A Guide for Manually Opening the Garage Door During a Power Outage

At some point in your life, no matter where you live in the grand world, you’ve likely experienced a major power outage at least once. You may have been a child at the time, or you may have come home to a dark house after a long day at work. Even more devastating, you might have come home from a long trip or a vacation to find the power has been out for a few days and all the food in your refrigerator is spoiled. However, you may just have to spend a few hours entertaining yourself and your children until the problem is resolved. In the end, any time you lose power will have consequences, even if those consequences range in severity.

Houses with garage doors. Thunder and strike storm

When you think of these problems though, your first thought of what inconveniences you might encounter during a power outage may not be anywhere near your garage door. However, you should be worried, especially if you have an electric garage door opener. What if the power goes out and you slept in because your alarm wasn’t working—now you’re late for work, and your kids are late for school. You need to get ready in your car fast—but the garage door won’t open!

Opening a garage door is more difficult and more dangerous than you might realize. This how-to can help you out of a stressful situation while teaching you how to safely operate your garage door.

Out of Power? Don’t Worry!

The main reason you can’t open a garage door during a blackout is because the door is linked to the automatic garage door opener. The problem? In a power outage that device isn’t getting the power it needs to function.

What can you do?

Be Safe First!

Before you even start touching that garage door, make sure that everyone except you or another adult is out of the garage.

Use Caution!

Dealing with your garage door manually is dangerous because the springs that raise and lower the door are under immense pressure. Use extreme caution as you begin maneuvering around the door while you work.

First: Unplug the Garage Door Opener

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

Accidents happen, and the last thing you need to be worried about is the power suddenly coming back on while you’re trying to manually open your garage door. Say you're touching something electrical when this happens, and then you’re suddenly electrocuted and need urgent care.

Not to mention, the trolley could suddenly spring to life and permanently injure you!

While it may seem silly to do this step when the power is off, trust us. Don’t take risks with your life and unplug the electric garage door opener before you do anything else.

Get a Good Light Source!

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

It might be dark when the power goes out. And even if it’s daytime, most garages don’t have a lot of natural light sources. Make sure to get a flashlight, or even an LED headlamp for hands-free working, so that you can see what you’re doing.

In general, it’s smart to have a headlamp or flashlight that makes its home in the garage. This makes it easy to find, so long as its conveniently placed when you need to use it.

It’s always more stressful when you’re already busy and rushing, and you need to find something simple like a light source to help get yourself going. In the case of an emergency, you need to get out of your garage and fast. Being prepared by storing one in a secure place in your garage will save time and stress.

If you’re looking for even more tips to help you keep your household prepared for a prolonged power outage, review these Consumer Reports for some more tips.

The Guide: Manually Opening Your Garaged Door from the Inside

Step 1. Is the Garage Door Completely Closed?

This step may seem a little silly. After all, why would you need a guide on opening the door if the door is already open?

Image of closed garage door from the inside

We value your safety. We’ve just told you to disconnect your garage door from the electric opener. If your door is even open a quarter or half of the way, disconnecting it can become extremely dangerous.

You may just be concerned about your door and are looking at how to open it even though you’re not experiencing a power outage (we hope this guide helps you!), but your door may not be opening because the door is off-balance or a spring is broken.

If this is the case, should you disconnect the garage door from the opener, the whole door could slam down, crushing whatever lies underneath it. If you notice that your garage door is having issues opening and closing, it’s best not to mess with it yourself. Instead, contact a garage door specialist to take care of the problem.

Another simple but often glossed-over tip will be covered next.

If You’re Not in an Emergency, Just Wait.

The vast majority of power outages are brief. Often not even long enough to complete this whole disconnection and reconnection process.

Avoid a lot of stress or accidentally breaking your garage door by not messing with it. Be calm, contact your work if you can, and explain why you might be late or take a family member’s car out. If you start this process, you shouldn’t underestimate the amount of work it will take. Only take this task on if you really have to.

Step 2. Find the Bypass Handle

If you have a modern garage door with an operator (that most homes will be equipped with), you should see a rope that hangs near the door opener rails. Not those directly on the door, but those above you.

When the door is closed the handle should be near the garage door.

Image of a garage door opener bypass release handle

Notice: Most handles are red, so they are easily recognizable in times of emergency.

Step 3. Pull the Cord

The trolley, the hardware that would usually open and close the door electrically, is connected to BOTH the garage door and the opening systems motor. By taking hold of and pulling the attached emergency cord, you will be disabling the trolley operator.

One of our garage door installer testing the emergency release cord

Once the cord has been pulled and the trolley disconnected, slide the cord back a few itches, being sure to pull away from the door.

Step 4. Find the Lift Handle and Raise the Door

The handle you’ll use to manually lift the door should be at the bottom of the door, near the center. Though sometimes they’re placed higher. Look near the man's feet in the picture to see an example.

This is the stage you’ll know if you have a well‑balanced door. This means the door will be easy to lift with 1 hand no matter the size. It should be easy, even if you have a double garage door (around 14’ x 7’ft.).

If the door seems heavy and hard to lift, STOP RIGHT THERE!

Your problems are bigger than having no power.

If you’ve been able to open it all, carefully close the garage door. Step away and firmly ensure that everyone stays well away from the garage. Keep clear of the door until you can get in contact with a service person to get it properly repaired or so that you can undergo necessary maintenance.

It's Time to Call a Local Maintenance Person

If it won’t open smoothly, you have a broken spring on your hands. This happens naturally after about 5-7 years but is a problem that shouldn’t be handled by a layperson.

