Gate Operators

If you are in the market for a gate and gate operator, you are faced with many choices.  AC or Solar? Slide or swing? Piston or reticulating arm?

Then there is the decision of add ons.  Keypad?  Exit probe?  Exit Loop?  Safety Loop?  Edges?  Photo eye?  Card reader? Phantom loop?  Telephone entry?

A simple decision has now turned into a study!  Each particular case of installation is unique.  Safety should be the first concern in all customers minds for their surroundings, especially children.

Then there are the companies: Ramset, Elite, Viking, US Automatic, Apollo, GTO.  There are many choices and all fence companies have their own preferences.  Studying these products is as simple as a click.

Check back tomorrow for my input on the operator itself, followed in subsequent days by accessories.


  Ever asked yourself, “What’s the right gate operator for me?”?  Well, let’s start with the most critical point: do you have power at the gate, or will you need to use solar?  If you have power, a simple  110V with proper gauge for footage, then don’t always think that US Automatic, Apollo, or GTO is for you because you just have a driveway gate.  A Ramset is actually cheaper in cost than a US Automatic Patriot I (operator to operator).  You will have to pour a pad or weld a pad, but the pros will far outweigh the cons.  With a Ramset you are getting a Commercial operator at a Residential price.  Also, instead of a piston arm, Ramset uses a reticulating arm motion.  Visit my Gates/Operators page for websites for Ramset and US Automatic.

If solar is your only option, then US Automatic, Apollo, or GTO are your only options.  All gate operator contractors have their own preference, mine happens to be US Automatic.  US Automatic and Apollo are very similar, but the circuit board is the big difference to me.  Also, when buying from me, you get a 3 year parts warranty when using US Automatic.  Apollo offers a 1 year warranty, and all parts have to go to them in San Antonio, which will incur delivery fees and labor charges.  My dealer for US Automatic is local, thus making it easy to exchange parts.  GTO, as far as I know is Mighty Mule.  I do not install these operators.

A US Automatic installation usually takes about 3 hours from start to finish.  This is assuming the gate has already been installed.  A plumb gate (level in both directions) is imperative to proper installation of the operator.  Another important part of the installation is the gate post.  It should be sized correctly to the gate.  A 16′ swing gate 4′ tall on the shoulders and arched to 5′ in the middle, should be hung on a minimum 5″ post with .25″ thickness.  The post can be square or round and it should be as deep as possible and braced correctly.   Whether solar or AC, the installation is the same.  It still uses a 12V deep cycle marine battery, preferably a gel cell.  The only difference is whether you attach a solar panel, or a 2 amp trickle charger to the battery.  The battery life is 4-5 years if maintained properly, and also depends on accessories (keypads, loops, etc.)

A solar operator can only support certain keypads.  Most are plastic and cheap, however, AAS offers a solar friendly unit.  It’s the 19-050 model.  US Automatic has their own keypad.  It is inexpensive and plastic.  I had one at my home and it did the job.  AAS keypads are all steel construction.

Most solar applications have a keypad, exit probe, and receiver (for remotes).  Other applications can be used, but need to be considered first.  The biggest factor in using solar is making sure you have direct sunlight to the panel for at least 4 hours a day.  A typical gate is opened 4-10 times a day.  A solar unit is designed to open and close 16-32 times a day, depending on how many accessories you have.

I hope this helps those of you needing questions answered.  Please comment if you have more questions.


Jim Polich
Star Fence and Gate

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