Planning your electric gate automation system

Planning your gate automation

We have put together some information for you to consider and a series of questions for you relating to your property, the gate to be automated and how you intend you use it. These questions should help you decide which gate kit, accessories, access control/intercom system and safety features are most suitable for the property and your needs – we hope this helps!

Site and Location

If I do not have gates or I think I might get new ones, what should I go for?
Swing gates Swing gates
Sliding gate Sliding gate

The choice of gate is entirely up to you, but you will need to consider how and where the gates open - the arc of swing gates, the travel of the gate for sliding gates. You should also think about the size and weight of the gates - longer and heavier gates will cost more to automate. You need to consider practical matters such as vehicle movement/manoeuvring near the gate aperture (is the gate opening wide enough) and where vehicles will park and/or turn relative to the gate. A fair amount of planning should also be directed towards safety, such as where pedestrian can safely walk and what safety features will be required and where you will site them. For further information on safety please see below. To recap:-

  • How will the gate open?
  • What space will the gate occupy as it moves?
  • What safety features will be used to protect vehicles and pedestrians?
  • Is the gate aperture wide enough for vehicles turning-in?
  • Is there sufficient room for vehicles to manoeuvre on the driveway and park without obstructing the gates or safety features (e.g. photocells or loop detectors)?
Do the gates exist already?

If you already have gates you are going to need to select motors that work with your current configuration. You will need to know the weight and length of the gate to help choose a suitable gate automation kit. For swing gates you will also need to consider the maximum opening angle you will need to achieve; for sliding gates you will need to calculate the maximum travel:-

  • Gate leaf length – How long is each gate?
  • Gate leaf weight – How much does each gate weigh?
  • Opening – How far do the gates need to open (angles or travel)?
Is the gate suitable for automation?

Does the gate move freely without overexertion or effort – i.e. can you open and close the gate with a light push? If the answer is no then the gate’s action needs to be remedied first. Automation motors are not designed to fight the gate, but move freely moving gates.

  • Gate moves freely (no friction), opening and closing smoothly and noiselessly
  • Gate is well balanced (i.e. once stopped in any position it does not show a tendency to start moving again)
  • Gate stops are suggested for open and close positions.
Does the gate have a rising hinge?

If this is the case, it is unlikely you can automate the gate with its current hinge. Can the gate operate with a standard hinge after some ground work? If so then change the hinge to a standard flat action hinge. Rising hinges create vertical travel of the gate bracket, which currently no motor is designed to cope with (almost certainly breaking the motor or shearing off the bracket/damaging the gate).

What type of gate do you have?

There are a range of different motor types available that are suitable for different gate types, gate configurations and environments. We have outlined some motor options and considerations below to help you gauge what will be the most suitable for you:-

Swing Gates

Linear ram motors

These are the most common type of gate motor. They are lower costing, reliable and simple to install. They use a worm drive or screwjack action to retract the arm, which shortens the arm length, thus opening the gates.

Linear ram gate motor Linear ram gate motor
Suitable for
  • Most swing gates
Unsuitable for
  • Gates with very small post/pillars too narrow to mount the motor brackets
  • Gates with very deep hinge positions where the corner of the post/pillar would block the motor arm
  • Exposed gates where high-winds are common (which can damage the worm-drive threading).

Underground motors

Underground motor and foundation box Underground motor and foundation box

These swing gate motors are mounted in a case flush to the ground (foundation box) with the drive arm being affixed to the underside of the gate on the same axis as the hinge. They are discrete, offering improved gate aesthetics, but are generally more expensive than a linear ram equivalent. Because they are underground due consideration to drainage is a must. Ground work is required for installation, so plan ahead - allow enough time for concrete to set and drainage to be tested! Physically check your drainage before putting motors into the ground as IP65 is the industry minimum standard - meaning the motors can withstand spraying with a hose for 15 minutes but not immersion underwater!

Suitable for
  • Most swing gates
  • Discrete installations.
Unsuitable for
  • Gravel/shingle drives
  • Areas with poor drainage or a high water table.

Articulated motor

Articulated motor kit Articulated motor kit

Using a hinged arm, articulated motors are ideal for smaller, ornamental gates, pedestrian gates, gates with large post/pillars that would obstruct a linear motor, and gates that need to open outwards (the polarity of the motors can be switched).

