How To Pick The Best Gate Automation System For Your Unique Needs

If you want to understand how to select the best gate automation system for you, this article covers everything you need to know.

It explains how the automation of gates works, how electric motors for gates operate and what the differences between the main gate automation systems are.

How do automatic gates work and why are they better than manual gates? Well, the automation of gates allows manual gates, that have to be pushed open and closed, to operate automatically. This mans that you can have your gates closed for security and privacy and you don’t have to get out of your car to open and close them.

Instead, electric gate openers operate your gates for you, but how do you know what’s right for your unique needs?

At Electric Gate Repair London, we provide customers with reliable and up to date information and advice.

Knowing what could be the best electric motors for gates can be very valuable when you talk to a gate installer.

What Do Different Types Of Gate Automation Include?

All types of gate automation system comprise of these basic elements:

  • A electric gate motor that contains an electric motor or hydraulic pump to move each gate leaf
  • Control system
  • Safety photocells
  • Remote controls for opening and closing the gates

Possible extras include:

  • A system for manually opening your driveway gates in the event of electric gate motor breakdown or power failure
  • Flashing lights when the electric gate is in operation
  • Safety edges to detect contact with objects when the gates are moving
  • Safety notices explaining gate operation
  • A loop cable system embedded in driveways to detect vehicles passing over them
  • Access control systems with intercoms and or keypads
  • 180 degree gate opener system

Each electric gate opener is mounted on the gate pillar, pier or post and is connected to the gate in different ways depending on the type of electric gate motor chosen.

There are essentially three types of swing gate motors for automatic gates. These are articulated arm gate motors, ram or linear screw gate motors and underground gate motors.

Each of these types of electric gate motor has advantages and disadvantages.

Read more about electric gate kits here.

The best gate automation could be an underground system
Articulated arm gate automation could be perfect for you

What Are The Different Types Of Electric Gate Motors?


Articulated Arm Gate Operator

How do automatic gates work with articulated arm motors?

An articulated arm electric gate opener uses a two-part arm with an ‘elbow’ joint to connect the motor to the gate. This arm protrudes from the gate motor body so there has to be room for the arm to move as the driveway gate opens and closes.

This type of electric gate opener is easier to install than other types thanks to the geometry of the arm system. They can be slightly more expensive than other gate motors but they open and close automated gates quickly.

Many homeowners like discrete gate automation systems and articulated arm motors can be more obvious when installed. However, many have the control system built into one of the motors.

These motors for automatic gates are mounted on the inside of gates so they’re not seem from the outside of closed gates.

In the event of power failure or mechanical breakdown, articulated arm motors can normally be released manually from outside the gate with an optional cable release system.

All articulated arm gate operators are electric gate motors which can be either 230Vac or 24Vdc.

All 24V and some 230V versions have obstacle detection. This means that the gates stop moving and some even reverse when they come into contact with an object during operation.

Articulated arm gate automation systems can be the best choice where each electric gate opener is mounted on a large gate pier or pillar.

Ram And Linear Screw Automatic Gate Openers

Ram gate automation motors push and pull a piston mounted on the gate.

Linear screw electric motors for gates use an electric motor to rotate the gate mounting along a threaded shaft.

Both types of electric gate motors are slim and don’t need a lot of space to operate in.

However, this advantage does mean that they require careful alignment during installation.

Manual release systems are only available from inside the driveway gate.

A ram or linear screw type of motors for automatic gate control is attached to the gate at one end and the gate pillar or post at the other end.

Ram motors can be hydraulic or driven by electric motors but all require a separate control box.

As with articulated arm motors, 230Vac and 24Vdc you can buy versions with obstacle detection for safer operation.

Additionally, heavy duty versions of each type of electric gate opener are available that will operate larger gates with leaves up to 7m long.

These electric gate openers can be the best gate automation solution where price is important. Their simpler design and operation can make them a cost cost-effective solution compared to other types of electric gate motor.

Are linear screw swing gate motors right for you?

Underground Gate Openers

Many UK home owners choose underground gate automation motors because they are very discrete. This is because each underground gate opener is hidden under the hinge end of each swing gate.

But how do automatic gates work when they’re opened and closed by hidden underground motors?

During installation, a carefully positioned hole must be dug to house a foundation box for each underground gate opener.

The housing for each underground electric gate motor needs sufficient drainage to prevent the motors from sitting in water, or they will fail.