You may think this isn’t a big deal. Well, let’s dive into why your springs are so important and why you should handle your garage door carefully if you suspect that a spring has come to an end of its useful life.

The Physics Behind Garage Doors

Your garage door likely weighs at least 300lbs. That means your springs, which are responsible for moving the door, need to exert a force equal to 3000lbs to get the door moving easily. That’s why it should be simple to open the door manually because the springs are doing all the heavy lifting.

However, this also means that the door is always under an extreme amount of pressure that could be dangerous if it falls on you, a loved one, or a pet.

Broken Springs Mean a Broken Door

While you may be able to heave the door up if you're strong enough, your garage door was not designed to be opened without the springs acting as a counterbalance to the weight of the door. So, it won’t stay open or will misbehave in other ways.

Plus, in this condition, there is no way your electric door motor could handle the weight of the door. It won’t open the door, even if the power does come back on.

Step 5. Reconnecting the Garage Door Opener

So, you had no issues in Step 4! Great!

When the power comes back on, you’re ready to reconnect your garage door opener to the power. You’ll have to reset the system, but the entire process isn’t too challenging.

Follow these steps:

  1. Ensure the garage door is closed.
  2. Take the end of a broom handle and use it to pull on the red emergency release handle.
  3. Start to manually open the garage door. Wait until you feel or hear the mechanism click into place and then stop.

To complete the reconnection, just do a simple run of the opening cycle. Take the door all the way up with the electric opener, and then close it to ensure the process completes. You should hear a loud click—you won’t miss it. After this, you should have successfully connected the door. It can open normally once more.

The Guide: Manually Opening a Garage Door from the Outside

Sometimes, garages don’t have an extra door to access the room with. In this case, you should be prepared for a power outage. We highly recommend that you get and install an outside quick release.

Picture of an Outside quick release 1702LM

It’s impractical not having more than one entrance to a garage, not to mention dangerous in case of a fire or if toxic gasses build up in the room. But each household is different.

If you have a quick release, here’s how you’ll open your garage door from the outside:

  1. Find the location of your quick release and find the right key to insert.
  2. Once inserted, turn the key, and pull out the lock tumbler. This will be what engages the release mechanism.
  3. Take hold of the door and assist it manually until it can no longer move.
  4. Put the vehicle into the garage, then close the door manually.
  5. To re-engage the opening mechanism, push on the lever with a broom handle. Or use the same release cord method described earlier.
  6. Be sure you have everything you need before leaving (and that you have your keys).

Do You Want a Better Solution?

Don’t let a power outage get you down. Instead, here’s a way to get through your garage door with no hassle, even when the power is out.

Instead of doing all this work, think about getting a new garage door opener. Yours might be old or already in need of maintenance. This could be a good time to update your system entirely.

Picture of an included battery backup 485LM

Take your garage into the 21st century. Get a garage door opener that includes a battery backup.

When you’re looking at garage door openers, there are a lot of models that can suit a variety of needs.

Make your life convenient by connecting your garage to your smart phone!

One of the leaders in the garage door opening market, LiftMaster, by Chamberlain, has been making massive improvements to their equipment over the last few years. Now their advanced door opening equipment can even connect to Wi-Fi! With patented MyQ technology incorporated with LiftMaster products, you can control your garage door from any smart device!

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

You can check on your garage no matter where you are when you install MQ technology onto your smart device.

Have the most convenience with the LiftMaster 87504-267. It’s the quietest door opener they have to offer and includes an integrated camera with 2-way audio. With this installed, you can watch real-time video feed from your garage and even hold a conversation with anyone you see inside.

Don’t want to install a camera? Instead, try the LiftMaster 87802!

An image of a MyQ alert sent on a smart phone

These are the updates you’ll receive when you choose to connect your garage to a smart device!

This opener also includes the MyQ app, but not the camera system. That way, you can still monitor and open your garage door from your phone. Plus, it also has a battery backup!

Is Your Garage Ceiling Low or Unusually Shaped? Are there Modern Garage Door Openers for You?

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

Of course! The LiftMaster 8500W is a wall-mounted electric garage door opener. These allow for installation in tight spaces or in unusually shaped garages. They also have all the great features you’ll expect from LiftMaster, like Wi-Fi connectability and the option to add in the MyQ app. Plus, it has a battery backup and a garage locking system, so you can feel secure.

Do You Want Some Help Making the Right Decision?

Get in contact with your local garage door and opener experts at any time by using the number: 330-889-0062.

Here at Midway Garage Doors, garage doors and their parts are our passion. We’re experts, and we’re happy to share our knowledge with you! We know how to provide you with upgrades, like adding a battery backup to your existing LiftMaster or Chamberlain system. We’re also here for any other questions you need answered.

If you’re seriously considering replacing your current automatic door opener with a high-tech model that’s much quieter, we can help! Get a free quote by email as soon as possible. See what your options are.

If you only want simple maintenance on your door or opener, we can help with that, too.

Go For Broke! Get a Whole New Door To Match Your New Opener!

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What a beautiful door! This style is the Princeton P‑12 Design in 9' x 7', doors. The overlays are in Ice White. Plus, these include 8 lite Panoramic windows. Great for classic and modern homes!

Add value and curb appeal to your house with new garage doors. Use our 3-Style Guide to help pick a fantastic garage door. Take a look at our photo album to see how beautifully we can update your garage doors, too! We even provide a mobile device-friendly Design Centre. Have fun while building your new custom garage doors with just a few clicks. Try out innovative color combinations, use different window designs, and explore the decorative hardware options. Try out the design without spending a dollar by using our image manipulation software to see the doors on your house before you commit to a style.

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