Suitable for
  • Small/lightweight/pedestrian gates
  • Gates with large pillars/posts that would obstruct a linear ram motor
  • Gate that need to open outwards
  • Wider opening angles (circa 130 degrees).
Unsuitable for
  • Long and heavy gates

Wheeled motors

Wheeled gate motor Wheeled gate motor

Mounting a motorised wheel on the latch end of the gate these motors have no restrictions on opening angles (the hinge’s play being the only limitation) and they can tackle slight gradients and any length of gate (provided it does not exceed the weight limit). The driveway surface needs to be flat for the wheel to get decent traction – so broken ground or gravel/shingle are unsuitable.

Suitable for
  • Very easy installation
  • Longer gates (gate weight is the only restriction)
  • Driveways with slight gradients
  • Wider opening angles (circa 270 degrees).
Unsuitable for
  • Gravel/shingle drives
  • Broken ground/rutted tracks.

Sliding Gates

Sliding motors

Sliding gate motor Sliding gate motor

Sliding gate motors use a cog that is coupled with a toothed rack affixed to the gate. The cog turns, engaging the teeth on the rack, moving the gate in the desired direction. Sliding gates require either guide track and guide brackets/roller guides or a cantilever mechanism to ensure they move in a predicted manner. Limit stops and gate strikes are recommended to ensure the gate travel is restricted between precise limits.

When selecting a sliding motor you will need to consider the class of motor as the range of performance from small domestic 24v motors up to 3-phase industrial sliding gate motors is stark in terms of gate length/travel (the maximum opening distance), gate weight and operations intensity(how many times it can open/close in a given timeframe).

Suitable for
  • All sliding gates
  • Requires cantilever system when on a gradient.

Usage

How often will the gates be used (opened/closed per hour)?

If you need a higher number of operations (opened/closed more than 5-6 times in an hour) during peak periods such as the morning and evening, then you may wish to consider a 24v system.

24v systems are more suitable for higher operation levels as they tend to run cooler than 230v gate motors, however, they do cost more in relative terms, so if you only need to open or close the gate 1-5 times an hour then a 230v system might prove more cost-efficient.

24v motors tend to be used on communal gates (apartment blocks, gated communities, commercial premises), whereas 230v tend to be used on standard domestic properties (detached/semi-detached homes).

The exception to this rule is sliding gate motors where the reverse is true - 24v sliding gate automation systems tend to be for domestic use, 230v for more intense use (commercial/communal).

24v systems can draw power from battery backup systems meaning they can still operate during any mains power cut (a 230v or 3 phase system would need to be opened with a manual release key).

24v systems can also utilise solar power units as a means of charging batteries, allowing you to site gate automation in rural and remote locations where main power is unavailable.

Hydraulic motors are available in linear ram configurations. These motors tend to be used for high-intensity environments where lots of traffic is expected to be coming and going. This industrial performance is reflected in the price, with hydraulic systems being more expensive than their electro-mechanical counterparts:-

Electro-mechanical

230v motors
  • Lower costs
  • Fewer operations (open/close) per hour
  • Suitable for domestic properties( detached/semi-detached homes)
24v motors
  • Higher operations (open/close) per hour
  • Higher cost
  • Suitable for shared and communal gates (apartment blocks, gated communities, commercial premises)
  • Suitable for remote locations (battery/solar powered)
  • Suitable for failsafe requirements (battery backup power).

Hydraulic

230v hydraulic motors
  • High operations
  • Higher costs
  • Suitable for industrial / commercial use.
3-Phase hydraulic motors
  • Suitable for high-intensity industrial / commercial use
  • Expensive.

Safety

Protecting both pedestrians and vehicles from moving gates is a paramount consideration and there are a range of safety features and products that you can deploy to provide the safest environment possible for your automated gates. Below we list a range of safety products and features, what they can offer and their limitations:-

Standard kit safety products

Photocells

Pair of infra-red safety photocells Pair of infra-red safety photocells

All gate kits come with a single set of photocells. These usually will be mounted on the exterior-edge of the gate posts, facing inwards towards each other across the gateway. An invisible infra-red beam is projected from the transmitter photocell towards the receiver photocell – and if this beam is broken a signal is sent to the gate’s control board to say that an object is in the gateway – and the gate will go into its opening phase, so whatever is in the gateway is not hit by the gate.

