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Articles by John Homan

Automated Entry Gates for the Landscape Professional

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Automatic gates provide a number of benefits for your clients. They add convenience, security, privacy, and prestige to a private residence. New technologies and standards have made entry access more affordable, easier to maintain, and safer than ever before. When professionally designed and specified, these systems add great value to a landscape project and residence.

Automated gates are intended for vehicular traffic only. They are usually swing or sliding gates that secure your client's driveway and property. Entry gates can be very simple or can be custom- designed, elaborately-detailed, ornamental iron works of art. Your client's entry gate can be manufactured from various materials, but if it is to be automated, it should be of higher quality since the automatic operators apply much higher forces to the gate than manual operation. Cheap or flimsy gates will cause malfunctions, resulting in future callbacks.

Automated entry gate systems should be designed in conjunction with a certified gate automation professional. Automated entry gate systems must conform to UL 325 and ASTM F2200 industry standards for automation equipment and gates, respectively. UL 325 spells out entrapment protection installation and equipment and ASTM F2200 indicates how gates are to be constructed to prevent accidents. The gate automation and access control industry takes very seriously our responsibility to provide systems that conform to these standards—so much so that responsible access control professionals won't even service non-conforming installations. If your client has an older system or if you're not sure that the system conforms to applicable standards, please contact a certified gate automation professional to protect you and your client.

Swing entry gates are usually either single or bi-parting leaf gates. Swing gate operators can be either actuator arms, which attach to the gate and to the gate post, or pillars, which act like "pistons" or pad-mounted machines with articulated arms that "unfold" to open or close the gate. The site conditions and your client's needs will help you and your certified gate professional determine which is the best solution.

Slide gates are best suited for level terrain. One advantage of an automated slide gate is it will function properly without the need to remove snow that automated swing gates require. Slide gate automated systems require a bit more attention to entrapment protection than swing gates, however—when the gate slides open, there is a "storage area" where the gate slides into that requires protection. In addition, there can be no openings greater than 2-1/4" on a slide gate or the adjacent fence the gate slides past. This is to prevent an appendage from passing through when the gate is moving, avoiding an unnecessary accident. A certified professional will help you design a system that meets all current standards.

Automatic gates can be controlled in many useful and creative ways. Most operators have a basic radio receiver and several transmitters (remotes) to open and close the gate. Many gate operators have a timer-to-close that automatically closes the gate at a pre-set interval after it opens. Many clients also appreciate a feature that will allow the gate to open from the inside by itself if a vehicle approaches (free exit).

If the gate is in the front of the property, your client will need to communicate with and to provide access for visitors and service personnel. Access for garbage service, mail and package delivery, in-laws, etc. can be done by a simple keypad which can be programmed so different codes work only on certain days or at certain times. A telephone entry system provides communication with visitors. When someone pulls up to the post-mounted unit, a call button is pressed that contacts the house so your client can let them in (or not). A camera can be mounted in the entry system so your client can see who is at the gate for added security. It is also necessary to provide a key box or switch to allow access for emergency response vehicles. All of this can even be done wirelessly!

The equipment most professionals specify today is reliable and trouble-free. A gate automation professional should educate your client on the use, maintenance, and simple troubleshooting of their system. They should provide prompt service and offer a preventative maintenance plan. When properly planned, installed, and maintained, these systems should offer years of trouble-free service.

Modern automated entry gate systems are completely customizable. There are exciting new advances in wireless solutions, home automation integration, solar power, smartphone apps, and PC programmability that make gate automation a safe, smart, and green addition to the landscape plan.