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Gate Opener

Driveway gates come in an overwhelming array of styles, so it’s important to focus on the critical features that make for a satisfying long term purchase. Let’s take a look at these features, focusing on modern automatic driveway gates instead of manual ones.

How will your gate opener be powered, and where will the power come from? If your houses electrical mains are too far away, as is the case in most rural settings, you’ll have to rely on solar power. If you need a solar panel, you’ll have to ensure that any surrounding trees don’t block the sunlight.

Driveway Gate Materials and Build Quality

The materials and build quality should be considered before settling on the design of the driveway gate. Do you want wooden driveway gates, metal driveway gates, vinyl? Regardless of the fence panel material, posts should be installed at least 5’ deep to account for wind and any irregularities in slopes, and 5” square tubes of 3/8” thick steel is a good standard for a secure foundation. The tubes for the posts and the rest of the gate should be acid-washed and treated with primer. Acid washing ensures that the final paint job will properly adhere to the metal, and the primer protects the gate against rust. Fence panels made of hot dipped galvanized steel offer most of the look, feel and durability of wrought iron driveway gates at a much lower cost.

The style of gate will depend on your needs and priorities. Economy style gates are quite popular, since sliding driveway gates aren’t feasible for many suburban residences with narrow driveways where the house and the property line are only three or four yards apart. In this situation, a single swing gate is the most practical option. A typical model is a 12” gate reinforced with three cross-members, controlled by a swing-arm opener. This is the most common setup for a do-it-yourself installation. The cost of the gate and the controller (the hydraulic or electromechanical assembly that operates the swing arm) is often under $1500.

As implied above, swing gates usually require less installation and maintenance that sliding gates for residential purposes, unless you already have a fairly large fence to begin with, or live a a pronounced slope. Single swing gates are most often cheaper than dual swing gates by half, since you’re not committed to buying a pair of driveway gate openers. Unless you’re aesthetically attracted to the symmetry of the dual swing gate design, a single swing gate is usually more pragmatic.

Remote Gate Control Systems

Finally, consider what kind of remote access control you’ll want to control the gate. The simplest and most economical style is the one-button remote with a visor clip, like ones for garage doors. The next level would be a keypad controller, allowing the resident to leave the remote behind. The most expensive and feature-complete option would be a keypad with an intercom and camera, allowing the resident to verify guests and buzz them in.

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A remote gate opener is an enormous convenience. Installing a remote control gate opener, or having one professionally installed, saves you the hassle of getting out of the car each time you need to enter or exit the driveway. This is easy to appreciate in areas with frequent bouts of rain, wind and snow.

Remote gate openers refer to the mechanical systems activated by remote controllers; they shouldn’t be confused with the remote control itself. Another potential point of confusion is the difference between a gate opener and a gate operator. Sometimes the terms are used interchangeably. Strictly speaking, gate operators are commercial systems designed to open and close heavy-duty gates. Gate openers are residential systems design to control light-duty gates. Manufacturers and vendors are being more careful to label their products as “commercial” or “residential” to simplify things.

A worm driven operator, also known as a screw driven operator, is typically an enclosed assembly with a jackscrew-operated piston that turns a ram arm. Screw driven operators can work with either sliding gates or swing gates. This is a simple design that doesn’t require pumps, chains or valves.

A swing arm operator is an enclosure that’s installed beside a swing gate. The arm extends from the enclosure to the middle of the gate using a hydraulic piston. This type of swing gate opener quite versatile, as many models can hand wood, tubular steel, or wrought iron gates. You can purchase a swing arm electric gate opener for a light duty single-swing gate for about half the cost of a unit for a heavy duty dual-swing gate. Swing arm operators are a great choice if you’re up to handling a do-it-yourself installation, as many models are available as kits in the $400-800 range.

An underground loop opener can be used for swing gates or sliding gates. Since the mechanics are buried out of sight, underground gate openers are the most popular option for residential entrances, not to mention the most aesthetic. A base that, a ground level looks like a plate, is placed at either end of the gate. This pair of bases actually covers underground box holes that contain the mechanics that power the gate operation. Underground openers are an ideal choice for dual-gate systems where the gate is close enough to the electrical mains to draw AC power; using solar panels or DC modules is possible, but they defeat the purpose of hiding the system’s components.

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