Advantages
  • Low cost (£45 - £60)
  • High safety benefit
  • Protects against gate closure when infra-red beam is broken
  • Comes with every gate automation kit as standard
  • Easy installation.
Disadvantages
  • Suggest 2nd set for swing gates to protect swing arc
  • May require mounting posts for ideal knee-height placement
  • May require sunshield/hoods to prevent interference from direct sunlight.

Additional safety products

2nd Set of Photocells for Swing Gates

For swing gates we recommend deploying a second set of safety photocells just outside the arc of the gate’s travel on the interior of the property. This will prevent the gates closing on anyone leaving the property that enters the arc of the gate without reaching the gateway photocells mounted on the gateway aperture. This prevents common scenarios such as 1) if you forget something in the house and nip back inside to collect it, the gates will not closed on the car 2) if you go to wave someone off on foot the gates will not close on you.

Emergency Stop Button

When activated this will stop the gate entirely – that is to say it does not go into the opening phase but shuts down all movement completely. There is a disadvantage to this – the button is an exterior device near the gate but outside of the car. However, this can be offset by programming one of the buttons on your key fob to fulfil the same emergency stop function.

Advantages
  • Stops all gate movement
  • Easy installation
  • Anyone can stop the gate in an emergency.
Disadvantages
  • Must be on foot to activate.

Key fob Emergency Stop

As stated, you can often programme one of the spare channels of a key fob to act as an emergency stop, allowing you to utilise this function from within the car if you are driving:-

Advantages
  • Stops all gate movement
  • Can be easily added to key fob functions
  • No additional costs.
Disadvantages
  • Not directly wired to the gate.

Safety Edges

These are rubberised fenders/bumpers that contain a safety contact sensor that activates the emergency stop function as soon as the sensor detects any contact. The rubber extrusion body means that if your gate does touch something it compresses like a car bumper absorbing any initial kinetic energy transfer – protecting you or your car. They are more often seen mounted on sliding gates, but we would recommend their use on swing gates too as they are a superb safety feature.

Advantages
  • Stops all gate movement when contact sensor is activated
  • Rubber extrusion body acts like a bumper to minimise contact damage
  • Easy installation.
Disadvantages
  • None.

Blinker Lights

Safety flashing blinker light Safety flashing blinker light

These are flashing lights usually mounted on top of the wall by an automated gate to warn people that the gate is opening or closing. They are low cost and effective ways to help make people aware of potential hazards.

Advantages
  • Hazard awareness
  • Low cost (£20 – £40)
  • Easy installation.
Disadvantages
  • Visual aid only – i.e. blind pedestrians would not receive a warning.

Laser Safety Sensors

These use laser sensor technology to scan and sense objects in the path of the gate (up to 10m detection range) and provide an emergency stop function should an object be detected. They present a high-level of safety with complete three-dimensional detection in the path of the gate. They incorporate ‘time of flight’ anticipation sending the stop signal immediately as an object approaches – necessary with larger gates where momentum will keep moving the gate before it can stop.

Advantages
  • 3D obstacle detection
  • Small obstacle detection
  • Area coverage
  • 'Time of flight' intervention for industrial/heavy gates.
Disadvantages
  • Can be highly sensitive (pigeons or windblown detritus false positives )
  • Relatively higher cost (£1000 - £2000).

Passive Radar Sensors

Similar to laser sensor technology, passive radar sensors uses millimetre band (30 – 300 gigahertz) electromagnetic radiation to detect objects in the scanning zone and will activate the emergency stop when an object is detected. They differ in one significant respect though; they are designed to self-learn and remove false positives such as pigeons and windblown detritus that might trigger a laser system’s emergency stop.

Advantages
  • 3D obstacle detection
  • Small obstacle detection
  • Area coverage
  • 'Time of flight' intervention for industrial/heavy gates.
  • Self-learning – fewer false positives.
Disadvantages
  • High cost (£4000 - £8000).

Built-in motor safety features

Some motors have built-in safety features. Technically they will not prevent a collision between the gate and whatever is hit, but they will limit the damage done.

