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Solar powered gate openers are more affordable than electric gate operators in the long run, since you don’t have to pay any monthly power bills. But installing a solar gate opener may appear daunting for some. Actually it is easier to set up than you might think.
Attach the mount on the solar panel and connect the wires onto the gate control box. After assembly, position the solar panel where it can receive as much sunlight as possible.
How to Install a Solar Gate Opener
The following steps are for the Mighty Mule EZ Gate Opener, but the process is similar to other solar gate devices. As always this is a general guide only and you should refer to the instructions with your kit for specific steps.
Before You Begin Installation
Before proceeding, make sure all the parts are included in your solar gate kit. The components will look something like the following.
- Solar panel
- Curved pipe
- M8 bolts
- M8 nuts
- Lag bolts
- Wire nuts
- Pipe clamps
The tools may or may not be included in your kit. But you can easily get these in any hardware store, if you don’t have them already.
- 1/2″ open end wrench
- Flat head screwdriver
Step 1: Connect the Solar Panel to the Mount
Turn the solar panel down so the back faces you. Place the M8 bolts under the holes on the frame so the threaded part goes through the frame.
Put the curved pipe between the bolts. Put two pipe clamps onto the bolts and the curved pipe. Set the nuts over the bolts and pipe. Secure tightly. Assembly is done.
Step 2: Find a Location For the Solar Panel
Find a location to install the solar panel. This is crucial because it will determine how efficient the gate opener will work. Some tips.
- The location must receive plenty of sunlight.
- There must be no shade or obstruction that will block the solar panel.
- The solar panel must face true south. If you are in the southern hemisphere it should face true north. This is similar to how you would install solar brackets.
The solar panel requires 6 to 8 hours of sunlight for maximum charge. It can run without being fully charged but for a limited time only.
Step 3: Install the Solar Panel
When you find a good spot, use the curved pipe to install the solar panel. Adjust the mount until it has the best possible angle for sunlight. Use the lag bolts and two pipe clamps to fasten the solar panel in its spot.
Lag bolts and pipe clamps are designed for fences and wooden posts. Metal screws should be used if you have metal posts. You can get these in any hardware store if they are not included in the package.
Step 4: Connect the Solar Panel to the Control Box
Turn off your gate control box. Attach the solar panel wires into the control box terminals. The red solar panel wire is for the positive terminal. The black wire is for the negative terminal. If you are not sure, check your gate opener manual for information.
If your solar panel needs to be installed several feet from the control box to get sunlight, use an extension cable. For the Mighty Mule EZ Gate Opener they recommend a low voltage, direct burial 16 gauge wire. The recommended solar wire and cable may be different for yours. Check your instructions and use only the recommended extension cable.
Tips and Warnings
- Never use the gate control box AC transformer and solar panel simultaneously. It will damage the control board and the solar panel may be inoperable.
- Clean the solar panel for optimum performance. Wipe with a damp cloth to remove stubborn dirt and grime. Use a dry cloth if it is just light dust. Do not use harsh detergents on the solar panel.
- The performance of the solar panel will depend on how much sunlight is available. The angle, the intensity of the sunlight, temperature, charge level etc. all are factors.
- You can look at the output by connecting the panel leads to a DC volt meter. In bright clear skies the reading will be around 300mA and 18V. The readings for your gate opener may be different depending on its strength. But there should be a charge if the sun is out.
Solar Gate Opener Installation FAQ
How Often Can I Use a Solar Gate Opener?
Opening and closing a gate is called an operational cycle. Open and close the gate once, that is one operational cycle. The number of times you can do this depends on the available charge, the season and how many batteries are installed.
For the Mighty Mule EZ Gate Opener, the following are the estimated gate openings per day for winter. These are the minimum figures, so double these or more during the summer.
- 5W charge: 4-13 times a day
- 10W charge: 8-26 times a day
- 20W charge: 14-28 times a day
- 30W charge: 20-44 times a day
If your gate opener supports multiple batteries, consider adding another to the system. This will double the number of times you can open and close the gate, ideal if they are heavily used.
Are Solar Gate Openers better Than Electric Gate Openers?
If you are relying on solar panel alone, you can use it 4 to 10 times a day. if the battery is fully charged you can open and close a gate several times. Unless there is very little sunlight in your area, solar is better. More info here about solar vs. electric gate openers.
Do Solar Gate Openers Work?
Yes they do. If yours isn’t working, there is probably little charge or there is no sunlight. There might also be something blocking the solar panel, or there could be a wiring issue.
Any one of these could affect the performance of a solar gate. As mentioned earlier you should also clean the solar panels so it can receive sunlight better. If your solar gate opener is properly installed and the sun is out, it will run.
Are Solar Gate Openers Reliable?
Yes. Sunlight is a reliable source of energy and you can count on it for your gate. The most important thing is to find a good location for the device. Expect reliable performance as long as there is no damage to the system and the weather is ideal.
Can I Use Solar Power on My Gate?
Most of the time there should be no problems. If there is an electric system built in, you may have to remove it to use the solar panel, at least modify it so solar power is used. But compatibility is not usually a issue.
Do I Need an Extension Cable to Install a Solar Gate Operator?
You have to use one if the solar panel will be far from the control box. You have to make sure the distance is correct, just like with solar panels and batteries to get the best result.
How Many Batteries Can I Add to a Solar Gate Opener?
This will vary from gate opener to gate opener. Some work with only one battery, the one that came with it. Others allow you to connect others for more power. If you have a small gate and it isn’t used much, a single battery will do. But for large, frequently used gates, more batteries are ideal.
Do All Solar Gate Openers Come with a Battery?
No, some of them don’t. You need a rechargeable battery if you want to use solar when the sun is low. Refer to the instructions for what type of battery should be used.
What Type of Material Do These Gate Openers Work With?
You can install solar gate devices on different types of gates. Steel, wood, vinyl, slid panel and other types won’t present any problems. The type of material best suited for the panel will be included in the instructions or the manufacturer website.
Do Solar Gates Come with Controllers?
Some of them do but others are a separate purchase. Some will also have support for keypad or remote control and may even have them bundled. It will depend on the manufacturer.
How Much Weight Can a Solar Gate Opener Handle?
It depends on the product. There are solar gate operators that can work with 300 lb. gates, while others can deal 900 lbs and more. You will find the weight capacity on the product specs, and you should check it first to ensure it is suitable for your gate. Also note that some gate openers only work with specific gate sizes, i.e., up to 20 ft. or so. This is something you should look out for as well.
If you have never used a solar gate opener before you will be surprised at how easy it is to install. Assembling the solar panel is probably the most challenging aspect. Once everything is set you will see what difference solar powered gate operators can make on your monthly power bill.
I am an advocate of solar power. Through portablesolarexpert.com I want to share with all of you what I have learned and cotinue to learn about renewable energy.