If you already have an automatic gate opener, you know there’s no going back to parking, getting out in all types of weather and manhandling a probably wet and drippy gate. But you may wonder what’s better for you, electric or solar. Doing your part for the environment is great, but you need a gate opener that’s reliable and won’t cost an arm and a leg. So how do the two types compare?
A Few Basics
Before you choose between solar and electric, you have to know a few basics about your gate. Does it swing open or slide? If it swings, does it swing in one piece or two? How long and heavy is your gate? All these factors will influence which automatic gate opener will work with your gate.
Gate openers generally operate via alternating current (AC) power, solar panels or batteries. Some gates use all three of these power sources to keep them powered in all situations. If your gate is AC powered and the power shuts off, it will probably be stuck in the open or closed position.
Is AC power available at the location of your gate? If you don’t have AC power and you want an electric gate opener, you’ll have to run wiring out to the gate location. Is sun available? In Texas, we’re guessing yes on the sun, at least most of the time. But you’ll need at least eight hours of unobstructed sunlight every day for your solar gate opener to accumulate enough sunlight to properly function. Proximity to trees, buildings or other obstructions might mean a solar gate opener isn’t your best choice.
How much do you use your gate? If you use it to leave in the morning and come home at night, you’re not asking too much of it. But if guests, family members or clients are coming and going all day, you’ll need a sturdier gate opener to stand up to mechanical wear and tear and power demands. Solar-powered openers can usually open and close a security gate about eight to ten times per day. More than that, you’ll need additional power.
As the demand for photovoltaic (PV) panels increases, the price is coming down. This makes solar-powered gate openers much less expensive than they were a few years ago. Once you have a solar opener installed, you’ll notice a dramatic reduction in energy cost. This gives you a good feeling of self-sufficiency when you get to keep your pay, rather than turn it over to the power company.
As the owner of your PV panels, you’re in charge of maintaining them. You’ll also have to guard their access to sunlight. This means staying on top of any shrubbery that needs to be trimmed.
Whether you choose electric or solar, backup power is a good idea. It’s inconvenient and often unsafe to have your gate stuck in either the closed or open position. For this reason, most high-quality gate openers include a backup power source such as batteries.
At Buzz Custom Fence, we pride ourselves on being as green as possible. So we’re in favor of solar gate openers, as long as you are prepared to maintain them, have plenty of sun and don’t plan to open and close your gate too frequently. Still wondering what’s best for you? Give us a call and we’ll be happy to help you with all your gate opener questions.