All About Photo Eyes

July 29, 2016

One of the most important innovations in garage door safety, photo eyes, or photoelectric sensors are really a very simple contraption. Consisting of two main components, a transmitter and a receiver, they work something like an invisible tripwire. Most photo eyes use a through beam arrangement, which basically means the receiver must be placed in the line of sight of the transmitter so that it can “see” it's infrared beam. As long as the beam is detected, your garage door opener will operate as it's supposed to, but, if the beam is broken in any sort of way, or the receiver is unable to detect it, the opener will stop and reverse. This seemingly elementary system is actually responsible for saving lives and keeping your children, pets and belongings safe from likely one of the largest and heaviest pieces of moving equipment in your home.

Although they are extremely uncomplicated, they do have a reputation of being a bit fussy, and when something is off with your photo eyes, your entire system can malfunction. Fortunately, most problems with these infrared sensors are very easy to remedy and can be done without the assistance of a technician. We will cover a few of the most common issues here, but please keep in mind that if you can't seem to get them back up and running on your own, it is important to give a specialist a call as their proper functioning could possible save a life.

Receiver Misalignment

If you have to continually press the operation button in order to get your door to close, it opens fine but won't close, or if it starts to open then stops and reverses, you probably have some misalignment going on. Most photo eyes will have a little LED light on them somewhere that will flash when the beam is broken and remain solid when free of obstructions, if your sensors are misaligned it will be flashing. To realign, simple take a look at how your eyes are attached, some will be connected with a bracket, some with a wingnut and some have a small plastic collar, then loosen and adjust. The flashing LED comes in handy here as it eliminates the need of laser leveling or meticulous measurements by signaling alignment when the light goes solid.

Dirty Eyes

If realigning your photo eyes doesn't do the trick, there's a good chance the lense of either the transmitter or receiver is dirty. Being that they reside inches from the ground and outside through all types of weather, it's not really a bad idea to regularly give them a good once over. A little bit of window cleaner sprayed on a microfiber towel is all that's needed. Treat your photo eyes as you would a camera lens, making sure to avoid scratches, that the lenses are dry when you're done and that you haven't knocked them out of alignment.

Sun Blind

If you start to notice you only have problems with your opener at certain times of the day, it is actually possible that the sun is shining in just the right direction and blinding one of your sensors. Apart from finding a sweet set of shades for your photo eyes, there is not a lot you can do about this problem on your own. Give your garage door tech a call and they can easily install a sun shield and have you back up and running in a snap.

If you have exhausted all of these home remedies and are still experiencing problems, you may have an issue with faulty wiring or something more complicated. Although it might be tempting, you should never attempt to bypass this very essential safety system. Give our highly experienced techs at Precision Door Service of Seattle a call anytime and we will have things running smoothly again in no time.

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Repair or Replace?

As the largest moving part in your home, the safe, secure, and efficient operation of your garage door is essential.


When your garage door opener stops working properly, it can often be repaired without too much problem and repair is typically a less expensive option than replacing your unit. We often recommend repair over replacement for this reason.


There are times when replacement is your best option:

  • If your opener is more than 15 years old we recommend replacement to improve the safe operation of your door. Note: Federal Regulations (UL 325) were updated in 1993 making garage door openers safer.
  • If we have safety concerns with a specific Brand or the manufacturer has been successfully sued for safety defects, we will not repair that model.
  • If there are no photo electric safety eyes present on your system, we will not be able to repair the unit.
  • If the brand no longer exists, parts will be unavailable & replacing your opener is usually the only option.


At Precision Garage Door Service of Puget Sound, we take pride in our work and our reputation. That's why we back everything we do with an outstanding warranty.


Give us a call, we’re happy to answer any of your questions.

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