Electromagnetic locks have been in use since at least the 1980s and are a mainstay among the locking solutions we use in access control security and life safety. Misuse of electromagnetic locks has resulted in their being banned in some jurisdictions, and the development of exhaustive building and safety codes to regulate their use.
My first exposure to maglocks involved Locknetics maglocks in the early 1980s. At that point, this was still a relatively new technology, and mag locks were typically installed by locksmiths and what were at the time called access control installers.
Maglocks were a great solution for securing and permitting electronic control of storefront doors where other electric locking devices were either not practical to deploy or not considered aesthetically pleasing.
Many companies began manufacturing electromagnetic locks, and they were aggressively marketed to a growing number of individuals who were becoming involved with access control. Back then, there were fewer codes and a more limited understanding of what maglocks were or how they worked, and therefore safeguards and enforcement were inadequate. The result was that individuals were deploying maglocks without giving adequate regard to the life safety consequences of an improperly deployed electromagnetic locking system, and accidents resulted.
In reaction, electromagnetic locks were, and continue to be, illegal in many jurisdictions. In all instances, it is the Local Authority Having Jurisdiction (LAHJ) who determines what can be used on a door.
National building codes have spelled out the criteria for electromagnetic lock usage, and locks and accessories are available which are intended to conform to these criteria. Regardless of what Code you refer to, it is still the LAHJ who decides what can be used.
Today’s access control system designers recognize the benefits of electromagnetic locks and the constraints placed on their deployment by the codes. They understand that electromagnetic locks are not the one-size-fits-all solution some people seem to think they are.
Electromagnetic locks can be used on swinging, sliding and overhead doors and gates, within the interior, on the perimeter, or outdoors.
Maglocks with conduit fittings and additional weather proofing are available for these types of installations.
Security vs. Pedestrian Control
Electromagnetic locks are useful for security as well as traffic control applications. For security applications, holding force and vandal resistance are concerns which the security professional must address when specifying the lock, and planning the installation.
Electromagnetic locks for traffic control are frequently in the 600 lb. holding force range. Security rated maglocks are typically 1200 lbs holding force. Higher holding force maglocks are also available.
The only real advantage to using a smaller maglock, besides perhaps a smaller lock and a lower current consumption, is cost. The smaller maglock will cost you less. However, please consider that the holding force ratings are based on a few things: the right voltage, an optimal alignment of the electromagnetic lock and the armature, and the mating surfaces are clean and not dirty, or corroded. The maglock may not be providing the rated holding force once it has been in service for a while. Using a larger maglock provides an additional margin of security for your customer.
Critical components of the maglock and the power source and wiring to the lock must be protected and immune to compromise, especially from the unprotected side of the opening. For traffic control, in other words on interior openings within the protected area, maglocks with lower holding force may be appropriate, and ant-vandalism measures may not be required.
Door and Frame Types
The type of door and frame, the swing of the door, and the adjacent walls and ceilings all factor into the selection of the maglock and maglock mounting accessories, as well as the execution of the installation.
Electromagnetic locks are sometimes regarded as an “idiot-proof locking solution” for unskilled installers or for use on problem doors.
Important: Before installing electronic locks, it is important to check with the “Local Authority Having Jurisdiction” (LAHJ). An electromagnetic lock is designed to provide security for a...