Having garage door issues? Valencia resident warns homeowners to learn about new law before making a move

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Homeowners looking to install or replace their garage door opener must now include a battery backup or face civil penalties under a new California law that took effect Monday. 

Senate Bill 969, introduced by Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, and signed into law in September, requires that “an automatic garage door opener that is manufactured for sale, sold, offered for sale, or installed in a residence to have a battery backup function that is designed to operate when activated because of an electrical outage.”

The only two instances homeowners would need to switch to a battery backup opener is when replacing a garage door or garage door opener. Failure to comply with the law could result in fines up to $1,000 per opener installed and operational. 

Valencia resident Wolfgang Costello found out about the law by accident, he said, and is now warning homeowners to get informed. 

“Saturday night I got a call from my dad that his garage door spring went out,” he said. “I called a trusted business and they referred me to a place in Palmdale that does repairs in Acton, where my dad lives.” 

The company Costello was referred to told him that as of July 1, he would have to replace the entire door and get a new opener in order to comply with the law — a much more expensive cost over fixing the spring. 

“The total would have been over $600,” said Costello. “I did some research and pulled up the bill verbiage. Changing a spring and parts would not fall under this. I have an old opener and if a part breaks you can replace the part legally, but if the part is not available then you would have to replace the opener.” 

Costello said that although he does not know whether the company misinterpreted the law or tried to earn an extra buck, he wants residents to know the law before making a move. 

“My dad is a senior citizen and lives on a fixed income,” he said. “If (the company) is willing to do this to my dad, how many people will be misinformed? What if it’s people who are on a fixed income or people who don’t have the time to do the research?” 

Burns Garage Doors, which offers repairs and service in the Santa Clarita Valley, is among the many businesses across the state that are making adjustments. Co-owner Patty Burns said she expects many homeowners will be purchasing new openers. 

SB 969 comes in response to deadly California wildfires, which have left fire victims and survivors trapped behind garage doors after being unable to open them manually. Battery backups for openers operate as an alternative source of power when the main electric fails, much like a backup generator for hospitals. 

Even though garage doors can be manually opened, “you might not have the extra time it takes to manually open your garage door when the power is out,” said Jackie Lorenty of Chamberlain Group, the first garage door manufacturer to include a battery backup system in a garage door opener.  

On average, consumers can expect to spend about $100 on a backup battery for an existing opener system. Prices could lower as this becomes the norm, according to Garage Door Champion, which operates across Southern California. 

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