Are solar gate openers any good? Solar vs Electric Gate Opener

Tired of handling the wet and dripping gate when it rains so that you can get in or out of your property? For that matter, tired of doing this a tiresome number of times per day, regardless of how the weather is? You don’t have to turn to this bothersome routine once you install the best automatic gate opener, which is why these systems are quite sought-after among homeowners. But there are variants when it comes to power, and what is provided for you to pick from is solar or electric.

Which is better in your situation? Does one provide more benefits than the other? For that matter, is solar power that reliable considering opener systems that use it are relatively newer as opposed to their electric counterparts? These are all questions we will answer in the following, so before you dive in head-first to pick and install an automatic opening system for your gate, do a bit of research to get the one that is most advantageous for you in the long-run.

How Do Solar and Electric Gate Openers Work?

Their end action is the same with both systems, regardless if we are talking about swing- or slide-style gate openers, the only difference consisting in the power means they utilize. Automatic openers use a motor with which they control the motion of the gate, when you press the button to either open or close it, the arm that attaches to the gate performing the action you input. The only difference exists according to the type of gate you have, as a matter of fact.

  • Swing gates: They open like regular doors, and can comprise a large panel that swings from one post, or two gates that swing open. Preferred option when there is enough space on the property for the doors to open without anything obstructing their path.
  • Sliding gates: Just like sliding doors at home, these gates glide back next to the fence line when they open. Preferred choice when there are obstructions that would impede a swing-style gate from functioning normally or when there is simply not sufficient room to opt for the alternative type. Some models feature a track beside the bottom section of the driveway as there are rollers at the gate bottom. To open and close the gate, the motor and gearbox work together to operate the toothed track attached to the gate and pull or push it into the selected position.

Importance of Battery Backup

Regardless if you go for solar or electric, there can exist the circumstance where the gate will get stuck halfway in the opened or closed position, which isn’t only inconvenient but can be unsafe as well. With electric models, this happens when there is a blackout, whereas, with solar models, it occurs when the power depletes.

This is why an essential element in both systems is battery backup, and the best automatic gate openers feature it, preventing this occurrence as even during an outage or when the solar power stock depletes, the battery intervenes and provides current so that the gate finishes the action it was performing. In fact, until the backup goes out of “juice”, it continues to run as normal. Chances are the situation will fix until then (either the power will come back on, or the panels will collect energy from the sun).

Solar vs. Electric – What Are the Advantages?

What benefits a solar-powered system provides you with:

  • With almost any solar-powered system you install in your home, you get a tax credit. This means that you spend less on your taxes, which is a great financial perk considering how high these mandatory annual payments tend to get.
  • There are no added charges to the electricity bill seeing how the system gets its power from the sun. Thus, aside from the upfront cost and eventual maintenance work that you must do over the years, you won’t spend a cent more on it.
  • You might be tempted to think that the initial purchase costs more. However, this is not necessarily true. You can find enough high-end systems that come at affordable prices. Therefore, regardless of the budget that you set aside, you are likely to find a solar opener that fits your financial possibilities.
  • When the power goes out, so will all of your electricity-based appliances and systems. This is not the case with solar-powered openers as, in their operation, they don’t rely on electricity in any way, shape, or form.
  • As opposed to electric models that draw electricity to run and thus have an impact on the environment, solar-powered systems are 100% Eco-friendly as they collect their power from the sun. Aside from the carbon footprint of the manufacturing and shipping processes, there is no other negative environmental impact involved when them.

What benefits an electric system provides you with:

  • Even though you will find affordable solar systems out there, these still won’t come as cheap as electric gate openers. The wider availability, longer existence, and more common manufacturing make electric systems the cheaper alternative, hands-down.
  • In terms of maintenance, these systems are not demanding in the slightest. This is a major upside considering that time and money are generally lost on upkeep, this hassle-free operation over the years adding to the convenience of use.
  • Is the area you live in generally cold and you don’t enjoy that much sun during the year? Then the last thing you should install is a solar-powered system as it won’t have the source to draw its power from, especially if you tend to get in and out of your property with your vehicle often. This is a situation in which you must definitely install an electric opener as it is independent of weather conditions.

Solar vs. Electric – What Are the Drawbacks?

What limitations solar-powered systems might have you confronting:

  • The panels do require you to cater to them, so be prepared to do a bit of maintenance work. It might sound bothersome, but you have to clean the surface of the panel at least twice per year for it to be able to intercept the solar rays it needs without issues.
  • If chances are that you use the gate on a rather frequent basis, you will run through the power the system generates faster than the system can keep up with. Thus, for heavy-duty use, solar power is not the means you should consider opting for.
  • Whenever there is a rainy or cloudy day, the system won’t have where to draw power from. Generally, these openers need a minimum of 5-6 hours of direct sunlight to fully charge, so if you have a few weeks of bad weather and lack battery backup, chances are that you won’t be able to use the automatic opener all that much until the weather comes back to normal.

What limitations electric systems might have you confronting:

  • While the initial cost of the product is accessible, the same cannot be said about the costs involved with running power to the gate. Electric companies tend to charge quite a lot for this procedure, and the costs rise exponentially according to the length of the distance to the gate.
  • There are situations in which the electric company won’t service your area for power. Make sure that you first check this aspect before you even consider an electric opener as you could end up returning and exchanging it for a solar model instantly in this scenario.

Cost Considerations – Which Type Is More Advantageous?

As aforementioned, between the two types, electric is the way to go if your budget is not all that generous. The initial cost for an electric opener generally ranges from $300 to $800, whereas, with solar-powered openers, the starting price of a quality system is usually $500-$600, and it can go as high as $2,000. However, in the long-run, you not only recuperate the cash difference you spend on the purchase, but you end up saving money if you go for solar as there are literally no costs involved with operating it. After all, it uses the power of the sun, which is free, as opposed to electricity like the alternative system does.

Is a Solar-Powered Opener Right for You?

On paper, a solar system is the definite go-to as it is more cost-efficient in the long-run, and exponentially more Eco-friendly. However, it might not be the right option for you to make as there are some circumstances that conflict with this installation. Thus, to make sure that the solar power opener is a viable installation in your situation, first answer these questions:

  • How much sunlight do you have each day? The minimum amount of daylight it needs to receive is about 5 hours, ideally being for an estimated 8 to 9 hours of direct, unobstructed sunlight. If you do have these conditions all year long in the area you live in, then it is the right option for you. Obviously, if you get days with cloudy weather for long periods, it is best to avoid solar-powered systems.
  • How often do you operate the gate on a daily basis? Typically, these systems gather enough power to open and close the gate approximately 10 times per day. If you know that this is your average gate use, then there won’t be any issues with this installation. However, if you use the gate more intensely, then you definitely need to look into an electric model.
  • Are you prepared for the maintenance it involves down the road? There is quite a hefty amount of upkeep work you have to perform. First off, you have to make sure that shrubs and trees don’t obstruct the sun from fully shining on the panels. Secondly, the panels need to be cleaned at least twice per year.

Bottom Line

Yes, you definitely have to opt for a solar-powered opener if you fall into a compatible category of customers (if there is enough sunlight in your area throughout the year and if you don’t use the gate too frequently). It might cost a bit more initially, but there are no costs involved with running it at all as it draws the power needed to open and close the gate from the sun, so running it is 100% free of charge. This is good news for your wallet, as well as the environment, as there is no negative impact on utilizing solar systems of any kind. While performance-wise both electric and solar openers do an equally fine job, for responsible residential use, solar is the way to go.