Remote cell controlled hog trap release / latch

As experts in automation we get questions unrelated to gate openers quite often. We love to work on these issues and come up with solutions. One question we have received a few times was could our remote access devices somehow be utilized for a hog trap and the answer is YES, absolutely.

Here is the breakdown of a recent system we put together for a customer of ours. They started with a remote video monitored hog trap and had a spring loaded door for the trap. If they didn’t have the spring closing gate mechanistic one of our sister sites,

They would manually open the gate to the hog trap when setting the trap. In the open position they used the Estate Swing low impact automatic gate lock. (alternatively if you wanted to save some money you could utilize the automatic gate lock and paint it black or camouflage to not be a distraction. It is a mechanical lock that does not require power to remain locked. When triggered to release it uses energy for only a few seconds to energize a solenoid that releases the lock. The releasing of the lock then allows the springs to slam the gate closed, trapping the hogs in the pen. The automatic gate lock was paired with a 10 Watt solar panel, cell phone receiver and large battery box.

The solar panel will maintain the 12V deep cycle marine Group 24 battery. The battery will be the power source for both the lock and the receiver. The cell phone receiver is the cool part of this system. A GSM SIM card with phone number will be purchased for the receiver. The user will program in the phone numbers of authorized phones that can close the trap. When one of the authorized phone numbers calls the phone number of the GSM SIM card it will recognize the caller ID of the inbound phone number and trigger the lock to release.No apps, passwords, WiFi, or anything else needed. The reaction takes seconds and the hogs will be trapped! So for this customer they will monitor their cameras from their house or any place else with video access. When they see the hogs enter they can call the receivers phone number from any number of phones as long as they have been set up in the system.


Estate Swing gate openers serving the US Military

Estate Swing gate openers were designed to fit needs in the gate automation industry that other brands were not addressing. Because of the ingenuity and flexibility of the brand has been used in an assortment of applications that other gate openers do not get used in.

One of which is being used to serve the US Military. The E-SC 1602 gate opener has been a versatile operator for the Estate Swing line. Originally brought to market to address large column installations for the DIY home owner (large columns cannot utilize linear actuators which at the time were the only type of DIY gate opener being offered). It quickly was adapted with a few changes to become the E-SC 1602 carriage door opener. Carriage doors at that point did not have a way to be automated like standard garage doors and roll up doors did.

The designers of the HELTD (High Energy Laser Technology Demonstrator) had a need to automate the rear doors the vehicle. These massive doors needed automation that was strong, reliable and versatile enough to make adaptations for their purposes. The E-SC 1602 fit the bill. In the pictures below you will see that they fabricated their own operator arm to go on the motor that they needed for the doors. They utilize the operator to push to doors out and open.

E-SC 1602 Estate Swing gate opener installed in High Energy Laser Technology Demonstrator
E-SC 1602 Estate Swing gate opener installed in High Energy Laser Technology Demonstrator
E-SC 1602 Estate Swing gate opener installed in High Energy Laser Technology Demonstrator
E-SC 1602 Estate Swing gate opener installed in High Energy Laser Technology Demonstrator
High Energy Laser Technology Demonstrator
High Energy Laser Technology Demonstrator

Gate opener exit sensors considerations and troubleshooting

The story of having a driveway gate opening unwanted with an exit sensor is not an unusual one. Exit wands are very popular devices for driveway gate openers (technically exit loops are what are popular but the installation and cost of a loop is prohibitive and thus people gravitate to exit sensors) but they are susceptible to many issues because of the nature of how they work. Some people even have properties that cannot utilize them because of soil or other issues.

