Lessons learned at the LCN Low Energy Power Operators Workshop

July 2, 2009
This certification enhances the locksmith’s image as a security professional and provides another tool for winning future door operator business.

Because technology is always changing and the business environment is going through radical changes, staying up to date with new products, learning the latest preferred practices, and maintaining an understanding of the current business environment is mandatory for the typical locksmith business to survive and grow.

More and more states are implementing registration and licensing for security professionals, including locksmiths. For an individual to obtain a license or become registered, he must prove minimal technical competency, and then attend in-service training to keep their registration.

When the opportunity to attend a factory-sponsored LCN Low Energy Power Operators Workshop was presented, I gladly accepted.

LCN has specialized in solving door control problems through the use of high quality, innovative door control products. It is generally agreed by an informal jury of my peers that LCN sets industry standards for quality, durability and innovation in premium door closers. LCN closers are designed to have an operating life of 15 to 20 years which far exceeds ANSI requirements. The company produces more than 35 series of closers and other door hardware products including pivots and hinge guards.

LCN Closers was founded by Lewis C. Norton (and bears his initials). Norton invented the door closer in the U.S. and in 1926 L.C. Norton and D.R. Lasier began selling door closers under the LCN trademark. LCN became a division of Ingersoll Rand in 1974 and offers a broad line of products, which now includes power operators and closers that meet Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements.

While developing new products to meet markets needs, LCN continues to produce and support their popular closers that were designed almost 40 years ago

I attended an LCN Low Energy Power Operator Workshop at Ingersoll Rand’s Industrial campus located in Donaldson, N.C. LCN offers e-Learning and numerous factory classes on door closers and operators throughout the country. The class was filled with locksmiths, door mechanics and facility managers from all over the region.

Technical competency levels ranged from beginners to seasoned pros, but the trainer kept the class interesting, allowing the newbies an opportunity to learn, letting the experienced attendees share their insights, and providing valuable information for all.

Modern locksmithing involves a variety of technologies and disciplines. To one side of me was an architect, who had extremely limited hands-on experience with door hardware, although he knew the ADA and building code by heart. On my other side was a computer tech who, though fluent in networking, wasn’t sure what a voltmeter was used for.

The ADA was enacted in 1990, and it is comprised of several sections. Title II of the ADA addresses state and local government activities, Title III addresses public accommodations and requires owners of certain types of buildings to remove barriers and provide people with disabilities with access equal or similar to that which is available to the general public. Regulations vary between existing structures and new construction.

People with disabilities include an ever-increasing portion of the population as the boomers get older. More than 50 million Americans (18 percent) have disabilities. Disabled individuals have $175 billion in discretionary spending power, and by 2030 there will be 71.5 million baby boomers over 65 years old.

Our seminar focused on the elements which involve doors and door hardware and door operators: exterior openings, opening dimensions, opening hardware, threshold surfaces, and opening forces.

Most of us are already aware that knob-type locks are not ADA compliant, because of the dexterity turning a knob requires. During our discussion of locking hardware, we learned that even a lever lock may not be compliant if it is a keyed lock and if twisting the key in the cylinder is required to unlatch the lock.

Complaints regarding ADA non-compliance are handled by the Department of Justice and if not addressed, may result in a painful lawsuit. Good accessibility benefits everyone and is considered doing the right thing.

Our class reviewed important aspects of the ADA such as characteristics of a clear opening; maneuvering clearances which include door height; opening width and acceptable locations for hardware; threshold design, and permissible door approach dimensions.

Door approach dimensions differ for manual versus automated doors, so if you are intending to retrofit a door operator, knowing the allowable dimensions is essential.

Opening force requirements. Opening force refers to the pressure that is required to open a door. The required opening pressure varies between state building codes. For interior non-fire-rated doors, an opening force of 5 lbs. is required. To achieve this, a door operator is required. Opening force is measured with a gauge designed specifically for this purpose. On LCN closers, the opening force is adjustable.

Closing speed requirements: Once a person has transgressed a door, the door closer or operator takes over to close the door. All the physical characteristics of the door (hinges, weather-stripping, latch bolt alignment, etc,) as well as atmospheric conditions (stack pressure, wind, temperature) affect the closing of the door. A door which closes too slowly may allow excessive loss of air conditioning or heat. A door which closes too fast, or with too much force represents a danger to users, especially disabled ones.

An access controlled door which closes too slowly is a security concern, as it may encourage security breaches such as ‘piggybacking’ when an authorized person allows (intentionally or unintentionally) others to pass through a secure door.

When a door operator is used, closing speed and opening speed are controlled by the operator and calibrated by the installer. Opening and closing speeds are different for door operators and door closers, and different for doors equipped with low energy operators and high energy operators. This was an interesting workshop.

