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Choosing a Gate and Gate Operator for a Self-Storage Facility: Guidelines to Follow

Randy Johnston Comments

In the self-storage industry, there are many gates and gate operators from which to choose. Here are some guidelines for choosing the right one for your facility.
The majority of gates fall into three categories: swing gates, slide gates and barrier arms. Each of these requires a specific gate operator, rated by class for the size and weight of the gate as well as the number of times the gate will be opened and closed per hour (cycles). The specifications and demands of the gate will determine the class of gate operator required. (Classes range from I to IV, with different applications for each.)

Single- or double-swing gates tend to be favored for residential and public-access applications, while sliding gates are more common for self-storage and other high-security applications. Barrier-arm gates are generally used in parking applications because they raise and lower faster than swing or slide gates can open and close. They can also prevent vehicles from “tailgating,” sneaking in by following the car ahead too closely. However, barrier-arm gates are becoming more popular in self-storage. 

It’s important to select the proper type of gate operator and class for your facility. Using the wrong operator can result in malfunction or accidents. Any storage facility with a decent amount of volume should always consider a continuous-duty operator, which is tested for high-cycle applications.
Swing-Gate Operators

Swing gates are operated by either a harmonic arm or an actuator, a mechanical device for moving or controlling a mechanism or system. Actuators are primarily used for residential or low-cycle applications. The actuator arm is connected to the gate on one side and a fence, post or pillar on the other. The operator doesn’t sit on the ground, so no concrete pad is necessary. 

Harmonic-arm operators can handle heavier gates. The operator sits on the ground on a cement pad. In areas that get snow, the pad needs to be below the frost line to prevent frost heave.  
Slide-Gate Operators

Slide-gate operators using chain drives are the most common, as they tend to be the least expensive to operate and install. Rolling-slide gates have wheels that roll on a track or the ground. It’s a great choice for facilities where there’s no worry about accumulating snow. Cantilevered gates, on the other hand, are suspended between rollers so the gate doesn’t contact the ground. This leaves enough clearance to accommodate up to a foot of snow.

As security is the foremost consideration at most self-storage facilities, slide gates are usually the first choice. A swinging gate can sometimes be wedged open by pushing against it with a heavy object, such as a moving truck. Because a slide gate is a single unit, it’s much harder to manipulate.  

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