Electrifying Exit Devices

Dec. 3, 2018
Improved options make new installs or pre-existing retrofits better, faster, quieter, and cheaper.

In the past, we often found that installation labor and product uncertainty made it easier to simply order a complete new device, rather than upgrading an existing fire or hazard egress panic bar. In recent years, electronic upgrade packages have become better documented, easier to install, quieter, and more cost-effective. In this article, we’ll explore some of the newer options, and identify resources.

Federal and State Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations now require power operators in many locations, adding a layer of complexity – as well as opportunity. As a door and lock professional, you are perfectly positioned to serve your clients with these new or upgrade projects. Even larger organizations that have internal lock shops, often welcome a skilled set of hands for these specialized installations.

Electrifying exit devices can be done in several ways. Cost, esthetics, and ease of installation are likely to drive your choice.

Electric strikes like Adams Rite, HES, SDC, Camden, Command Access, Seco-Larm, Trine and others have been a popular standby. They do offer the advantage of frame mounting. The major disadvantage however, is esthetics. Although the electric strike is a visible distraction, it’s sometimes the right solution. For example, Door Systems Inc. of San Diego used the Securitron® PowerJump to provide 6-Watt power to an electric strike mounted on a removable mullion. www.locksmithledger.com/article/12355034/mining-the-access-control-vein

Electrified trim is often a good option. Power requirements are generally very low and the exit device is essentially undisturbed. In most cases, the electrified trim can remain in the unlocked position during business hours, and be secured when closed. Virtually all exit device suppliers offer electrified trim options. One caveat: If a power door operator exists, or might be installed later, electrified trim generally won’t release the door. The electric strike or Electronic Latch Retraction may then be your best option.

Electric latch retraction (ELR) is extremely popular due to the completely concealed nature of the electronic equipment. Your client will be very happy to have this option, as most will want to show their business in the most favorable setting. This gives you a great competitive advantage over other electronic access providers.

High current-draw is no longer the only option. More efficient solenoids and quiet, motor-driven latch retraction give you some really nice choices. The extra second it takes for the quiet motors to operate are seldom a problem when triggered from an external card reader or hallway push plate. Lower amperage also improves your power transfer options. A wide variety of power transfer hinges and Securitron’s slick 6-Watt inductive current power transfer device are creating some interesting options for the motor driver ELR devices.

Electronic Dogging is another useful option now offered by most OEMs and aftermarket suppliers. When energized by a key switch or remote switch signal, depressing the pushpad, causes the push pad and latch to remain retracted (unlocked), providing push-pull door operation during operating hours. When de-energized or signaled by a fire alarm, the push pad and latch are released, returning the exit device to the “secured” position.

Power over Ethernet is another recent development that can allow momentary release or remain “dogged” during hours of operation. Most motor-driven ELR devices appear use between 12 and 24 watts. The Security Door Controls IP 100 retrofit kit pulls only 8.4-watts inrush at 12VDC from a 15.4-watt standard Ethernet or a conventional local power source. www.sdcsecurity.com

Most brands now offer new and retrofit ELR kits for their exit devices. Industry consolidation and world-wide sourcing now provide mechanical and electronic exit devices from surprising sources. In fact, full lines of locks, exit devices and closers are becoming standard practice, and electronic upgrades are available from just about every OEM lock manufacturer.

Command Access and Security Door Controls have been building retrofit electrification kits for some time, providing aftermarket solutions to most popular devices. They have both developed a wide range of kits, power supplies, power boosters and sequencers. Kits can accommodate RQE (REX) and bolt position switches and remote dogging as well.

Magnetic Locks released by a TSB or RQE exit switch have been popular in many industrial, institutional and secured office applications. The Securitron® Touch Sense Bar has been a long-time industry staple. The capacitance detector senses electrical current from a human touch – even through light gloves, and a mechanical switch provides backup. RQE switches are usually available with redundancy. www.assaabloyesh.com

Options for new and retrofit include: both solenoid and motor electric latch retraction, electrified outside trim, exit alarms, delayed egress functions, weatherized equipment, latch position monitor, and redundant RQE outputs.