Obstacle Detection / Anti-Crushing

These are only available in 24v motors system and they work sending feedback to the control board when the gate makes contact with an object, activating the emergency stop function.

Advantages
  • Reduces the damage done when an object is struck
Disadvantages
  • Does not prevent the object being struck

Access Control - Opening/Closing the Gates

Who needs to get onto the property via the automated gates?

There are a great many ways to open automated gates and control access to the property. We will outline some of the different types of access control and their benefits and limitations so you can choose what works best for your property:-

Locks & Security

Before deciding how you want to open the gates, you may wish to think about how you want to secure them, and which gate type provides the best security.

Sliding Gate Security

Sliding gates (especially metal ones) with properly fitter gate hardware and locks are inherently more secure than swing gates as it is significantly more difficult to force the gate open. A determined intruder could conceivable still force the gate, but the size of vehicle and kinetic energy required to ram open the gate would be substantial.

Swing Gate Security

Due to the simply physics of leverage double swing gates are less secure than sliding gates and are more susceptible to being forced open (or accidentally rammed). There are gate motors that offer irreversible operation when closed (more expensive, premium priced) which prevent the motors being forced inwards, but in reality this will only prevent casual and nuisance intruders. A determined intruder could still force the gate (probably damaging the gate and brackets rather than the motors).

Single swing gates offer improved resistance to being forced open or rammed as they can be locked against a post/pillar or wall on the latch end.

Electric locks

Electric lock Electric lock

An electric lock is a great way to secure your gate. Reliable, simple to install they will remain locked if you cut their power, meaning intruders cannot disable them by snipping a few wires! In the event of a power cut or electricity failure they can be opened like a standard lock with the provided manual key.

Electric locks can help prevent damage to the gates when accidentally pushed the wrong way, adding rigidity to the gates. You should be aware that wooden gates, especially longer 5-bar style wooden gates may not be suitable for electric locks due to their warping characteristics and changing shape/dimensions through the seasons.

Advantages
  • Improved security
  • Simple installation
  • Opens with standard manual key
  • Remain locked if power is cut
  • Extra rigidity - less likely to damage gates when accidentally pushed.
Disadvantages
  • Cradle and lock alignment is not guaranteed on wooden gates where warping/seasonal expansion and contraction can occur.

Magnetic Locks

We do not recommend using a magnetic lock as the offer little or no security and can be circumvented simply by cutting their power – disengaging the lock when no electricity is present!

Opening / Closing Options

Remote key fobs (zappers/clickers)

Remote Keyfob (Clicker / Zapper) Remote Keyfob (Clicker / Zapper)

Standard with all gate automation systems. These are hand-held radio transmitters sending a coded signal to a receiver to open the gate. They usually operate on 433,92 MHz or 868,35 MHz and range in capabilities from a single button (1-channel remote) up to nine buttons (9-channel remote), with 2-channel and 3-channel remotes being the most common. Each channel can operate one automated object – e.g. a set of automated gates, a garage door, a second set of garage doors etc.

Advantages
  • Simple push-button operation
  • Easily carried on car key ring
  • Open gates, open parking barriers, open garage doors, calls car lifts
Disadvantages
  • 30m range (approximate)
  • Can be susceptible to electro-magnetic interference from powerful sources (power lines, mobile phone masts, radio and TV transmitters, electricity substations)
How many remote key fobs will I need?

Most gate automation kits will come with one or two remotes, so consult the kit contents – generally single motor kits have one remote, double motor kits have two remotes. Gatemotors provide bulk discounts for some lines of remote key fobs so buying in bulk can save you money.

Are remote key fobs the only solution to open the gate?

No, there are many alternatives to remote key fobs:-

Keyswitches

Electric gate keyswitch Electric gate keyswitch

A key operated switch that can be used to open the gates. These are usually mounted on an access control post/intercom arm near the gate.

Advantages
  • Simple to install
  • Good for pedestrian access
  • Direct control of the gates.
Disadvantages
  • Everyone needs a key if this is the only method used.

Keypads / Digipads

Digipads provide a numeric or alphanumeric set of keys that allows users to enter an access code to open the gates. Generally these will be mounted on an access control post/intercom arm so drivers can pull alongside to operate them.

