Enhancing your security gates with automation kits is a great way to elevate your system and provides ease of use for you. The inclusion of photocell sensors is imperative with these automated systems as they are there to keep you, your loved ones, and your vehicle(s) safe.

If your gate is already in motion the incorporation of photocell sensors is highly recommended. These sensors can tell your gates that something is in the way, which is their main function. This is why they are an integral part of the overall safety of an electric gate system.

How do Electric Gate Photocell Sensors Work?

Each set of photocell sensors comes in pairs, and work by sending an infrared beam from one to the other. You’ve probably seen enough security lasers in heist films to work out the basics – if the beam is broken, it sends a signal. In this case, the signal simply tells the gates to stop moving, pause, and then start fully opening again.

Most automation kits that we install come with photocell sensors. These essential safety features are mounted on the gates’ exterior side as illustrated below. If a car arrives while the gates are in the act of closing, it breaks this infrared beam, so that the gates change direction and open to admit the vehicle. This drastically reduces the chances of the gates closing on the car, which would cause a large amount of damage, and even possible injuries.

photocell sensor diagram

While most of our customers find one set of photocells on the exterior sufficient, some prefer to have a second pair on the interior side of the gates for extra convenience. These require additional mounting points, which we can provide in the form of sturdy posts. When these posts are installed, the incoming vehicle will break the first beam before it starts moving through the gates, and then break the second beam as it moves through the gap. Once both infrared beams have been established and a suitable amount of time has passed, only then will that gates move back into position.

By the same token, it means that if the automated gates are in the act of closing when a vehicle approaches from the inside pf the property, the innermost beam will be broken, and once again, the gates will begin opening to let the vehicle pass.

The photocell sensors work on the same principle when applied to electric sliding gates too, preventing the risk of causing any accidental damage to cars in the act of moving through them.

They’ll also work for people and certain animals, although obviously this is subject to how big the animals are! Even with the photocells in action, however, we don’t recommend that pedestrians attempt to enter and exit properties through the vehicle gates – not least because of the danger of vehicles colliding with them.

Can Photocells Be Used To Let People In & Out?

No. These devices are only suitable for use as a safety mechanism on your gates, and not as a method of entry or exit. Whilst it’s often a thought that the concept of breaking the beam could be used to trigger the gates to open, the photocell pairs only work when the gate is in a commanded operation.

It’s not hard to see why; animals, pets and people could break the beam at will and cause the gates to open at inopportune or dangerous times. You might be able to easily open them when you walk the children to school, but so might a stray dog wandering around near your home at 2 am. Besides being noisy or annoying, it also completely undermines their security benefits if they can be simply opened by anyone or anything who approaches them.

That’s why the photocells in the gate automation kits are used purely for safety purposes. To create fast and button-less exit options, a vehicle detection ground loop can be installed under your driveway. For anyone trying to get in and out of the property without a vehicle, you can always install separate pedestrian entrances, or push-to-exit buttons. These ensure that you can enter and exit your premises at will, but without compromising any of the safety or security aspects of your automated gates.

Positioning Photocell Sensors

Photocells are a vital part of gate automation safety, and their positioning determines a large part of how safe automatic gates are. In all cases, a safety audit determining the type of gates, their environment, gate use, frequency of operation and user knowledge must be carried out at the design stage. This will determine possible risk areas and the types of potential risk. Safety photocells can then be positioned to cover danger areas. Their primary role is to stop gates continuing to move dangerously when someone or something has entered a risk area and broken an infrared photocell beam.

Once danger areas have been identified and photocells positioned appropriately, the next most important part of photocell installation is their alignment. If the infrared beams emitted and received by a pair of photocells are not received or reflected accurately, the photocells are worthless.

Another important consideration with photocell installation, is their height off the ground. Various posts and columns are available for photocells and many position the photocells at a height of around 600mm. Any lower than this and the beams may pass beneath taller vehicles such as 4×4 pick-ups. Any higher and the beams may pass through the windows of low sports cars or completely over the top of convertibles with their tops down.

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