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Electric gates are powered by electricity, right? So, what happens to them when there’s a power cut or the workmen dig up the road and cut off your electricity? How do you open and close gates that need electricity to work when there isn’t any?
OK, so let’s quickly describe the sort of set-up and type of gate motors most people will have. There are swing gates and sliding gates. Sliding gates are the simplest so we’ll start with them. The gate has wheels and slides along a track. A geared rack is mounted along the length of the inside of the gate. The rack meshes with a gear on the outside of the sliding gate motor. When the gear motor turns, the gate is opened or closed.
Swing gate motors are a little more varied but all apply the same principle. A electric gate motor either turns an arm mounted to the gate to open or close it or it moves the point where it connects to the gate toward or away from the point where it connects to the gate post. This opens and closes the gate.
The method used to operate electric gates manually when there is no electricity to power the motors is called manual release. This involves the use of a manual release key and built-in manual release mechanism, or a separate additional manual release mechanism. The manual release key is usually inserted into the appropriate lock on the motor housing and a lever or handle is then pulled or turned to disconnect the motor drive from the gate opening arms, gears and shafts.
With most systems, operating the manual release doesn’t necessarily allow the gate to move completely freely. There are often parts of the gate drive mechanism that will still move when the gate is moved by hand. Hydraulic operators will also have oil in the system that must be pushed back through valves. So, while a manual release system allows a gate to be moved without the motors, there is likely to be some resistance and the gate should be pushed slowly and steadily.
Some manual release mechanisms will not operate when they are under pressure. In these situations, the gate must be pushed against the desired direction to relieve the pressure and allow the release mechanism to operate. The simple rule is never to force a manual release system.
Manual release keys and mechanisms can be bought from Linkcare but many manual release systems are operated with a numbered key. Keeping a record of the key number is recommended as it makes ordering more much easier. It’s also a good idea to leave a note of any manual release key number in the gates control cabinet to help a gate engineer carrying out servicing or repairs.
As the manual release is normally only for emergency purposes, it is rarely used. This means that they can become dirty and stiff, and sometimes impossible to use just when you really need it. We strongly advise that manual release mechanisms should be tested every three months or so, and suitable maintenance carried at least once a year. This is likely to involve cleaning, lubricating and testing.
All gate systems installed by a qualified gate engineer should have a manual release system and anyone who uses the gates should be aware where the manual release keys are kept. They allow the gates to be opened and closed when there is no power. But they also ensure that anyone trapped by badly designed gates with insufficient safety features can be released by disconnecting the gate drive from the gates when there is power to them.