The Importance of Proper Door Controls And Operators

May 2, 2017
Selecting the appropriate solution is critical to the proper operation of the door.

 Selecting door control hardware today is no simple task. Factors to consider include fire and life safety, accessibility, aesthetics, security, convenience and sustainability. These many considerations, coupled with the drive toward advanced connectivity and the near explosion of Internet of Things (IoT) devices, present engineers, designers and security professionals with many challenges — and opportunities.

A lot of complex factors go into selecting the correct product for an application. How much force it takes to open a door, how quickly the door swings closed, the arc of energy to assure the door closes with enough force to latch (if needed). Selecting the appropriate solution is critical to the proper operation of the door. The wrong product or product installed incorrectly can compromise the safety and security for occupants, as well as facility efficiency.

The mass market of door controls comprises two primary solutions – electrified door operators and mechanical door closers. Both serve the needs of specific applications. In basic terms, mechanical units are used for the sole purpose of closing a door after it has been manually opened, while electrified operators offer options to assist with both the opening and closing of a door.

Electrified Units

As more facilities are updated to comply with ADA accessibility requirements, demand for electrified door operators has increased. An overview of the more popular offerings, including some newer technologies in this field, are:

Regenerative Power Technologies: Compact, electromechanical door operators are available today with regenerative power technology. Simple to install and use, these heavy-duty, low energy operators are intended for high traffic manual opening applications that occasionally require automatic operation like retail outlets, banks, schools or universities. A regenerative power system charges an onboard battery pack that eliminates the need to run an electrical wire to the unit. When used in automatic mode 25 percent of the time or less, the operator will self-generate enough power to charge the battery pack for more than a decade. With most systems, there is also a pluggable power option.

Wave-to-Open Switches: Wave-to-open switches are great accessories for creating a touch-free environment. This aesthetically pleasing option can coordinate with most décor, and provide audible and visual cues for activation. Two big markets for these include sterile areas within hospitals, such as operating rooms, and as the finishing touch to today’s touch-free public restrooms.

Electromechanical Low Energy Operators: Feature a motor and gearbox for consistent automatic operation. Electromechanical units are used in applications where automatic mode (activated by wall switches, motion sensors, etc) is the primary function. These quiet, low energy units are designed for moderate to high-traffic doors. Electromechanical operators are ideal for any application that must comply with the ADA.

Electro-hydraulic Low Energy Operators: An excellent solution for both pedestrian applications and ADA compliance, providing rugged and reliable convenience for any entrance. Suitable for interior and exterior use, electro-hydraulic operators can be tailored to meet specific and complex needs.

Mechanical Units

Door closers not requiring electricity for operation come in primarily two varieties – surface closers and concealed closers:

Surface-Mounted Closers: This type of door control is traditionally easiest to install with a minimum amount of preparation of the door and frame needed. The surface-mounted closer is also more accessible to the occasional adjustment that may be necessary with changes in usage or environmental conditions.

Concealed Closers: When the architect's design calls for a door closer that is not visually obvious, a concealed closer is recommended. This installation requires considerably more door and frame preparation than a similar surface-mounted closer.

Overhead Concealed Closers: Another type of concealed offering, this type of door control is normally mortised into the transom of the frame above the door. A slide track is mortised into the top rail of the door. All elements – closer, arm and slide track – are totally concealed when the door is closed.

The mounting of a door closer typically has the greatest impact on the function and efficiency of the door control unit. There are a number of mounting approaches, with the most common being:

Regular Arm: The closer is mounted on the hinge side top rail of the door. The arm is attached to the frame face at a right angle to the door.

Parallel Arm: The closer is mounted on the opposite to hinge side top rail of the door. The arm is attached to the frame soffit parallel to the door.

Top Jamb: The closer is mounted on the opposite to hinge side frame face, above the door. The arm is attached to the top rail of the door at a right angle to the door.

Slide Track Closers: The closer is mounted on either the hinge side or opposite hinge side. The slide track is mounted to frame face on the hinge side, and the frame soffit on the opposite to hinge side.

Corner Bracket Closers: A type of installation where the closer cannot be mounted to either the door or the frame. The bracket is mounted on the upper corner of the push side hinge jamb of the frame. The closer is mounted to the bracket and the arm is attached to the top rail of the door at a right angle to the door.

The ADA and Heavy Doors

Heavy doors are especially difficult for people with disabilities and seniors with limited upper body strength and/or skills in using their hands. Luckily, these common problems can often be resolved by simply adjusting door closers. The ADA makes the following recommendations:

• Interior doors should require no more than 5 lbs. of force to open. This does not apply to the initial force needed to overcome the weight of a motionless door. Open the door gradually; do not “jerk” it open.

•   Opening force for exterior doors is not specified in the ADA Standards, but exterior doors that need to be accessible should have the minimum force possible. Typical maximum opening force for exterior doors ranges from 8.5 to 10lbs. Any door so heavy that it prevents entrance by people with disabilities may deny them access to goods and services, which is covered under the ADA. State or local government codes may have specific accessibility requirements for exterior doors.

•   The closing or swing speed must not be faster than five seconds. The closing or swing distance is from the open position at 90 degrees to 12 degrees from the latch.

Importance of Sustainability

Because of a wide range of drivers — energy efficiency, material and environment health, occupant comfort, resource protection, waste reduction, security and building resilience — sustainability is very important to all key stakeholders in the design, management and use of a buildings.

For customers, sustainability is no longer a just a nice-to-have. End users are seeing tangible dollars in savings by using sustainable products, and new building codes, regulations, and certification programs are demanding compliance.

Certifications from GreenCircle and other third-party verifiers of manufacturers’ sustainability claims are becoming increasingly desired by architects and facility managers alike, as they verify that the products contribute to facilities’ sustainability objectives and LEED certification. GreenCircle’s certifications join the Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs), Health Product Declarations (HPDs), ISO Certifications and Declare Labels that provide valuable product transparency information for the large majority of door control products currently on the market.

Security planning now involves not just hardware, but also design elements and greater collaboration among architects, engineers, and security consultants. Doors, door controls and operators play a critical role in maintaining security and in responding to lock-down situations, when necessary.

The good news is that the functionality, safety, durability and even appearance of door controls have improved steadily over the years. Security professionals and building managers can be secure in the knowledge that when properly implemented today’s door controls are safer and more user friendly than ever.

Lana Kirkpatrick is Brand Manager, Norton Door Controls