and we’re passionate about helping our customers find the perfect solution for their needs. Whether you need to maintain your existing opener or you want to explore the wide world of new opener technology, we can help.

We’ll do more than just give you prices on different models out there. We’ll sit down with you and listen to your needs, and then help you compare features and functions to get the right option. We’ll also keep your budget in mind so you can save money, too! It’s that simple. Go ahead and get in touch, or request that we send you a quotation by email. Need a little TLC on your door? Ask us about our checkup service and how it can help ensure that your door’s in great condition.

Is it time for a complete garage door change? We can help you there, too!

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!

Aren’t these gorgeous? These are Princeton P‑12 garage doors, each measuring 9 x 7 feet, and overlays in Ice White, 8 lite Panoramic windows. These work well on traditional architecture and with rustic designs.

Check out our handy style guide and you’ll be on the fast track to choosing the right garage door opener for you. Not enough there? Check out our photo album to see what we’ve been able to achieve for other clients and to provide further inspiration. You should also spend a little bit of time using our mobile-friendly Design Centre. It lets you take a photo of your home and then virtually “try on” garage doors and windows. It’s never been easier to make an informed decision!

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