Coordination with power door operators is a critical issue. Properly sequencing activation of power door operators requires the exit device to be released prior to power operator engagement. This is handled in several different ways. Some devices like the Precision ELR have a sensor and sequencer built into the latch retraction board; some have the delay ln the power door operator. Independent sequencing boards are also available from Command Access and SDC. www.CommandAccess.com   www.sdcsecurity.com

Weatherized electronic exit devices were recently introduced by Detex® for exterior gates or applications exposed to extreme environmental conditions. These electronic products have been designed specifically to handle outdoor applications in rain and inclement weather. Precision’s weatherized Apex series is available with chrome plated solid brass base and conformal coated alarm and switch options.   www.detex.com www.precisionhardware.com/

Extreme Defeat Resistance is now available with Securitech’s Multi-Bolt™, which provides several innovative functions. The lock functions as a latch-only electronically controlled exit device during operating hours and can project single or multi-point deadbolts after hours. The concealed device was designed for higher security applications where deadbolt security and fire or hazard egress is required. The exit device also matches up with Securitech’s universal electronic LEXI™ trim. The LEXI trim provides a brand-specific mounting plate and operator to fit each existing device. www.securitech.com/product/multi-bolt-7000

With the hardware industry in the “consolidation” stage, we see many companies rolled-up into international powerhouses. Allegion has Falcon and Von Duprin exit devices’ ASSA ABLOY has Adams Rite, Alarm Controls Corp., Arrow, Corbin Russwin, HES, Sargent, Securitron, and Yale. dormakaba has consolidated production of Precision exit devices with Best Access at the Indianapolis facility. They both benefit from Swiss parent dormakaba electronics and heavy R&D input.

Independents with exit devices include: Cal-Royal, Detex, Hager, Marks, Marshall Best, PDQ, and Securitech. It’s not easy to know who actually makes what. Manufacturers have always sold excess production to competitors and purchased parts or complete assemblies from each other or overseas. The professional lock shop owner needs to ask: Is the supply line reliable and do they stand behind their products. We know the major North American players build solid products. Some offshore products from Taiwan and Europe have good reputations. Products from other emerging markets are certain to be less expensive, but need to prove their lasting value. Call-backs do indeed eat your margins.

The above players generally offer electronic latch retraction or external trim as well as RQE and bolt projection sensors. The two notable independent aftermarket electronic upgrade houses are Command Access and Security Door Controls (SDC), both in Southern California. These companies are well-established, highly regarded, and offer extensive electronic upgrade kits, power supplies, relay and power boost boards, and accessories.

A couple of surprising entries with rather full lines are Cal-Royal and Marshall Best Security. Wide product selection, pricing, availability and fabrication quality may help them build solid market niches. www.cal-royal.com www.marshallbestsecurity.com

ASSA ABLOY has continued to consolidate R&D, production and marketing efforts of the many brands. Adams Rite, Alarm Controls, HES, and Securitron are housed in the large Phoenix facility. We see increasing R&D, production and marketing cooperation with some shared products, like Securitron’s TSB exit bar, while the Adams Rite 8600 and 8800 exit devices have become the aluminum door standard with electrified trim and latch retraction or starwheel release options.

Corbin Russwin and Sargent share the ASSA ABLOY Eco-Flex™ low energy electrified mortise and exit trim with a 500mA peak and 15mA holding current draw.   The Jackson line and replacement components are handled by CR Laurence (CRL). The Hager companies have remained independent and now offer a complete line of electronic exit products as well. www.precisionhardware.com. www.crlaurence.com. www.hagerco.com.

Sometimes specialty items like SDC’s explosion proof exit switch might be required to complete an installation. The UL Listed switch is designed for hazardous or dangerous environments where a contact closure is required. Pneumatic devices like the Von Duprin PN98/99 pneumatic solenoid series, or a pneumatic door operator can be triggered with pneumatic switches from ASSA ABLOY’s Alarm Controls, from dormakaba, SDC, BEA, and Camden.

Power Transfer from frame to door has always been a challenge. Traditionally, high inrush current requirements required the heavy duty Electric Power Transfer assembly. This power transfer process was very reliable and allowed for heavy wiring. Unfortunately, the EPT was costly, difficult to retrofit and was eclipsed by the electrified hinge, which can also have a door position switch built in. Continuous hinges are now available with built-in wiring and some are prepared with cut-outs for aftermarket electrification, like the Select accessible through-wire version.

Armored door cords are still available, but the slick new power option is the 6-watt Inductive Current Power Transfer. The electric strike shown earlier in this article is powered across the gap from frame to mullion by Securitron’s wireless power ICPT device.

Electronically operated exit devices can be controlled by virtually any access control device, and the professional locksmith is well-positioned to make these details work. Burglar alarm companies, software integrators, CCTV companies, and audio-visual houses just don’t have the experience, skills or resources to make these systems work, or to do quality installations that make the end user look good. If you’re reading this, you are the problem-solver for these “systems-integrators.” They can become a great source of business growth.

Cameron Sharpe, CPP wrote for Caterpillar and Honeywell before working 25-years in hardware and electronic access distribution. [email protected]  

About the Author

Cameron Sharpe

Cameron Sharpe, CPP, worked 30 years in the commercial lock and electronic access industry. Contact him at [email protected].