An Open Door Policy

NBC 7 Responds looks at new law that requires battery-powered garage doors.

Beginning on July 1, a new state law goes into effect that requires homeowners purchase a garage door opener with back-up batteries when replacing their opener or putting in a new garage door.

The law, State Bill 969, was signed by then-Governor Jerry Brown in September 2018.

The law was passed after at least five people died in wildfires that scorched Northern California in 2017 because they could not get their cars out of their garages after power had been lost.

With the new law, any new garage door opener sold or installed in California must open by battery power in case the electricity is shut off. But that is not all. Any new garage door must have a battery-powered opener simultaneously installed or risk a $1,000 fine.

Battery back-up garage door openers have been around for several years but it’s always been an option,” says Toby Bechtel, owner of East County Garage Doors based in Lakeside. “Now, you’re going to get a battery-powered opener whether you like it or not.” 

Bechtel has installed thousands of garage doors over the years. He understands the reasoning behind the change.

“For elderly or disabled people in need to evacuate fast, they can’t just climb on a car or ladder to open an automatic door manually. They would need one of these,” says Bechtel.

So what does that mean for consumers?

Bechtel says the back-up battery style openers cost anywhere from $500 to $800.

“They only cost about $50 bucks more, so it’s not that bad.”

And that’s fine if you are replacing a broken or old opener but for many consumers they will have to discard perfectly good garage door openers only because they are replacing their garage door.

“Like it or not, it’s not an option,” adds Bechtel.

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