Advantages
  • Multiple users can gain access to the property
  • No need to carry a key or fob.
Disadvantages
  • Code security can be easily compromised
  • Changes to entry codes can cause disruption to uninformed users

Push Buttons

These are simple a weatherproofed switches, allowing anyone within reach to open the gate. Again these are commonly mounted on an access control post/intercom arm. They can be linked to a timer switch so they operate during business hours and then disengage out of hours.

Advantages
  • Simple use – push to open
  • Can be linked to 7-day timer to setup active and inactive period (e.g. business hours).
Disadvantages
  • Little or no security whilst in operation – anyone can enter the premises.

7 Day Timer

These timer devices are ideal for business or communal locations with known hours of operation who want to limit access when the property is not in use. As these can be wired to other access control systems they can be used to modify to operation of push buttons or vehicle loop detectors so they only work during set hours. As well as controlling other access control systems, they can be used in their own right to open gates during busy periods e.g. commuter hours at a workplace or school.

Advantages
  • Easy control to set open-periods for the gate
  • Can be wired into other systems to activate/deactivate them for given periods.
Disadvantages
  • None.

GSM Gate Opener

Ideal for communal gate access where numerous key fobs would prove too costly and a digipad would pose too great a security risk (compromised code). These access control systems incorporate a mobile phone SIM card, GSM receiver and a telephone address book. Using Caller-ID (so it never connects a call) it can recognise up to 200 registered mobile phone numbers. Users simply call the gate; the GSM unit recognises the number and the gate opens without connecting the call. The administrator can remotely update the telephone address book - allowing users to call the administrator to get their mobile number added to the gate – providing a highly flexible solution.

Advantages
  • Up to 200 hundred users
  • Access via their mobile phone
  • No telephone charges (no connection is made, it utilises Caller-ID)
  • No visible entry method so improved security
  • Ideal for transient business / communal access
  • Administrator can amend phone book remotely (add or remove access rights).
Disadvantages
  • Requires good GSM signal coverage near the gate
  • Users need a mobile phone
  • You will need an initial pay as you go SIM card (although no call charges are made against this) to go in the unit.

Vehicle Loop Detector

Generally used on the interior of a property to automatically open the gates when a vehicle is leaving these can be wired with a 7-day timer to the exterior of the gates on private driveways to open the gates during business hours when a vehicle approaches, but be disabled and keep the gate closed out of hours.

Advantages
  • Easy exit control for vehicles
  • Can be used in conjunction with a 7-day timers for business hours entry.
Disadvantages
  • Sensitivity adjustment required to limit area of operation
  • Cannot be used on exterior adjacent to public roads without false positive activation from nearby traffic.
How can I let visitors and deliveries onto the property?

There are a variety of intercom systems that allow visitors and deliveries to call the property from the gate using either audio or video feeds. Intercoms come in a variety of flavours which we will briefly outline below:-

Intercom systems

Wired audio intercoms

Wired intercom call point Wired intercom call point

Wired intercoms allow visitors to call a handset in the house and request entry. Wired intercom systems require a little more effort during installation (ground work for cable) but have the advantage of assured signal/reliability and simple function – making them most electricians’ preferred choice. They are available in 1-way (the visitors voice is heard) and 2-way (visitor and property owner can both talk to each other) and can have multiple handsets receivers for inside the property. They can also be fitted with keypads to allow regular visitors and staff entry via a code.

Advantages
  • Reliable signal and operation
  • Lower cost
Often modular and can be expanded with additional functions such as keypads.
Disadvantages
  • 1-way variants are somewhat limiting
  • Requires ground work to lay the communications cable – which should be in a trench at least 200mm deep and 200mm away from the gate’s power lines.

Wireless audio intercoms

Similar in almost all functions to wired intercoms, the primary difference being they use a wireless signal to send and receive data between the call point at the gate and the handset receiver in the property. This makes wireless intercoms easier to install as no ground work is required; however, there are some limitations – namely limited range (100m is near to upper limit for most systems with a clear line of sight) and the potential for electro-magnetic interference from nearby energy sources (power lines, mobile phone masts, electricity sub stations, TV and radio transmitters, Radar).

