I just got the latest issue of one of our trade magazines last week.  In it was an article titled “Dealers Should Replace, NOT Repair Old GDOs”.  GDOs in the language of Garage Door Dealers means: ‘Garage Door Openers’.  The article has left me a little uneasy.

Let me explain why.

Danger under Garage DoorAll residential garage door openers manufactured since 1993 are required to utilize additional anti entrapment protection. This extra protection has mostly been accomplished by the use of infrared sensors [IR sensors] mounted near the bottom of the garage door opening that will cause any door that is traveling downward to reverse and go up if there is any obstruction.

Any open obstructed door will not even start down as long as there is interference. The IR sensors were designed to be fail-safe or in other words the operator would not be able to work without the sensors being installed.

Most garage door openers up to that point already had multiple safety systems that would reverse the door on contact, reverse the door if the motor slowed or stop the motor if it overheated.

They were reasonably safe systems and when I got news of the additional protection I thought: “oh great, this will add fifty bucks to the price of all openers and an additional half hour to the installation time”.

The way the eyes or IR sensors are mounted make them susceptible to being knocked or kicked out of alignment.  I was right, it did add cost and installation time to openers and IR sensors do get bumped and kicked by people taking out the trash or grabbing a shovel, BUT, I have become a believer in their use.

In order for an operator to reverse on contact it needs to be adjusted correctly and tested on a regular basis.  Most people don’t remember to do this.  If the operator is adjusted to give enough force to close a door it is unlikely that it will reverse when hitting a small object or pet or even a child.  Properly installed IR sensors solve that problem.

The issue here is not that pre 1993 operators are inherently dangerous, they are pretty safe, but the operators built since then are even safer.

DangerMy uneasiness that I felt from reading the article began at a seminar I attended several years ago probably about 1995.  What was being recommended at that time was what they called “Tag Out/Lock Out”.  In common language it meant that we should refuse to repair any door that had a pre 1993 opener on it and either unplug it and put a big red tag warning that it should not be used or cut off the plug and then tag it.

Right; I am going to go out to fix a door but instead of fixing it I’m going to cut off their plug?  That would not be a way of making friends and influencing people.  So as long as manufactures continued to make replacement parts we have continued to repair the older openers providing the original safety systems still worked; but now most of the spare parts are no longer available.

Even now, if a garage door opener is having a problem and it can be adjusted or repaired we will do it as long as the built in safety systems still work.  What we will do is to advise our customers about the added safety features on new openers and the cost of repair vs. the cost of replacement.

People that have been burned by service people and mechanics that are trying to get them to buy stuff they don’t need tend to think we are just being pushy; we feel an obligation to give them good information so that they can make their own decisions, after all they are the only ones that know what they can afford and what are their personal safety concerns.

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