Tips for Gate Opener Surge Surpression

Gate openers are particularly susceptible to power surges because of their remote locations. Having a long electrical wires providing power to the gate opener control board at the far end of the property for your driveway gate can be an attractive source for transient voltage.

In line surge suppressors that protect the incoming lines to the gate openers are popular and effective choices. However there are a few tips to keep in mind when installing one:

Have at least 4 foot of wire between the surge suppressor and the gate opener. This wire can be coiled up, zip tied and placed in the gate opener control box. The reason for this is the surge suppressor is not actually a blocking device, it is a rerouting device for the electricity. When excessive voltage is detected it reroutes the electricity from the gate opener to the grounding rod. Electricity travels 1 foot per nano-second. The surge suppressor takes 3 nano-seconds to open up the ground as a path. So the electricity will actually travel 3 feet past the surge suppressor before it comes back and goes to the ground.
The ground should be as direct and short to a grounding rod as possible. This means sink a new grounding rod next to your driveway gate. This must be the path of least resistance, if the ground is a long distance, a smaller wire then the one going to the board, or has more resistance than the wire leading to the gate opener the electricity will not go to the ground and will still hit your gate opener. The surge suppressor cannot force the electricity to the ground, the electricity must be attracted to the ground by path of least resistance. Use a thick gauge wire, no wire nuts. Wire nuts crimp the wire and add resistance. To connect wires together use bus connectors.
If you are trying to use an old grounding rod have it tested as a ground. Over time grounding rods can become ineffective grounds. One thing we see in Florida is over time as electricity passes through the grounding rod repeatedly over time the sand surrounding the grounding rod can actually be turned to glass from the immense heat. Once the glass encases the rod it is no longer a ground.
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Shadow Loops on Residential Gate Openers

For residential driveway gates with gate openers, many times those gate openers have terminals for safety devices but not shadow loops.

Adding a shadow loop to the gate opener can be done but gets a little bit complicated and here is why:

There is no terminal intended for a shadow loop and no power output intended to trigger a relay for a shadow loop.

We can use the power off the motors to trigger a relay that closes the stop safety circuit (a normally closed circuit that needs to be closed for the gate opener to move) once the gate starts moving but it will all depend on how far into the swing of the gate the shadow loop becomes triggered by the gate itself.

To better explain here is one example using an Estate Swing E-S 1602. As with most gate openers there is always a delay between leafs, minimum is 2 seconds. So if we are using only 1 relay then it would function as listed below:

The gate in the closed position: the stop safety terminal would be closed through the loop detector providing no car is on top of the shadow loop. (of course if a car is on the loop then it wont move because the stop circuit would be open and this is the intention of the shadow loop).

Once you trigger the gate the relay coil would be wired in with the power to motor 1. Motor 1 moves first so as soon as power is applied by triggering the gate – motor 1 leads would energize the relay coil and the relay could close the stop circuit. The gate passing over the shadow loop would trigger the shadow loop to open the circuit however since the circuit is already closed through the relay this would not stop the gate. Now here is the sticking point; leaf 1 would reach its open position 2 seconds before leaf 2. Since the relay is energized by leaf 1 the stop circuit would no longer be closed by the relay. However if leaf 2 is already past the shadow loop then the shadow loop would once again be closing that circuit so it would be OK. However if leaf 2 was still traveling over the loop you would have the gate stop short of full open. This would also happen at the beginning of the closing cycle.

Now here is an alternate solution. You use 2 relays, one on each motor lead. Both would close the same circuit when energized but that is OK because you can have as many things closing the circuit in parallel as you want – the board will keep going until none of the connections are closing the circuit.

My vote for reliability is the double relay. The only time you will have an issue is if the gate is stopped mid way and you need to start it. In this scenario the shadow loop will be an open circuit because of the gate over it and the two relays will both be an open circuit because no power is going to either motor leads. And if the safety circuits are not closed it will not even attempt to send power to the motor to close the circuit through the relay. So in this case they would have to manually release the gates and move them off the shadow loop.

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Installing a 3 Rail Wood Farm Gate

Installing a 3 Rail Wood Farm Gate Frame

First things first, if you are considering putting in a 3 rail farm gate you must consider if you plan on adding gate opener automation to open and close your driveway gate. This is one of the main features of the 3 rail farm gate. We use the same grade aluminum as we do when we build our semi-custom picketed driveway gates. 6061-T6 aluminum was chosen for its strength and resilience, which if you are going to use a gate opener there will be torque and pressures put on the frame that may bend or contort other 3 rail farm gates not made of the same material.

The steps are fairly simple as you will see in the video above. We will cover some odds and ends that you wont find in the video and the rest yo can pick up from that:

  • Pick your wood wisely. Keep in mind this is going to be the entrance to your driveway and if you are going to automate the gate. You will want the wood to look nice and hold up well to weathering. Also you do not want it to warp at all, this could get your gate opener out of alignment. Redwood is a great choice if it is available. Many people use a pressure treated pine however this is not as attractive and has toxins in it so you would not want it to have regular contact with animals or people.
  • Carriage bolt heads sink into the wood for a nice finish. Carriage bolts have the rounded head with a square base under the head that normally goes into a square hole made for the carriage bolt. However if you used a carriage bolt with wood, as you tighten the bolt down the square base will sink into and grab the wood leaving just a shiny rounded head on the outside of the driveway gate.
  • Paint the frame before adding the wood. Seems obvious but many people consider this a finishing step to building the driveway gate and tape off and paint the frame after it is fully built. Beside it being much easier not having to tape anything off if you do it before hand; the paint will have less likelihood of chipping or flaking if it is one continuous seal around the metal inside of just one side.
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