Here is why they are problematic. To start, loops / loop detectors are what you find at stop lights and commercial exits. A loop is a twisted wire in the shape of a rectangle that is saw cut into the driveway that is energized by a loop detector. It uses induction to detect metal directly above it. This is a very reliable way to detect metal and typically does not pick up anything that is not directly above it since it is actually detecting metal. An exit sensor, since being buried in the ground next to the driveway for easy installation cannot work the same way. It instead needs to detect metal that moves into an area near it. Hence it is not a metal detector like a loop, it is a magnetometer. A magnetometer detects disruptions in the magnetic field. This means during times of not being triggered the magnetic field near the wand needs to be still and constant. Movement in the magnetic field are much like ripples in water and this is what the magnetometer detects. And this is where problems come in. If you imagine there are so many things that can cause ripples on water and the same goes for the magnetic field. You may ask yourself at this point why anyone sells these devices. The reason is although you will have some unintentional openings at times, for a majority of people saw cutting a driveway is out of the question and they, like you, have a very strong need for automatic exiting. This is the residential alternative to a loop to have this auto-exiting feature without the difficult installation. Typically there will always be random openings with a wand but they wont disrupt the gate opener’s functionality, it will simply open and then close during a storm or when a dump truck drive by too fast, etc, and the user hardly notices. But then there are cases where it is not random openings, it is constant openings and that is what needs to be figured out.

Here are the possibilities including defective product and test/solution for such.

Encasing the exit wand in conduit: Even better if you use some Styrofoam to center the wand in the casing so it is not touching the edges. Only the wand itself is what would be placed in conduit, the cost would be very minimal. The purpose of this is not to seal up the exit sensor, the exit sensor is already sealed. The point is to move it further from the soil and water. There are two issues this can help correct – ground water and iron ore. Ground water can carry an electrical charge that can cause interruptions in the magnetic field. Iron ore is found in soil in many areas of our country and can also play havoc on the magnetic field. However both of these are very light disturbances. One other thing of note on magnetometers is the larger the mass disturbing the magnetic field the further from the wand that the disturbance can be detected. Since these are both very slight disturbances encasing the wand in PVC (and centering it if possible) can sometimes move it far enough away from ground water and iron ore to solve the issue. Typically people that have an issue where the wand works above ground and then they bury it and it doesn’t work can be solved with this solution. So if you un-bury the wand and leave it above ground on the grass and it seems to be working better then this is probably a valid solution (not always a guarantee but still a good indicator because the grass and the soil the grass is in (typically not the same as the soil under the sod) is insulating the wand from the soil and ground water like the conduit would) One thing to be aware of with leaving it above ground, direct sunlight can produce a lot of heat and can cause the exit wand to trigger, so this would never be a permanent solution leaving it above ground.

Burying it deeper: This is only locating the wand itself deeper, not the wire, so you would only dig a hole that is at max 24 inches deep by about 3 inches wide and 36 inches long (length would be so you could loosen up on the incoming wire to allow some excess to be used to make the wand deeper than the wire itself (essentially the wand would be a few inches closer to the gate to acquire the extra wire to go deeper without digging up all the wire). This is in-case there is something near by that is causing problems. 120VAC line, sprinkler conduit (because of the water inside the line, not the pvc conduit itself), cell tower, fencing with metal, and other things can cause issue and by burying it deeper it will help insulate it from that disturbance. We can tell you exactly what would be correct for depth is is we don’t know the disturbance, the mass of the disturbance, location, etc there is no way to predict how far you have to move it away from the disturbance. 10-12 inches is the suggested depth for ideal conditions, but if the conditions are not ideal it comes down to trial and error.

Change the location of power supply to the wand: The wire itself is shielded to help defer electric disturbances. Most have the positive power lead of the exit sensor going to the gate opener control board accessory power terminal and have both the negative wire and the shield material of the wand going to the gate opener control board accessory ground terminal. The shield of the wire works when connected to a ground, which the board has a ground but not a great one (a good ground is not having resistance, the board has some resistance). So, one possibility is to take the power wires and shield and connect the directly to the battery instead. The ground of the battery is a much better ground than the board’s ground. Sometimes moving the wires to the battery directly along with the shield will help to ground the wand and solve issues. Lastly the best powering solution, if feasible, is to have the power leads going to the battery and the shield going to a grounding rod that is located at the gate. This provides the best possible ground for the wand.

