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The Off-Grid Garage: How To Power Your Garage Door Opener With A Solar Panel

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If your garage door controller has a battery backup, it may work for a few days after your home loses power. After that, you'll have to wait for power to be restored before you can open and close the garage door using your garage door opener. While your garage door should have a manual override that will allow you to open and close the door during a power outage, some garage doors are heavy and difficult for smaller and more frail family members to open on their own. It's nice to have a solar-powered controller to continue to enjoy the many benefits of your garage door opener if power is lost for an extended period of time.

Whether you live in an area prone to storms and the resulting long power outages, or you want a solar garage door system for a building you've built off the grid, be aware that modifications you make to any garage door controller's electrical system will probably void the manufacturer's warranty. Do have your plans checked over by both a qualified electrician and a garage door professional before wiring this system as described below.

What you will need.

  • Battery—you can use the backup battery from the garage door controller if it's in good shape.
  • Solar panel—most controller batteries only require at most a 20W panel.
  • Solar charge controller—an interface between the solar panel and the battery rated for your setup.
  • Hardware and shelf for the battery and charge controller storage.
  • Hardware to mount the solar panel.
  • Wires to run from the solar panel to the solar charge controller.
  • Various wires and jumper wires (short wires with clips at the end to attach to battery terminals.)
  • A voltmeter.

Install the biggest parts first to help with wire measurements.

You may use a freestanding pole or your roof to mount the solar panel. It should be angled down slightly and facing toward the south in a location that gets plenty of sun. If you mount it to the roof on brackets, be sure to use stainless steel bolts, washers, and nuts for weather-resistance. Dip screws in a roofing adhesive before fastening to the roof to seal the screw holes from moisture.

Next, build the small shelf that will hold the battery inside the garage. A coated-wire shelf hung from the ceiling close to the garage door controller is ideal. Make sure it won't impede the tracks of the garage door and that it is stable with no wobbling.

With a roll of string, measure how much wire you'll need to run from the solar panel to your battery shelf, and then how much you'll need to run from the battery shelf to the garage door controller.  Neatly route and secure all of your wires so they don't hang or get caught on anything.

Wire components together.

Check your battery power first with a voltmeter to be certain it's holding a charge. Next, use the voltmeter to check the amount of power you're receiving from the solar panel wires to be certain it's sufficient to recharge your battery.

Wire the garage door opener to the battery using one wire for the positive terminal and one for the negative. You accomplish this by attaching the longer positive and negative wires that come from the garage door opener to two short jumper wires that clip onto the positive and negative battery terminals. The positive wire and jumper clip onto the positive terminal; the negative wire and jumper clip onto the negative terminal. You'll use plastic wire caps to connect the long wires to the jumpers first.

Wire the battery to the solar charge controller, then wire the solar panel wires to the solar charge controller. Check that the garage door controller will work on the new battery system.

Special considerations.

Before you wire the opener unit, unplug it from all power sources. Once you complete your wiring, you may have to plug the garage door controller back into your home's power and then unplug again it to get it to reset before it will run off the batteries.

Your garage door will probably run slower than normal, but openers with battery backups are designed to run at a slower speed when in battery-powered mode. This video gives detailed, step-by-step instructions for wiring a solar-powered garage door opener.

If you need help with this project, contact garage door repair professionals, like those at Allied Garage Door Inc