Advantages
  • Easy, flexible installation.
Disadvantages
  • Range (100m line of sight generally)
  • Potential for electro-magnetic interferences
  • Higher cost than wired systems with the same functionality

Multiway Intercoms

Multiway intercom call point module Multiway intercom call point module

Multiway intercoms are designed for apartment buildings, gated communities and office blocks where multiple-occupancy occurs and many different ‘addresses’ are required on the call point. They tend to be modular, allowing you add blocks of call buttons for however many properties are needed. Modular systems also allow you to add additional functionality such as video intercoms and keypad units.

Advantages
  • flexible configuration via modular units
  • can add video units
  • can add keypad units.
Disadvantages
  • Installation can be complex due to the number of cables needed on larger properties.

Video Intercoms

Video intercom call point module Video intercom call point module

These intercoms allow you to see who is at the gate using a camera at the call point and having a monitor on the handset receiver unit. This provides you with greater piece of mind and sense of who is requesting entry. They come in mono (black and white) and colour variants, but you will pay more for colour version. Expect to pay 2 – 3 times as much for a colour video intercom in comparison to a wired audio intercom.

Advantages
  • You can see who is at the gate
  • Modular systems are available (allowing modules such as multiway intercom units and keypad units to also be incorporated)
Disadvantages
  • An expensive nice to have

GSM Intercoms

These intercom systems work in a similar fashion to a video intercom, but rather than using a wired connection they use 3G mobile wireless to call the property’s handset/s. If the property handset is not answered the call is cascaded to your mobile phone so you can answer and unlock the gate remotely from wherever you are.

Advantages
  • Can answer your gate from anywhere you have a 3G signal
  • Cascading answering – calls house > calls your mobile.
Disadvantages
  • GSM intercoms can be mobile platform specific (e.g. either Android or iPhone but not both)
  • Ongoing data cost of video calls when the gate calls your mobile.

Preparatory work

How will you get power to the gate?

Gate automation systems are electric so will require power at the gate. This can be provided by two sources:-

  • Mains power – either direct to the motors for 230v AC systems, or via a step-down transformer (generally in the control unit) for 24v DC systems
  • Solar power – charging a battery system which in turn powers 24v gate motors

So the first question you need to consider is how will power reach the gate – is there a nearby mains power supply you can use?

Can I use standard 3-core electrical flex to run power to the gate?

No. As you are running power to an exterior location it will have to be an armoured cable (SWA or AWA). Ensure that it is laid deep enough to ensure it cannot be disturb by vehicles, pedestrians and fauna – usually a 200mm trench with 100mm of sand surrounding the cable. Consult your electrician and the gate kit installation guide.

What ground work is required?
  • Usually you will need a 200mm trench for armoured power cable to the gate
  • Wired intercom systems – this will also need bell wire or exterior screened Cat-5 run to the gate – it is suggested these are place in conduit. It is advised they are buried at least 200mm distance from the power cable to prevent electrical interference
  • Underground motor systems - Gate posts and foundation boxes will need to be set in concrete
  • Sliding gate guide track will need to be set in concrete if you are not using a cantilever system
  • Gate stops – if your gate does not have limit/gate stops then we always suggest using them regardless of whether your motor has built-in limits or not.
What else do I need to prepare?

The strongest piece of advice we can offer is to fully read the installation guides prior to purchase – these can be found in the upper-right portion of the page on each product page under the download banner.

  • Product installation guides – downloads on the upper right of each product page
  • Read the installation guides and instructions for all components of your system not just the gate kit as accessories and access control systems will also have specific requirements that may require preparation
  • Discuss the project with your electrician/installer and ensure they are completely happy all the components you intend on purchasing prior to buying anything.
  • Calculate how much cable you will need, how many junction boxes and how many relays to allow you to integrate your accessories and intercoms with the gate automation systems.

Help & advice

Can you advise me about what gate kit, accessories and access control I might need?

Certainly – you can call us Monday-Friday weekdays between 0830-1730 and our sales team will try and help and advise you in any way they can.

Call 01202 717 191

For specific brand technical support and questions please call the suppliers’ technical support numbers directly:-

Technical Support Numbers
Proteco (£1.02 per min)09116 038 046
BFT0800 328 8198
Came01159 210 430
Comelit01707 377 203
FAAC01256 318 100
Farfisa0844 870 9025
GMT(Daitem)01255 767 129
Nice and Mhouse01623 558 086
Videx0870 300 1240


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