Defective wand: This is always a possibility and has been seen before. But I would say interference is more common than this. The reason we don’t jump to this before suggesting the other stuff is this is actually the most labor intensive solution. The suggestions above your digging is only located at the wand itself. This is the one solution where you will indeed need to retrench the entire distance because you will need to bury the replacement wand and its wire the entire length. And it unfortunately has happened a few times where the wand is exchanged and either instantly or within a week or two the problem is back. By then the customer is usually over the idea of an exit wand or troubleshooting because of the labor involved in the exchange and is now digging the entire length a third time to take it up and return it for a different type of exit device. If you are exchanging consider swapping brands so if you bury a wand of a different brand and it is still malfunctioning you can be certain that the odds of two different manufacturers producing a wand and both of them being defective is non-existent and you have your answer about the possibility of being able to use an exit wand on your property.

Which brings me to what to do if your property is just not right for an exit sensor or after reading this you realize that an exit sensor may bring down the reliability of your system overall and you don’t want to have that question hanging over the gate of when the wand is going to randomly open the gate again (but again, typically exit wand usage when there is no constant interference just have random openings from things like storms or speeding dump trucks but then the gate automatically closes again so it is hardly noticed).

1. You could use a photo eye. It is not ideal as an exiting device because anything that blocks the path of the photoeye will trigger the gate to open, human, animal, build up of leaves, kid knocks the photo eye out of alignment by hitting it with a soccer ball, etc. The positive thing however about a photo eye is you can see what is happening, it is not invisible reactions to a magnetic field, it is a physical obstruction.

2. You could install a loop and loop detector. This is a commitment to doing the labor of installation but once installed the buried part is simply twisted wire set into a casing, nothing can happen to it really, if there was a problem it would be in the detector which is at the board. And since it detects metal rather than interference in the magnetic field it is much more reliable. (commercial applications like apt complexes, stop lights, office parks, etc only use loops, never wands)

3. Non-automatic device such as a push button on a post. If you mounted a simple push button anyone leaving could roll down their window and press the button if they didn’t have a remote.


Don’t throw away your old Apollo, Beware of bench testing your new Apollo

A common thing we hear on older Apollo gate openers is a home owner is replacing it because the opener is acting funny and doing random stuff. However once we get into asking questions it is not so random, the gate opener error symptoms that we see happening are: The driveway gate just stops and it is well short of open or closed. The driveway gate stops and reverses mid cycle in the same place each time. Or the gate opener over closes or over opens, stops and reverses.  The answer many times is simply needing correction on the piston position in relation to the limit switches on the Apollo piston style operator arm series: 1500, 1550, 1600, 1650.

Sometimes we get this call during the initial installation, typically from the people bench testing or that have bench tested (see second scenario later in blog). But we get this call more frequently from customers that have had the gate opener for years, had it off the gate for a bit (usually when the battery dies and they have a delay before buying a new battery).

Here are the dynamics of what is happening. The limit switches are located in the motor casing. The limit switches are triggered by a magnet that moves when the screw drive turns. The piston that goes in and out which opens and closes the driveway gate is pushed in and out by the screw drive. So when the screw drive turns the piston moves down the screw drive at the same rate that the magnet moves toward the open or closed limit switches in the rear of the arm. When the piston is retracted it is paired up by the factory with the magnet being close to or on the open limit switch. SO now that this is understood here is what happens. When the gate opener arm is not connected to the gate someone will either hand turn the piston to extend or retract it or run the gate opener and not hold on to the end of the piston (bench testing).

The Apollo has two internal limit switches that are triggered by a magnet that moves coordinated with the spinning of the screw drive.
Internal look at the Apollo gate opener limit switches, magnet and screw drive.

We will take both of the scenarios one at a time. First hand turning: So lets say the piston is extended and the gate is closed and the battery on the unit fails. A common thing to happen is the home owner will realize it has been 5 years and needs a new battery and puts it on their list to do; however they need to open their gate to get in an out in the mean time. They will disconnect the piston from the gate, hand turn the piston until it is screwed all the way into the retracted position, open the driveway gate and reattach the arm to the gate in the open position. However what has happened is the screw drive does not turn when you hand turn the piston, the piston is being moved on a still screw drive. Since only the spinning of the screw drive moves the magnet that triggers the limit; the magnet is still in the same position, on the closed limit. So now your piston is in the open position but the magnet is triggering the closed limit switch. When the new battery is installed they try to run the gate. The board believes the gate is closed because the magnet is on the closed limit. So it starts to turn the screw drive to retract the arm to the open position and move the magnet internally toward the open limit switch. HOWEVER the piston is already retracted and it will try to retract further, bottom out inside the unit, obstruct and reverse directions.

