Electric gates are gaining more and more popularity every day, as they act as both a deterrent and a form of security, whilst also protecting children or pets from running out onto busy roads. But, when choosing to install an automatic gate system in your home or business, you can be left with a multitude of questions. With such a wide range of styles, control kits, and components on offer, how do you find the right option for you. Furthermore, who should you trust to install it and ensure that it’s safe? It may seem like an uphill battle, fraught with different possibilities and unforeseen challenges. Today, we’ll be taking you through our top eleven tips to consider before you take the leap and decide to install new electric gates.
The material you choose to use for your automatic gates will have a strong impact on the overall outcome and appearance. There are three main materials: steel, aluminum, and wood. Each one has certain advantages, so it’s important to fully understand the final effect before finalising your choice. It’s also important to note a solid gate, or close-boarded design in any of these materials can cause problems in high wind, as the dense sections act similarly to a boat sail, catching the force and swinging open.
Steel is by far the most popular of the three and is also the strongest. Whilst it may be a heavy material, the metal can be formed into detailed, intricate designs that will usually have spaces between the thin uprights and can produce an ornate, traditional style. However, it’s vital the steel is galvanized to prevent any premature rusting from reducing the life expectancy of the gate. These electric gates can also be painted dependent on your personal preference using a powder coat. By powder coating, you not only change the appearance but also add another layer of durability with the additional texture. The options for texture include clear, metallic, hammertone, wrinkle, transparent, and candy finishes are also available. Even with the option to change the aesthetic of the steel, some people may feel the metal gates are ‘colder’ than the alternatives on offer.
With an increasing number of manufacturers to choose from, aluminum has become an in-demand option for those wanting a lighter material for their gates. Aluminum is also naturally corrosion-resistant, which can be ideal for those wanting a quality material without the high-maintenance hassles. Again, you can powder coat the material to increase the longevity. This can provide the illusion of wood or coloured steel, although many prefer the real thing.
Of the three options available, wood is the most expensive. Wooden electric gates will usually be close-boarded, long, flat sections, with the option for some gentle curves, and can be finished in oil, varnish or paint. You can also choose to use a steel frame with timber infill to provide additional support. The wood will require an annual check-over with the need for re-sanding and oiling every two years. Whilst it may need the highest level of maintenance, the natural material is often described as ‘warm’ and may provide a homely, country feel hence its popularity. However, ensure you select wood from a sustainable source – the top two picks being Accoya or Iroko.
Sliding or Swinging?
Automatic gates come in a range of configurations, however, for driveway gates, the main two options are either sliding or swinging to open. But what’s the difference between them? Sliding gates are usually made up of one, large section that moves across the entrance whilst a swinging system is commonly a pair of gates, opening in the middle and arching out onto the driveway. It’s important to consider the size and layout of your drive when making a decision as one style may not suit.
A sliding system should not be installed on a slope as this will require more power to push the gate uphill, and a higher braking force to slow the acceleration downhill. However, this sliding option can be useful for those limited on space by using either telescopic or round-the-corner gates. Instead of requiring the full length of the gate to slide across, telescopic gates split into overlapping sections and can therefore occupy just over half, or third of the space initially needed (depending on how many sections are used). A round-the-corner system follows a curved track and can therefore avoid any obstacles that a standard sliding gate would hit.
The swinging gate opens faster than its alternative, however, a driveway with a swing system becomes restricted on room. Due to the arc, when opened you are not able to park within the parameter and this may mean you do not have space for as many cars as you previously did. Automatic swinging gates also need to be hung from pillars, so again may not suit every driveway if this is unavailable. If you are set on swinging gates but don’t have the space required for the arc, you could consider bi-fold. Although more complex in nature, bi-fold gates are similar to traditional standard swinging systems but as the name may suggest, the two sections fold in half. However, these should be installed with the utmost care to ensure any functional errors are avoided.
Rams or Underground Motors?
Once you’ve decided on the material and opening system, you’ll need to think about the operational motor for the electric gates.
Underground automation is very popular. This is fitted at the base of the gate and acts as the bottom hinge as well as the driving force behind the movement. Whilst no system is particularly noisy, the underground motor is especially quiet and is almost invisible with just a small lid covering the actual equipment. This does provide a cleaner overall look, but it’s vital that additional drainage is available as the underground boxes have the potential to fill with water. They are designed to tolerate water, however permanent submersion will lead to malfunctions. Creating this drainage can be particularly difficult for those living in areas with clay soil, or those at the bottom of a slope.
Hydraulic rams, on the other hand, are usually fitted discreetly to the back of the gate just below mid-height. They’re particularly ideal for those with a larger gate to move. They tend to be slightly cheaper and offer more convenience when a service or repair is required due to the ease of access. Furthermore, a ram motor can come with an inbuilt hydraulic locking feature, or a maglock or solenoid lock can be used for additional security.