One reason for the differing requirements for low and high energy operated doors is that low energy operators are typically deployed on handicapped openings and they are activated by pushbuttons (Knowing-Act actuators), while high energy operators are used on entrances to retail establishments and automatically open for every person without requiring a knowing act to trigger them.

A few examples:

Low energy operators allow a minimum of 3 seconds to backcheck, and 4 seconds to fully open. A high energy swing operator can open to backcheck in 1.5 seconds.

Low energy operators require no more than 15 lbs of force to stop door movement; a high energy swing operator requires 40 lbs.

Low energy operators do not require guard rails, safety mats or cancelling scanners; high energy swing operators always require guard rails, safety mats or cancelling scanners.

LCN offers two types of automatic operators. Electro-Hydraulic automatic operators are based on a mechanical LCN closer, (Pneumatic Auto Equalizer; Electric Auto-Equalizer). Electro-Mechanical operators are based on a motor and gear box. (Senior Swing, Benchmark).

The key question is, “Which operator do I use?” LCN offers six door operators, and which one you select for a particular opening is determined by the usage of the door. Primarily Manual Operators are used by people who do not require the assistance of an automated door, and the operator is activated via a pushbutton or other type manual control. Examples are schools, retail, restrooms and office buildings.

Primarily Automatic Operators are used on convenience openings where the majority of people are disabled or for whom an automatic door makes their job easier. These doors are typically triggered by a motion detector. Examples are hospitals, nursing homes, hotels, Post Offices.

The instructor then went into detailed explanations of the features and deployment of the LCN family of operators.

LCN Pneumatic Auto-Equalizer™: This unit uses an external control box compressor, and is known for its reliability and longevity.

LCN Senior Swing™: This heavy duty electromechanical unit with a variety of mounting options, includes advanced digital controller and is suitable for exterior doors less than 200 lbs.

LCN Benchmark™: This versatile, easy-to- install unit can be mounted on either the push or pull side of the door and has a full set of installer-friendly adjustments.

LCN also offers a full line of accessories such as wired and wireless handicapped buttons, bollards and safety sensors.

The class devoted ample time to explore all the safety requirements and numerous configurations for LCN door operators and actuating equipment.

A particularly interesting handout we received was the LCN Product Application Guide, featuring illustrations and parts lists for various hookups of LCN operators in a variety of scenarios such as: Hospital hallways, Library Entrance; Employee Entrances; Smoke Evacuation Facilities; Restroom doors; Assisted Living Residences, etc. Of particular interest was interface information with Von Duprin Exit devices, electric strikes, power supplies and Schlage locks.


I recently completed an installation of an LCN Benchmark III on one leaf of an interior pair of doors in an executive office environment.

In our shop, some mechanics prefer not to handle anything electronic. I told one of them that this was an LCN and to treat it like any other LCN door closer. He did a superb job mounting the unit and left all the interfacing for me. The door was previously controlled by a card reader and was equipped with maglocks.

The card access was to continue to be used, with additional requirements set forth by the owner. In this facility every employee is required to carry a photo-ID which is also an access control credential.

The owner wanted to limit who could activate the door operator. One reason was the door operator was not a toy, but everyone loves to play with it. Another reason was the security officer was concerned that when the door operator was used, the door remained open longer than if it were manually pulled or pushed open and then allowed to re-close. Additionally they realized the more the door operator was used, the faster it would require repairs. There were only a couple of handicapped individuals in the company, and the operator was installed for their comfort and convenience.

Interfacing the maglocks with the door operator was straightforward. The Benchmark III has a built-in setting which delays activation to allow for an electric locking device to release before triggering the operator.

I added an additional card reader on the egress side of the door, and programmed the system to provide the following sequence of operation. NOTE: Establishing the Sequence Of Operation and obtaining your client’s approval is the first and most important step in any door operator installation.

1. Manual Entry with valid card: Manual Egress at all times by pushing on the exit bar which cuts power to the maglock and sends a REX to the access controller.

2. Handicapped entry: Present appropriately programmed credential to the entry reader and door opens.

3. Handicapped egress: Present the appropriately programmed credential to the egress side reader and door opens.

The Benchmark III looks great, and the selection of adjustments allowed precise tuning of the operator’s performance.

The ‘Power Boost’ setting causes the door to pull shut when it has reached the latch position. Designed to overcome stack pressure, this little enhancement assured me that the door would pull itself up the maglock and re-secure after every operation. The client was impressed.

This class is beneficial to any locksmith who is involved with or who plans to become involved in the installation of door operators. Seeing the entire LCN line up close and learning the LCN philosophy for product deployment was very helpful. I service existing installations and frequently encounter LCN. Now I know more about the operation of these products.

The thorough review of the ADA served as a refresher course, and armed me with a new sales tool for creating future door operator business. The certification enhances my image as a security professional and differentiates our shop from the guy up the street. I intend to use the certification for my in-service training requirements.