This other scenario is more likely to happen during initial install. Some people like to bench test the equipment before putting it on the gate. However since the piston is not attached to the gate when the gate opener is activated, when the screw drive starts to turn the piston turns as well and does not move down the screw drive (sometimes it will turn while it moves but not at the rate it should be moving). The gate is what holds the piston from spinning with the screw drive. When this happens the magnet still moves toward the other limit switch but the piston does not keep up, this throws the positioning of the piston off from where the magnet is in relation to the open and closed limit. This can be one of our more frustrating scenarios because if the piston spins with the screw drive but still moves some it will get the piston only slightly out of line with the magnet. So when the gate operator arm is installed on the gate and they are are trying to adjust their limit switches it will seem the piston will over extend or over retract by just a little and they just don’t have enough play in the limit switch adjustment to correct it.

The Quick and Easy Fix

1. Move the driveway gate to the desired closed position. This is the actual driveway gate with the arm detached from it, we are not moving the operator arm yet.

2. With the piston detached from from the gate run the operator to the closed position. This time we WANT the piston to spin and not move in and out or it probably will obstruct from over extension/retraction. We are trying to get the internal magnet to the position inside the arm where is it triggering the closed limit switch. On the 635/636/835/836 boards you will see in the lower right a light labeled Closed Limit – we want this illuminated. On the 1050 board under each of the motor terminals there is a light that is red, green or off. We want the light red. When the correct light is illuminated we will know the limit switch is currently triggering the closed limit switch inside the arm.

3. With the board showing the closed limit as triggered and the driveway gate in the closed position; manually spin the piston until it is in a position where it can be attached to the bracket on the closed driveway gate. Attach it to the gate.

Now your closed limit switch will be triggered when your piston and gate is in the correct closed position and as long as you operate your gate as normal the piston and magnet will be coordinated.


Solar gate opener used without solar

Solar gate openers in all actuality are simply very efficient battery operated gate openers. The incoming solar energy is collected and utilized to keep the battery charged for powering the gate opener. Having a very low draw gate opener, like the US Automatic Patriot or the Estate Swing E-S1000H, and a large high quality battery will allow your gate to operate long periods (with low usage we have experienced over a month) without an incoming charge. This fact is important for an out of the box gate opener solution.

We have worked with customers that are in remote areas with no power available near the gate area and terrible sunlight; a seemingly impossible scenario. Take Alaska for example, parts like Barrrow have 30 days of no sunlight. Other parts of Alaska get nearly unusable sun light for solar purposes because of the tilt of the earth’s axis. The sun is basically rotating around the horizon. Other gate opener scenarios that have required a work around have been camp grounds in heavily wooded area that need gates but have no opportunity for sunlight because of the tree and other remote areas such a parks or cabin homes.

Our suggestion for these instances is monthly battery rotation. If you purchase a very efficient gate opener, take the E-S 1000H or D for example, then you could do the following to have a solar and power free instillation:

Purchase two large Group 22 batteries and a high quality battery charger/tender. Keep one battery out in the gate opener and the other in the house on the charger. Put a reminder in your calender that once a month you should put the battery in your vehicle and as you drive through the gate open the box and swap batteries.

Solar gate openers and ambient lighting

Solar gate openers are extremely popular for DIY gate installations. As more people are realizing the reliability of solar gates and ease of wireless gate opener installations we are finding that there is a common misconception about how solar panels collect power which we are going to address here.

