Gate Opener Buying Guide – Choosing the Right Electric Gate Opener

If you have a gate on your property, an electric gate opener is a worthwhile consideration. Automating your gate is a great way to make it more convenient to enter and exit your property, eliminating the need to physically open and close it. Some gates can even be programmed to open or close under certain conditions, making it even easier to conveniently keep your property secure. When you’re considering automating your front residential gate, you’ll want to make sure you choose a model of gate opener that’s ideal for your particular gate.

residential gate With their fantastic high-tech features, convenience, and cutting-edge safety features, today’s automatic gate openers are a must-have if your property is secured with a swinging or sliding front gate. There are numerous options available for power sources, external interfaces like remote controls, and safety features. Gate openers provide effortless control over who can get into your property, keeping you and your belongings safe from unwanted intruders. With an automatic electric gate opener, you’ll be able to effortlessly enter and exit through the gate.

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The type of gate you have can determine what kind of gate opener is best for you. Your available power sources and safety needs can also make a difference in what brand and type of gate opener you should choose. There are two very popular brands of gate openers: the US Automatic Sentry 300, and Aleko. Both have their benefits and drawbacks, depending on your gate and your individual needs. You can find reviews of both online, but it helps to assess what kind of gate you have and what you need. Here’s some information to get you started as you choose the right gate opener for your property.

performance

The type of gate you have installed can be a major factor in choosing the right gate opener. Aleko openers are available for different gate types, as are US Automatic Sentry 300s.

 Does Your Gate Swing or Slide?

There are two main types of gate: swinging gates and sliding gates. A swinging gate opens the same way as the doors inside your house. These are compatible with both swing arm operators, which have an arm extending to the gate to open it; and ram arms with either hydraulic or jackscrew-operated pistons. Ram arms are located on the gate and its posts.

sliding gate
Sliding gate
dual swing
Swinging gate
Sliding gates have wheels and open to the sides. Automated gate openers for sliding gates usually use a chain located at the bottom of the gate, attached to an operator that pulls the chain to open and close the gate.

 If It Slides, How Long Is It?

The length of your sliding gate will determine which gate opener is ideal. You’ll want to make sure you know the size of the gate, to ensure that you buy a sliding gate opener with a long enough chain.

 If It Swings, Does It Swing In One Piece or Two?

Some gates have two pieces that open to either side, whereas others are all in one piece. There are different automatic gate openers available for single-swing versus dual-swing gates. Make sure that you’re choosing the correct opener for whichever type of swinging gate you have.

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 Dual Swing Gate: How Long is Each Leaf?

Many swing gate openers are designed for dual gates with “leaves” up to a certain length. For example, you need a different model for a gate with twenty-foot leaves than for a gate with twenty-six-foot leaves.

 How Heavy is Your Gate?

Gate openers are generally designed to only work for gates up to a certain weight. This can depend on what material your gate is constructed from. Wrought iron, in particular, can be especially heavy, so you’ll want to take that into account.

 Do They Swing Easily?

Some driveway gates require more effort to open than others, and you’ll need a gate opener with enough power and torque to open your swinging gate successfully. Some gates are hard to open because they’re low quality, damaged, or poorly designed, and a gate opener can’t necessarily make up for that. However, if the gate is hard to open because it’s heavy, a gate opener designed to handle heavy gates should work very well. If in doubt, you can always check out online reviews of the particular gate opener that you have in mind.

 How Big Are the Columns They’re Attached To?

The size of the columns can also affect which gate opener is right for you, since most electric gate openers attach at the column. You’ll want to ensure that the columns are large and sturdy enough to accommodate it.

power

 How Do You Plan to Power Your Gate Opener?

When you’re looking at US Sentry 300s or Aleko gate openers, you’ll also want to consider the power source you want to use. Gates can operate by AC power, solar panels, and battery backups. Many gates incorporate all three power sources, to prevent them from ever going without power. Your gate opener will stay powered constantly, and even if something happens to completely cut the power off, most will default to the closed or open position if that occurs.

Do You Have AC Power at Your Installation Place?

Gate openers for both sliding and swinging gates can be powered by AC, or “alternating current.” Basically, they plug into your electrical main. If you’re looking for an AC powered gate opener, you’ll want to make sure you have electricity available at the location of your gate. If not, you may want to consider either installing electrical wiring to power it, or looking into other options like solar power.

 What About Solar Power?

