A garage door could be the largest moving object in a home and can weigh up to 400 pounds. It can pose safety issues unless it is well maintained and kept in good condition.
Overhead garage doors work against gravity. Older garage doors may employ a weight and pulley system to balance the weight of the door; almost all modern systems use springs. Regardless of the method used, the door should balance. If a garage door is opened about half way and let go, it should balance. The most likely, and dangerous, failure mechanism is spring failure, although safety requirements are now common.
The springs used to balance the weight of the door are under great stress. A spring is an energy storage device, and, when it is compressed, substantial potential energy is captured. If a spring were to break, metal can break, be sent flying and could cause serious injury. Modern spring systems incorporate safety features in the event of a spring failure. For example, extension springs should have a cable running down the middle of the spring to contain the spring upon failure. Springs should be kept in good condition and inspected by a reputable garage door service periodically.
Automatic door openers do not replace a properly balanced door. The opener is not powerful enough to lift the entire weight of the door. The opener works with the help of the springs or counter balance system. An automatic garage door opener should stop and reverse on meeting an obstruction.
Many systems manufactured prior to 1982 may stop but not reverse. These older systems should be upgraded. Some form of external entrapment protection is now required. An electric eye is the most common system used.
An emergency release is a necessary safety feature. During a power failure, the garage door may be impossible to open. Since 1982, automatic garage door openers have an emergency release to disengage the garage door from the opener. Once disengaged, the door can be opened by hand. The homeowner should know where this and how to operate it. It is usually a short rope hanging from the unit. Pulling the rope disengages the door from the automatic door opening mechanism.
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