Before any excavations can start, an underground survey should be conducted to ensure the building works will not interfere with any existing structures and to understand the depth available. You may also need to get planning permission from some councils.
When installing an electric gate system, typically holes will need to be dug to 800mm for pillars together with a link trench around 400mm deep. It’s important to understand the options available to you, and the survey may reveal any issues before costs are incurred.
When choosing to install a new automatic gate system, your focus will tend to concentrate only on the entrance via your own vehicle. But what about entering on foot? Should you have the space, you may decide to create a separate gate specifically designed for pedestrians which usually do not have automation, and instead, using a maglock and hydraulic closer. Alternatively, you can use the same gates for access – a sliding system could partially open to allow visitors through, and a swinging gate opens just one leaf.
Furthermore, you should consider how trades-people will enter especially as some may have larger vehicles than your own. Ensure there is ample room available to access your property. You could even install a timer for traders, perhaps allowing entry at only certain times in the day or to keep them open for an extended period.
Safety is of course a number one priority when installing electric gates to eliminate any potential crushing or trap points. Generally, these points will have been identified in the design process, and safety beams, edges, or both will have been incorporated into the final gate. Underground loops should be included as a feature to detect the progress of a vehicle, ensuring the gates will not close and therefore miss any avoidable hits. For a further layer of protection for those choosing a sliding system, a fine mesh can be used to clad the gate and prevent any limbs from getting trapped in the mechanism. You could also consider adding sounders or flashing beacons, particularly useful after daylight.
When your automatic gate is installed, this should be done by a GateSafe or DHF (Door Hardware Federation) approved installer. A series of readings will be collected with a force tester to ensure the motors are set to produce the correct amount of pressure, no more than what’s needed to close the gate. When this has been specifically set and recorded on a laptop, you will have these readings given to you as part of your handover pack to refer back to in the future.
The components of your electric gate should all meet a high-quality standard to prolong the lifespan of the system and maintain the necessary level of safety. A few points to look out for include:
- Wrap around hinges should have grease nipples fitted.
- Hinges should use bearings.
- All accessories should use stainless steel fixings
- All metal should be galvanised.
- High-quality timber (Accoya or Iroko are best) should be properly treated against the weather to avoid intake of water which will affect the weight of the gate system.
- Use parts from a trusted manufacturer, we suggest Samson for closers. Avoid cheap hydraulic closers that will require premature replacement.
There are several different ways to operate your gate, and this will depend on your lifestyle and the gate you choose.
Commonly a small hand-held transmitter will be used to open the gate. Your electric gate will use one of two frequencies to open in the UK, either 433MHz or 868MHz. Transmitters and receivers (the gate) in the same gate automation system have to use the same frequency. A remote may use a different coding technology, such as rolling or fixed code but will need to be paired before the receiver will operate correctly.
Traditionally, a keypad or intercom/buzzer system has also been favoured. This simply allows users to enter a code, or for visitors to ring up to the property and gain access after speaking to the owner. This is particularly useful when a trades-person is visiting, or you could even install a trade button feature to time access.
With the latest advancements in technology, apps have also been utilised and much in the way that you may control the heating in your home, you can open or close your electric gate. This can work seamlessly alongside traditional installations to provide multiple ways of entrance – perhaps using a keypad only for tradespeople, and close family using the app.
In the case of a fire, there are controls available that can be linked to your gate – to open should there be a fire on the premises or a switch that enables the fire brigade to open the gate in your absence.
Mains 230 volt
As the gate is automated, you will need to wire all electrical components back to a main control board. The control board should be housed in a weather-tight, lockable enclosure adjacent to the electric gate for easy access if required. The supply required to feed this control board is a 230 volt.
You may think once your gate has been installed, you’ll be able to start using it and almost forget about the system! However, they need regular maintenance to ensure their upkeep, not only will this maintain their safety but also reduce the need for replacement parts prematurely.
Gates should be serviced at least once a year, preferably twice to check all is in working order. You should also be pressure testing once a year as this will again increase the safety – should the force required to close the gate be wrong, you may be putting yourself and others at risk.
Finally, before deciding on an automated gate you should consider your own budget. The total cost varies depending on the material chosen and if groundworks are required or not, but you should always work with industry experts to ensure a high-quality finish that will last.
For a sliding or swinging gate covering a 2m entrance, the average price would be £8,500 with groundworks sourced separately.
If you decide an electric gate is right for you, it’s vital to ensure that you have an experienced team of experts install your chosen design. Whilst you may have one idea, they’ll be able to help you select the correct automation for your needs whilst offering a trust-worthy service.
Are you looking for an electric gate system and need some advice? Speak to our dedicated staff with over 25 years in the industry at 020 8676 4300 or fill out a contact form, and we’ll get back to you with more information about how we can assist.
West London Security, creating safe space for you.