Automatic Gates: How to Select your Gate Operator

Gate operators are designed to move gates in two directions, which requires them to have an electric gate motor. The bigger the gate, the more powerful the gate motor will need to be. Gate operators are manufactured to meet specific gate design characteristics, including gate size, wind loading, weight and use frequency. Each automatic gate manufacturer provides an easy to use chart that assists you in selecting your gate opener based on these characteristics:

Size

The total size of the gate is generally the leading characteristic in choosing your gate operator for both slide and swing gates.

Wind Load

Wind load is rarely addressed but it is a real concern. If your automatic gate has any solid infill and receives heavy winds, rain or snow, you should contact your local gate operator installer for recommendations on choosing the correct gate operator.

Weight

It is very unlikely you would weight-out your gate before you size it out unless you have a custom ornamental gate with a lot of heavy infill.

Frequency of Use

Most gate operators today are continuous duty operators. However, some DC versions have limited use due to battery life.

Once you have narrowed down your gate operator selection based on your gate’s size, wind load, weight and use frequency, you need to take three electrical factors into consideration. Before you can do that, you need to know where your gate operator is going to pull power from.

  1. Gate operators are available in 1 and 3 phase power. 3 phase power is preferred because it is a more consistent and efficient form of power. Your facility may have three phase power but not in the front of the building where the administrative offices are located. Thus, you may have to pull this power from the rear of the property where it is located to power machinery. 1 phase power has one hot and a neutral whereas 3 phase has three hots and a neutral. This is why 3 phase wire is more pricey.
  2. Gate operators are available in a range of common voltages, including 120, 240, 208 & 460 volts. You should always make sure your circuit is designated within 10% of the gate operator’s rated voltage.
  3. Gate openers require a dedicated circuit and required number of amps. Do not attempt to daisy chain your gate operator into other applications. The amount of start-up power for a gate operator motor is significant, so it may easily trip the breaker when combined with other usage.

Now that you have selected your gate operator based on the electrical requirements and performance characteristics, you will need to closely follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for installation. Having successfully installed over 10,000 gate operators, there are some of our key tips and advice.

Gate Operator Installation Tips

  • Gate operators will not operate without additional external control devices.
  • Gate operators require inherent and external safety devices. The operator will not function unless these devices are properly installed.
  • The location of the gate operator relative to the automatic gate is crucial. Closely follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for gate operator placement. Even the slightest deviation may result in operator failure and create a safety hazard.
  • Gate operators require programming prior to operation. Follow the manufacturer’s step-by-step procedure in properly programming the gate operator.
  • When setting up your gate operator, only use a licensed electrician. Like any piece of motorized equipment with circuitry, gate operators are very fickle about meeting the required number of amps and voltage. Too little or too much may cause you to quickly blow the motor or a circuit board.
  • Gate operators require proper mechanical connections, footings and anchoring. We recommend using a professional installer to set and connect your gate opener.