Door Operators and Gate Operators: Similarities and Differences

© 2004 Door & Access Systems
Publish Date: Winter 2004
Author: Barbara Kelkhoff
Pages 66-67

Door Operators and Gate Operators:
Similarities and Differences

By Barbara Kelkhoff, The Chamberlain Group

Our industry’s door operators and gate operators have become quite popular. Their use is widespread throughout our society in business and residential life.

Yet, some members of our industry are familiar with either door operators or gate operators. Many people lack an acquaintance with both devices.

Door and gate operators have many similarities, but they can also be quite different. Realizing some of the significant similarities and differences may help to acquaint you with fundamental aspects of these popular industry products.


Similarities: Both operators are part of automated vehicular access systems, and both are designed to provide convenience for users.

Differences: Door operators cause a garage door or rolling door to open or close in a vertical direction. While some gates operate vertically, most gate operators operate gates that open in a horizontal sliding motion on rollers or a horizontal swinging motion on hinges. Some operate a barrier arm that opens vertically by pivoting on the base of the arm.


Similarities: Both devices can be designed for residential or commercial settings. A residential door or gate operator serves up to four family units. All other operators are considered commercial/industrial. Residential applications require fewer cycles in testing, while commercial/industrial applications require continuous testing to ensure adequate protection.


Similarity: Door operators and gate operators are both subject to the provisions of UL325 and UL991.

Differences: Gate installations are also subject to ASTM F-2200.


Differences: Door operators are generally installed indoors and in elevated locations, such as on the ceiling.

Gate operators are typically installed outdoors and in high or low locations. Outdoor use requires testing to ensure that water, weather, and sun do not negatively affect operation.


Similarities: All operators are designed to protect against entrapment injuries. Residential door operators and gate operators of all classes must have primary and secondary methods of protection.

Difference: Commercial operators require entrapment protection devices if the operator is not controlled by either constant pressure or 3-button control stations.


Similarities: An inherent reversing feature is the primary method of entrapment protection on residential door and Class I gate operators and many Class II gate operators. This feature can also be the secondary reversal on some residential door operators. All operators are tested to initiate reversal within two seconds after contacting an obstruction.

Differences: Door operators are required to reverse when closing and must reverse to the full open position. Gate operators, however, must reverse direction when opening and closing, and must reverse direction at least two inches.

If a second obstruction is detected during reversal, a door operator will stop moving. However, Class I and II gate operators will stop and sound an alarm.


Similarities: Photoelectric eyes or sensing edges are among the approved methods of providing secondary entrapment protection on both door operators and gate operators. They can also be used as primary entrapment protection devices on some Class III and IV gate operators.

Differences: For door operators or vertical gates, one set of eyes is used to protect a single location at the floor of the garage or pathway.

Since other gate operators can cause the gate to swing or slide in a variety of directions, gate installations have more potential entrapment locations. Consequently, gate operators are designed to employ multiple photo eyes or edges, and they must be mounted to protect both opening and closing areas.


Similarities: All operators require a manual disconnect so the door or gate can be separated from the operator and moved by hand.

Difference: A residential door operator disconnect must be red. No color requirements are assigned for gate operator disconnects.

This list of differences and similarities is only a brief introduction to door and gate operators. But it should give you a good foundation to understanding both products.