Our number one issue we run into is improper positioning of the solar panel. It is misunderstood the type of light a solar panel must have. Ambient light does not create energy with a solar panel and leads to systems that have batteries that loose their charge. On a fully sunny day, the brightness of an open area is what misleads people’s perception of the sunlight that is being received by the gate opener’s solar panel. It could seem that a panel facing East, West or even North is getting direct sun light. This is the brightness and the way our eyes take in the light is misleading us. Take a look at this illustration of the sun shining on a ball and the position of the solar panel. The right side the panel is facing South, the panel is getting direct sunlight. The left hand picture the panel is facing East and the panel is not receiving direct sunlight. In real life the look is not so dramatic but the effects of the position of the earth in regard to the sun is exactly this dramatic.


solar panel example facing east
Facing east the solar panel will not get direct light and will not charge sufficiently.
gate opener solar panel model facing south
Facing south the solar panel will get direct needed to charge the gate opener battery.

Most of our customers are installing in the Northern Hemisphere. This means that earth is positioned so the sun is coming in at an angle from the south of the property.  The solar panel should be positioned facing the south at an angle to compensate for the curvature of the earth. The angle can be calculated using this formula: (Your Latitude x 0.9) + 29 Degrees= # of degrees your panel should be angled towards true South from the horizontal position (laying flat pointing directly up). Search latitude and the address of your gate opener installation in to find your latitude.

Another issue that comes up is very light shading. Some customers have trees that cast faint shadows because of their distance. The belief is that because it is not a solid dark shadow there is sun light that is getting through and the gate opener solar panel will charge the battery. This is not the case, this will also lead to a discharged battery. The solar panel should be in the clear direct path of the sun light for the entire day.

Gate openers that are linear actuators on column mounted driveway gates

Gate openers that are linear actuators* are attractive options for many due to price and quality you get for the price, but a concern for driveway gates on columns is pivot point location.
The pics below show the details.
In this driveway gate opener example there is a concern a linear actuator style gate opener may not fit in the 3-4 inches between our stone pillars and the driveway gate when open. Also the rear edge of the pillar 15 inches away. This was the question posed to us by a customer of ours.
Linear actutor example on a large column (will not work without alternate usage)
This is an example of how a linear actuator gate opener will not work with a large column
 Here are the solutions possible in this scenario.
A gate opener that is a linear actuator will not fit in a standard pull to open installation. The required setback alone needs to be placed inside the pillar, which is not physically possible without major modifications to the column like notching out a deep block on the same vertical plane as the gate opener. Placing the rear pivot point on the rear of the column won’t work either, the stroke of the linear gate openers are too short and won’t be able to open the gate all the way.
To use a gate opener that is a linear actuator you would either have to offset the gate hinge  mounting 3 inches from the rear of the column. Or if the gates can swing toward the road you could do push to open and then the setback wouldn’t matter. Or lastly you could place the motors on the outside of the gate and use a push to open operation to swing the gate in toward the property.
If none of those options will work then you should use a articulating gate opener* like the Apollo 3600
or if it is 17 inches or less from the hinge to the rear of the column, the NH-H12  with large bracket
or if it is 12 inches or less to from the hinge of the gate to the rear of the column, the E-SC 1600
*Linear Actuator: A linear actuator is a gate opener that retracts and extends on a linear path in order to open the gate. Basically the piston extends out and retracts in. The gate opener has two pivot points, as the gate opener retracts it pulls these two pivot points toward each other. As it extends out it pushes them away from each other. Because he gate can pivot on its hinges and the actuator can pivot on the rear and front this action will open and close eh gate. The linear actuators have very specific locations for the pivot points in regard to their relation to the hinge of the gate, this is to ensure there is enough leverage to move the gate and the gate can open a full 90 degrees.
* Articulating Gate Opener: An articulating gate opener has two bars that join at an “elbow” and pivot in three places to open the gate. Because of this elbow shape it can conform to reaching around a corner to attach to the gate and pull it open. The first pivot point is on the drive shaft of the motor which is behind the column, the second is at the elbow, and the third is at the gate.

