Electrified vs Mechanical Door Operators and Closers

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When selecting a door operator or closer, many considerations must be taken into account. Which electrified door operator or mechanical door closer is right for a particular door will depend on the door’s fire safety and security requirements, as well as any desired aesthetic or accessibility features.

Of course, the ADA Accessibility Guidelines must also be considered in many situations. Choosing the wrong operator or closer will compromise safety, security and efficiency, while selecting the right one will provide many years of reliable use.

Here’s a guide to the many different electrified door operators and mechanical door closers that may be installed in commercial, industrial and similar settings. Each of these operators and closers has its own benefits and is a good choice in particular situations.

Electrified Door Operators

Most electrified door operators assist with both opening and closing doors. They require electricity, but some types have their own power supply. There are four types of electrified door operators: regenerative power operators, low-energy electromechanical operators, wave-to-open switches and low-energy electro-hydraulic operators.

Regenerative Power Operators

Regenerative power operators are easy to install and will last for many years. Although industry professionals frequently leave off the “low-energy” descriptor when talking about these operators, they are low-energy units.

These operators work by charging an onboard battery that supplies enough power to open and close a door. Many models have a plug-in option, but they’re primarily designed to generate the electricity they use themselves.

Because these operators have a battery and generate their own power, there’s no need to run a wire to them. They can easily be installed almost anywhere, regardless of whether an external power source is readily available.

Regenerative power operators are suited for high-traffic areas where doors are usually opened manually but automated operation is occasionally needed. They’re perfect for meeting ADA Accessibility Guidelines in malls, retail stores, banks, schools and other facilities. In these places, most people will manually open a door, but the option to use an electrified door opener often must be available. As long as less than 25 percent of people who go through a door use the regenerative power operator, it’ll provide all the power that’s needed to operate the door.

Low-Energy Electromechanical Door Operators

Low-energy electromechanical door operators are quiet and require little power. They have a gearbox that provides consistent automatic operation and will last for years.

Unlike regenerative power operators, low-energy electromechanical door operators must be connected to an external power source. This complicates installation slightly, but it also eliminates any concern about usage rates. These operators can be installed where automatic operation is the primary mode, and not just an option that’s used one-fourth of the time or less.

Low-energy electromechanical door operators can be installed anywhere where there’s a power supply and the ADA Accessibility Guidelines must be met. They’re well-suited, however, for moderate- to high-traffic areas.

Wave-to-Open Switches

Wave-to-open switches are aesthetically pleasing and offer touch-free operation. Audible or visual cues (e.g. motion) trigger operation, eliminating any need to touch the door or a button.

While wave-to-open switches are used in many places, they’re especially suited for places where hygiene is a major concern. Many businesses are installing them in public restrooms, as the final step in making restrooms touch-free. These operators have also been used in medical settings for a long time.

Low-Energy Electro-Hydraulic Door Operators

Low-energy electro-hydraulic door operators are durable and dependable, and they can be installed on exterior or interior doors.

Like regenerative power operators, low-energy electro-hydraulic operators are used in places where automatic operation is only sometimes needed. They’re frequently installed when a low-traffic pedestrian door must be brought into compliance with the ADA Accessibility Guidelines.

Mechanical Door Closers

Mechanical door closers only close doors, ensuring they’re fully closed after being opened by a person. Because they only close doors, electricity isn’t needed. There are two main types of mechanical door closers: surface-mounted closers and concealed closers.

Surface-Mounted Closers

Surface-mounted closers are easy to install, requiring minimal preparation of the frame and door. They’re also easy to adjust, if they ever become misaligned due to usage or environmental changes.

The main downside of surface-mounted closers is that they’re visible. As long as being noticeable isn’t a major concern, however, these manual door closers are used in many settings.

Surface mounted closers may be installed many different ways:

  • Regular arm mounted
  • Parallel arm mounted
  • Top jamb mounted
  • Slide track mounted
  • Corner bracket mounted

Concealed Closers

Concealed closers are more challenging to install. Both the frame and door must be prepared more, and the installation itself is more involved. They also can’t be adjusted as easily as surface-mounted closers.

The advantage of concealed closers is that they aren’t visually obvious when the door is closed. When aesthetics are especially important, some businesses decide the extra installation effort is worth the cleaner and more refined look.

The most common type of concealed closer is an overhead model. Overhead concealed closers have a motor located in the transom of the frame above the door, and a slide track is installed into the top rail of the door. When the door is closed, all of these elements are completely concealed.

Select the Right Door Operator or Closer

For help selecting the right electrified door operator or manual door closer for a door, contact us at Great Valley Lockshop by calling 610-644-5334. We have years of experience installing door operators and closers for a variety of commercial businesses. We’d be happy to talk with you and help you figure out what type of electrified door operator or manual door closer is the correct one for your particular situation.

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