Underground electric gate motors don’t need a lot of space to operate in and can be installed on the inside or back of gate pillars. They are usually only installed behind gate pillars when the gates must open more than 90 degrees so that the post or pillar does not obstruct the gates. With the addition of a 180 degree gate opener, your gates can open much wider than 90 degrees. This is an optional chain drive system for driveways that bend round behind the gate pillars. If the gate only opened to 90 degrees, it could block part of the driveway. But a 180 degree gate opener system means that it can keep going past 90 degrees do it doesn’t block the driveway.

Normally, underground automation  of gates is the most expensive solution but they are almost invisible.

It is possible for the most powerful underground gate opener to open and close a swing gate up to 5m long.

Underground motors for automatic gates can be manually released from outside the gate.

These types of gate motor can be either hydraulic or electromechanical.

A separate control box is required and 230Vac and 24Vdc versions with obstacle detection are available.

Underground gate opener installation is not simple and they should always be installed by professional electric gate engineers.

Underground gate automation could be the best style for you if you want a discrete, almost invisible electric gate motor installation and you have the budget for this more expensive option.

People want underground gate automation because it’s hidden


Sliding gate automation usually only includes one gate. This single slide gate is wider than the width of your driveway. It slides to one side of the drive opening on wheels that run along a track.

A single electric gate opener is mounted to one side of the drive entrance. The motor is positioned so that a cog on the motor’s output shaft meshes with a toothed rack  mounted along the inside of the gate. Therefore, as the electric gate motor turns, the cog rotates in the rack and draws the gate along.

A sliding gate opens along a length of straight gate track more than twice the width of the driveway. This starts at the pillar or gate post on one side of the opening and crosses the drive past the opposite pillar. The track is long enough for the gate to slide along to completely clear the drive entrance.

Are Sliding Gates The Best Choice?

Sliding gates are ideal where space for swing gates to open into the driveway is limited. If the driveway bends, cars are parked near the gates or plants in the garden or the house are too close, swing gates will hit them as they swing open.

Additionally, sliding gates are the perfect alternative to swing gates where a driveway runs uphill onto your property. This prevents swing gates from opening as they will hit the ground as they open onto the rising drive.

However, sliding gates shouldn’t be used where the driveway slopes across the entrance. This means that the gate is sliding uphill one way and downhill in the opposite direction. As gravity will try to pull it downhill and resist its movement uphill, the sliding electric gate opener is put under extra stress.

If you have a short driveway, you have a lot of cars parked on it or it curves or rises towards the house, sliding gate automation systems might be the best choice for you.

Sliding gates are best where space is limited
A sliding gate doesn’t need space on your driveway

Electric Gate Safety

How do automatic gates work safely?

Safety is a vital part of the automation of gates. Electric motors for gates have to move large, often heavy gates, sometimes against heavy winds.

Consequently, safety assessments and the use of safety devices in the automation of gates are vital.

Safety photocells provide a beam of invisible light. If this beam is broken, the electric gate motors stop the gate moving.

Photocells protect the area the gates pass through as they open and close. Therefore, anyone entering this zone breaks the beam which stops the gates.

Safety edges are installed on the ends of gates so that any contact with the safety edge pushes electrical contacts together and the electric gate stops.

While safety edges are effective, their design means that the gate has to hit something before they trigger the gates to stop moving.

This means that the best gate automation system design includes an element of safety that mitigates the safety issues identified with an initial safety audit.

And the right gate automation installer will always complete a safety audit. This will be based on your usage requirements, the location’s limitations and who will use the electric gates. Where additional features such as 180 degree gate opener systems are used, different safety issues need to be considered.

Read more about electric gate motor safety here.

The best automatic gates are safe gates

Final Thoughts

Manual release systems partially disconnect a gate from its electric gate opener so the gate can be moved by hand.

Loop detectors use a loop of special cable buried in the drive. This can be inside and/or outside the gates. When a vehicle passes over the loop it generates a signal that causes the gate to open or close as required.

An intercom allows you to talk to, and even see your visitor from your home before deciding to let them through your automated gate.

Gate remotes or transmitters allow you to open and close gates at the push of a button.

Gate automation stops you getting wet in the rain. It keeps your gates shut for privacy and security when you’re in or out.

Motors for automatic gates complete a cycle in a few seconds and create a great first impression for visitors.

Underground electric motors for gates must be strong as they move the gates from as close to the hinge as it is possible to get. This means that they use the least  leverage available. Consequently, they must be stronger than other gate motors which move driveway gates from points much further from the hinge therefore benefiting from leverage.

Electric gates are wonderful but choosing the right gates and gate automation system isn’t straightforward. We hope that the information in this article has given you a greater understanding of what an electric gate opener does and what you should know to make a wise choice.

Then, talking to a good gate installation professional is invaluable.