Solar gate opener is safest choice for future adaptation

When choosing a gate opener one thing we get questions on is how can the system they are looking at be used in possible changes to their application. For example the house may currently be a vacation home but in 5 years will become a main residence. Or the driveway gate is currently in a remote location but in the future power will be run to the area and the entryway upgraded. Or individuals that plan on moving and taking their customized driveway gate with them (because it says their last name on the gate or something of that nature) and take the gate opener as well. Our customers want to know they are buying a system that will not have to be replaced because of changes to the driveway gate entrance area before the life of the gate opener has expired.

Gate openers that are going to be used in these scenarios are best to be 12V DC large deep cycle battery solar gate openers. Here is a list of these gate openers:

Swing gate: Estate Swing 1000 series solar gate opener (be sure to chose solar option) or E-S Allegiant

Swing and slide gate: Apollo gate opener systems

Swing and slide gate: US Automatic gate opener systems

The reason for this is how these systems work. All of the above systems run off a deep cycle marine battery. Solar charging is there simply to keep the battery maintained. This means that the solar panel can be replaced later with a battery float charger for heavy usage if power is present. Also because they run off of a deep cycle marine battery they have the battery capacity to be used at a high number of cycles if being used with a float charger. Also the deep cycle marine battery will offer insulation from cold weather issues that smaller battery operated systems have to contend with. So these gate opener systems with the large deep cycle marine batteries can be used solar or with a direct powered float charger without changing the circuit board or how the system operates or is wired; they can work for high number of cycles; and they can work in colder weather. This makes this collection of gate automation great for almost all residential / light commercial applications.

Gate Opener Wind Resistance Issues on Driveway Gates

Wind is an issue for all vehicular gate openers, irregardless of the brand if the gate opener is UL325 compliant. Resistance detection is something that is built into all vehicular gate openers and is discussed as a part of UL325. It is discussed primarily as a positive; protects children, pets, cars, etc. But then there are many forms of resistance that can be brought on by nature that gate openers are subject to that sometimes people don’t think of as resistance, but the reality is snow build up, wind, sagging gates, slope, etc are all the same as hitting something you would want the gate opener to stop for and therefore the gate opener stops.
Sometimes we are asked what the acceptable wind speed is. This really cannot be answered as a wind speed that is acceptable to a gate opener vs one that is not. It is not possible to ever say that 15 mph is fine in all circumstances and 45 is not. It depends on how much pressure that wind exerts on the gate. On some style gates if you placed a cinder block holding the gate and 15 mph winds blew it would push the block. Other style gates it would not, the block would hold. That is the determining factor of obstruction, not really the wind speed. It would not be possible to engineer to account for a certain wind speed under UL325 in all gate designs as the gate design surface area/resistance is not a constant.
If your gate opener is having wind resistance obstructions typically can assist in trying to make recommendations for changes to your setup to make it work as to the best of that particular gate openers ability. There are a few factors when dealing with resistance to make sure the wind is the only resistance factor and not just the tipping factor of an already existing resistance issue. The battery size/voltage (on a 12V gate opener system), the design of the gate, hinges of the gate, stroke of the arm in the open and closed position, the P3 setting, the length of wire from motors, and a few other things. If we can give the opener the maximum leverage and least amount of operational resistance, then perhaps the wind itself wont be enough to make it obstruct where now it could be a combination factor.
Apollo gate openers makes a pre-UL325 gate opener, the Apollo 1500/1600 gate opener. However this is not a vehicular gate opener as it does not comply with UL 325 safety standards. This is why it can push through wind. The down side is it cannot distinguish wind from a child and can do serious bodily harm, we only sell it as an agricultural gate opener as there is too much liability otherwise and we will not be involved in a situation where a gate opener causes harm to a person.
A way to go is an FAAC hydraulic gate opener which we can special order for you, however they are expensive. The way a hydraulic gate opener handles obstruction is different. Screw drive gate openers stop and reverse when there is resistance. Hydraulic gate openers cycle the fluid when there is resistance through a bypass. What it would look like is as follows: the hydraulic gate opener would be opening and then slow to a crawl or stand still until the wind dies down and then continue on when the resistance is no longer there. If you stand in front of one it just feels like a gentle continuous nudge.