Adventures in the World of Door & Gate Operators

Door operators are door components much like door closers, hinges or locksets. Therefore it makes sense for the locksmith to install and service them.

Adding door and gate operators to your product lines can boost profits, be they new installations or retrofits.

Door operators which are used on swinging doors are classified by ANSI as either High Energy or Low Energy.

  • ANSI/BHMA A156.10-2011 is the Standard for Power Operated Pedestrian Doors.
  • ANSI/BHMA A156.19-2007 is the Standard for Power Assist and Low energy Power Operated Doors.

High energy door operators are the type used on store entrances. They are fully automatic, in that they open for all and do not use handicapped buttons for activation. They operate with greater power and move the door at a faster rate of speed, so ANSI requires that they be deployed with safety sensors and in some cases guide rails.

Low energy operators (often referred to as Knowing Act Doors or ADA doors) utilize handicapped buttons to actuate them. This type of operator is typically used for retrofit installations. These operators move the door slower and have integral safety circuitry which protects users from being injured by the door hitting them. If the door encounters an obstruction while it is opening or closing, it is designed to stop.

Injuries from automatic doors are not necessarily caused by the door hitting the person, although this surely is one of the situations which can occur with an automatic operator. Sometimes people become disoriented by a door swinging towards them. They can lose their balance trying to avoid a moving door or they can lose their balance when a door brushes against them. A person on the floor near an automatic door is never a good thing and some sort of legal action is likely if the victim can make a convincing claim that the door contributed to the mishap.

Install vs. Repair & Upgrade

Your ratio of new installs and repairs will depend on the nature of your business. For the full-service locksmith, opportunities exist for both. New installations of low energy operators can be an important revenue stream.

New operator installations can occur in new construction or in existing premises, possibly in response to an ADA compliance issue. The Americans with Disabilities Act does not mandate the use of automatic door operators. However, Title III does address interior and exterior openings, opening dimensions, hardware placement, and opening and closing forces, all which involve door operators.

Upgrades or modifications can also be a nice activity. Integrating door operator with access control systems is a specialty that many others casually involved with door operator work cannot handle. I see this very often, where the installer simply bolted the unit in without regard for important operational considerations.

An important example is providing for the automatic disabling of handicapped buttons when the doors are locked. Not doing so means the door operator will try to open against the lock, and this could reset the internal settings of the operator or cause stress on the operator’s drive train.

Another issue is integrating the handicapped buttons with card readers and keypads.

Door operators are generally very robust mechanisms, and parts are available so that you will usually be able to repair a unit rather than have to completely replace it.

Inspection and adjustment of door operators as well as the repair and replacement of sensors and accessories are part of the door operator services to do.

Last month I went to a site to adjust operators and sensors, and I discovered both the gear boxes were leaking hydraulic fluid and the sensors had been deliberately disabled by the end-user because they didn’t work correctly. I quoted them to fix the whole system for about $5,000.

I was not the first company to visit the site, but apparently I was the first in several years who had the knowledge and was motivated enough to actually take on the problems.


AAADM Certification

Of course there is competition. There are companies who specialize in door operator work only. Door operator work is also performed by glass & mirror firms, carpenters and of course security professionals.

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