Many gate openers, like US Sentry 300s, are solar powered. Solar power is an eco-friendly, convenient power source for outdoor electrical equipment like gate openers. Solar is definitely worth considering, and modern solar panels are quite efficient and can store power for later. Solar cells work using a phenomenon called the “photovoltaic effect.” Silicon solar panels are able to emit electrical current when exposed to light, which allows them to be used as a clean, renewable power source. Solar power can also save you money on your electric bill, making it a very economical option.

solar power

 How Many Times Per Day Do You Plan on Opening and Closing the Opener?

The right power source might depend on how often you plan to open and close your gate. The more often you do so, the more power your gate opener will require. It also increases the overall mechanical wear and tear on the gate opener’s moving parts. If you open and close your gate very frequently, you’ll also want to buy a heavier-duty gate opener that has the power and durability to withstand stress and damage.

 Does Your Opener Contain Backup Battery Power?

Most high quality gate openers contain backup power. It would be incredibly inconvenient for the gate to get stuck in the open or closed position, and backup batteries help prevent this.

safety

Gates are large, heavy objects, and automatic gate openers are quite powerful. This is why most gate openers have built-in safety features. These features help to protect you from accidents that could injure a person or cause damage to your car.

 Does Your Gate Opener Support Stop and Reverse When It Hits an Obstacle?

Nearly all gate openers are designed to stop and reverse if they detect a car, human, or another obstacle. This works using infrared photo beams, which inform the gate when they come into contact with an obstacle in their path. This prevents an impact from occurring, which could cause significant injury or property damage.

 Why Is It So Important to Place the Controls Out of Reach of the Gate?

If the controls are too close to the gate, a person could easily get hit while operating them. No one should ever cross the path of a moving gate, nor should anyone try to go through the gate while it’s moving. By making it impossible to move near or through the gate while it’s opening, keeping the controls at a distance from the gate itself can prevent accidents from occurring.

external interfaces

Automatic gate openers are equipped with external interfaces. These can serve to both control the gate, and to facilitate built-in safety features. These interfaces help make operating your gate as easy, safe, and convenient as possible.

 Remote Controls

Nearly all gates are equipped with a remote control for easy access. You can even keep the remote in your car, so that you can easily open the gate when you get home from work. Some gates even use a keypad or a card reader, although this is more common in commercial properties and apartment complexes. One recent innovation has been the ability to activate the gate using your mobile phone, making it even more easy and convenient to move into and out of your property.

 Infrared Photo Beams

Infrared photo beams are used to both detect obstacles as a safety feature, and to interface with a remote control. This is the same mechanism that your TV remote and ceiling fan remotes use. Infrared light has a longer wavelength than red, making it invisible to the human eye. A beam of this invisible light extends from the remote to receptors on the gate, allowing you to open and close it from a distance. As was previously mentioned, gate openers also emit infrared beams for the purpose of detecting objects that could cross the path of a moving gate.

infrared sensor gate
Infrared sensor

 Auto-Close

Gate openers are also equipped with auto-close features, so your property stays secure even if you forget to close the gate. The gate is programmed to close within a certain time frame after it’s opened, as long as the infrared detectors don’t detect any obstructions.

 Loop Detectors

Loop detectors are magnetic fields located slightly underground, which can detect metal located near them. These send a signal prevent the gate from opening or closing if there’s a car or another obstruction, creating an additional safety feature. In-ground loops are installed using wire that has a special type of insulation, which is inserted into notches in driveway asphalt or concrete. There are several types of gate loops with different functions.

  • Exit loops are placed at a considerable distance from the gate, often around twenty yards or so. These detect vehicles, triggering the gate to open as you approach it from inside your property.
  • Safety loops, also called “reverse loops,” are tripped when an obstruction is detected as the gate is closing. This will trigger the gate to re-open, preventing a collision.
  • Shadow loops are installed when the gate itself is longer than the average car.
  • Entry loops are placed outside the gate. They function like exit loops, and they’re installed if security is not really a major concern.
loop detector
Loop detector

Direct current (DC) passes through the wires, which creates an electromagnetic field. The detector on the gate opener itself uses alternating current (AC) to change the direction of electrical current flow inside the wires. When some of the electromagnetic energy is detected by the gate opener, it activates the gate. The loop detectors in a gate are an excellent feature for both safety and convenience.

warranty

When you’re decided which gate opener is best for your front gates, you will also want to consider what kind of warranty you want. Many gate openers from trusted manufacturers come with excellent warranties. As with any appliance or device, the warranty is an important protection for you as the consumer. If your gate has a manufacturing defect, the warranty will cover repair or replacement costs. Some warranties may also cover certain types of accidental damage. You’ll want to check the warranty for your particular device. If possible, you may also want to consider purchasing an extended warranty for extra protection. You never know when something will unexpectedly go wrong, so it’s never a bad idea to make sure you have the best warranty option available.

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Michael G.