Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Barbarians At The Gate

Okay, so they're not really barbarians. Instead, they're repairmen here to fix our gate. But I really like the phrase "Barbarians at the gate," so I used that for the title. Hey, it's my blog - I can do what I want.


Our driveway is a few hundred yards long. We cross-fenced where the house is, mainly so we can keep our dogs from running amok. Since I am by nature lazy a strong proponent of conserving energy, about 15 years ago we installed a solar powered electric gate where the driveway crosses the fence line. That way I can open and close the gate without getting out of my truck, simply by clicking a button on a small remote control unit, very similar to an automatic garage door opener. (Yes, I have one of those as well. Like I said, it's all about conserving energy.)

The gate opener has performed admirably. We've had to replace the battery a couple of times, but other than that maintenance and repairs have been minimal. Until Friday.

Friday I clicked my remote and the gate began to open. It got about halfway and then stopped. Frozen in place, it would neither open nor close, regardless of how frequently or how hard I pressed that button, or how eloquently I cussed. (Side note: my wife insists that the fierceness with which one presses a button has no effect on how well it functions. I disagree. It's one of the few issues on which we differ.) (/sarc)

So I got out my trusty tool box and disconnected the arm that moves the gate to and fro. Opening the control box revealing nothing obviously amiss. There were no loose wires, no scorched circuit boards, the battery terminals were nice and shiny, and the battery charge read "full." That's the limit of my fix-it-yourself knowledge, so I called the gate repair shop. They sent someone out later that afternoon. In short order he informed me that (1) the electric motor that opens and closes the gate was burned out; (2) a replacement motor was not readily available (because the unit was so old); and (3) they could get a replacement motor, but it would cost almost as much as installing a whole new unit.

Besides, with a new unit we could download an app onto our smart phones that will enable us to open, close, and monitor the status of our gate from anywhere in the world. I can't tell you how many times I've been in BFE and wondered whether the gate was open or closed. Now, thanks to the miracle of modern technology, I can not only find out, I can change its status. Oh happy day!

There was, however, one little detail that we didn't know about until today, when installation of the new unit began. In the 15+ years since we installed the original gate, the federal government has determined that a powered gate like ours is actually a death trap. I could potentially crush a slow-moving, feeble, and unobservant person in its mighty jaws of death between the gate and the gate post. Never mind that it has a "bump" override feature that causes it to reverse its motion if it hits something before it fully closes (like an elevator door that opens if it hits something before it shuts). No, the feds have now mandated that there be a positive connection between the gate and the gate post.

Think of an automatic garage door opener. Not only does it have that "bump" override, it also has an electric eye. When the beam of light is broken between the sensor and the control unit, the door reverses course, even if it hasn't hit anything. Now an automatic gate must have the same 'double safety.'

However, unlike a garage door opener, where you can simply staple a wire up, across, and down the garage wall, a gate sensor requires cutting across the driveway with a concrete saw, laying conduit in the resulting trench, and then covering it up with a bead of asphalt. Oh, I guess I could have strung a wire high up across the driveway, but that would necessitate setting a couple of posts into the ground. Even then, I'd be left with a wire dangling up in the air, and inevitably someone with a tall truck would come along and knock it down, or an ice storm (rare, but we do occasionally get them here) would deposit enough ice on the wire to bring it down.

Alternatively, we could have just laid the conduit on top of the ground, but that leads to a whole different set of risks, from rodents (or dogs) chewing through it, to snagging it with a tractor, or some other mishap. So burying it seems to be the best long-term solution.

It is also, of course, the most expensive.

Our new driveway asphalt patch.

The complete new unit, including (1) the safety sensor (boy, I feel safer already); (2) the new motor and drive arm; (3) the new control box; and (not numbered) the new solar panel.

And of course, no new motorized gate would be complete without an official government warning label. BTW, that sign was in the trash before the repairman's truck hit the end of the driveway.

On the bright side, as you can see from the pictures, today's weather was gorgeous - sunny with a high in the low 70s. Great day to sit outside with a cold beer and watch someone else work...


Bag Blog said...

That's one heck of a gate. We just have a cattle-guard and a gravel driveway. But then, we are Okies.

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't a few claymores with sonic & infrared sensors scatter around the entrance serve the same purpose?

Hence: You wouldn't need a 1) solar panel

2) a control box

3) stupid consumer product safety commission approved warning sign.

Old NFO said...

Just remember, Front Toward Enemy on the Claymores... :-) And that IS getting a bit 'picky' IMHO re an automated gate... sigh

CenTexTim said...

BB - This isn't a working ranch, so we don't need a cattle guard. We need the gate to keep the dogs from roaming. The driveway is relatively short. It's just a gravel base covered with asphalt sealer to keep the dust down. Not as fancy as it looks in the pictures.

Toejam - The gate is to keep the dogs in, not to keep people out. I don't think claymores would be effective in accomplishing that. Although I do agree that the warning sigh is overkill.

NFO - That's why the letters are raised - so you can tell which side is the front in the dark... :-) And, yeah, all that fuss over a gate is just another sign of the encroaching nanny state.