Gate operators come in all sorts of shapes and sizes specifically designed for different situations. Over the years we have found that some are built better than others even they all have their own little issues. We actually recommend different manufacturers depending on the type of gate it is.
Automatic slide gate operators require (2) safety devices for pedestrian safety. The opening of the driveway must be protected just like newer garage doors have a photobeam. And the space that the gate opens into must be protected, they call this the entrapment area. New automatic slide gates must meet certain safety codes in their construction as well. There can be no gap larger than 2-1/4” in the gate itself to a minimum height of 6’. There also can’t be any openings larger that 2-1/4” in the fencing that the gate slides behind to the same height. This is to prevent someone from fitting their hand through the pickets of the fencing and gate just in case it gets activated, potentially causing injury. This usually means that we have to either add material to existing fencing like sheet metal, perforated metal, expanded metal, welded wire or can add pickets between existing.
Automatic swing gate operators come in a few different styles. Actuator arms, pad mount and underground operators. One thing they all have in common is they will require a safety device to go across the driveway opening, just like slide gates or a newer garage door. If the gate opens into a wall, it will require a safety device for the entrapment zone as well.
Actuator arms are usually slightly less expensive than pad mount operators because they don’t use a concrete footing to leverage against. They will mount on the hinge post or column to leverage against to move the gate.
Pad mount swing gate operators are usually about halfway between the cost of actuator arm operator and slide gates. These are typically more heavy duty than actuator arms and require a decent sized concrete footing for its stability. Often times there isn’t enough room for this classic style gate operator but for gates over 14’ wide, they are needed.
The last kind of swing gate operator is an underground actuator. These are great because you don’t see them and can be a really clean installation. The most important thing for this style is that there is enough drainage to make sure they will last a long time. Usually, the best circumstances for these operators are when the gate will be on a sloped driveway and there is a place to terminate a drain. They are made to allow water through them but do not like it when they are filled with water.
The most common safety devices we use are photobeams which makes sure a beam of light isn’t obstructed before allowing the gate to open. We like using these because it will stop the gate before making any contact with anything. The bad part about photobeams which has been getting better with the newer ones is that they will sometimes ether get knocked out of alignment or sometimes in heavy rain or fog, they will think there is something in the way. The alternative to a photobeam for pedestrian safety is a reversing edge. These are sensors we place on the gate (usually a rubber strip that runs the height of the gate) that tells the operator to stop when it contacts something. These are very reliable but they have to hit something to reverse the gate.
Auto close function – most all gate operators are programmable to close automatically after a certain time period. For us to engage this setting we have to make sure there are safety devices in place that will confirm there is nothing in the way of the gate over its full range. The most common type are loops. Loops are a big loop of wire that creates an electromagnetic field, when something alters this field the gate won’t close. You’ll usually see these at stop lights with the rectangular or square cut into the asphalt. Loops are very reliable until the plastic sheeting on the wire becomes compromised (usually by cracked asphalt movement). Once the wire becomes compromised it thinks there is a vehicle in the way and usually opens or doesn’t allow the gate to close. The newest safety device out there that doesn’t require cutting the driveway surface is a laser scanner which creates a horizontal plane that is programmable. We can also determine the size of object required for the laser to recognize. We can make it so the gate will only see large objects or anything else.
Exit devices – most all gate operator installations include transmitters or remotes for the gate but if you want the gate to automatically open when you go to drive out of the gate, we have to install an exit device. These can range from loops, laser scanner or a probe. We don’t use photobeams for exit devices because a leaf could fall, blocking the light and the gate could open. Exit probes are basically metal detectors, it detects a moving metal object and signals the gate to open. It looks like a piece of PVC laying on the side of the driveway but are pretty reliable when adjusted properly. They have a sensitivity setting that must be adjusted to reliably detect a car, but wont open when someone walks by with steel toed boots. These also only work right in a range of about 12’, so if you have a very wide driveway, someone could miss it and think they are stuck.