How to Set Up a Solar Driveway Gate
A solar driveway gate provides the ultimate convenience.
Although solar driveway gates might seem a bit foreign to someone living in the city or a compact suburban neighborhood, they are quite common in rural areas where driveways can be longer than football fields.
Ranches, farms, and other working land plots often require fencing to protect livestock and crops from potential threats. This fencing also serves to distinguish land borders and helps to keep order on an otherwise sprawling acreage.
Reasons to install a solar driveway gate
If you have a fence around your property, there are many reasons for you to be interested in getting one of these gates for yourself. Not only can they be stylish additions with the potential to increase home value and beauty, but there is also a more practical side.
Often, people that live in rural areas or have very long driveways need some type of gate at the entrance to their property to maintain privacy, protection, and to serve as a point of communication for visitors if their front door is inaccessible. Usually, this means that the owner would arrive at home, then take multiple steps just to get into the property:
- Stop their vehicle outside the gate.
- Park the car.
- Unlock the gate.
- Open the gate.
- Drive the car through.
- Park the car again.
- Get out again and close the gate.
- Lock the gate again.
- Drive to the house.
(Or worse, if you live on a really big ranch, drive to the next gate or three.)
Wow, I get exhausted just thinking about the wasted time involved, especially considering it is often happening after a long trip or day at work; it starts to sound rather frustrating as well. Can you just imagine doing that in rain, snow, or mud?
Small electric motors have been around for a long time, but because gates are often very far from a typical electrical source, it is difficult to keep things running on autopilot. Luckily, we now have access to reliable batteries and small solar arrays that can provide constant recharging capability!
Common burglars are more likely to attempt a robbery in places that look easier to break into. They would much rather pick off easier targets than bother trying to circumvent a bunch of security measures designed to catch them in the act. Having a big, locked gate on the front of your property means more work for the burglar and that he would look quite suspicious jumping the fence.
Obviously, non-solar gates also add security, but for a few hundred dollars extra, you can have security and convenience!
Equipment required for a solar driveway gate
The good news, from a materials standpoint, is that solar driveway gates don’t need an incredibly complicated setup to get started. Your setup will vary depending on the location and electrical access of the gate. There are a wide variety of kits available that include nearly everything that you would need to get your gate up and running. These kits typically include:
- Gate opener – this is an electric motor-powered unit that typically resembles the hinge on a screen door – using an extending rod to open and close the gate (see video below)
- Mounting hardware for the motor
- A small solar panel (5-30 watts is common)
- 12-volt automotive or marine battery with a watertight enclosure
- Wiring to connect the battery, solar panel, and motor together
- A wireless “clicker” to open and close the gate (similar to a garage door opener)
Cost of installing a solar driveway gate
Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s look at the expenses of actually purchasing a gate and installing the opener.
First, let’s say you’ve already got a gate installed and just want to add solar to it. Let’s look at few solar gate kits to see their costs.
Solar Gate Opener Kits
Kits for solar gate openers typically hover around $500, but range from around $300 to $800 depending on the size of the gate. Here are a few popular options from well-respected brands:
- MightyMule EZGO-SOLAR Gate Opener Solar Kit – This kit has everything you need to get your gate running off the sun, all for under $500!
- Ghost Controls Heavy-Duty Solar Gate Opener Kit – Designed for swing gates up to 20 feet, this kit also comes with everything you need to add solar to your driveway gate.
So you can expect to spend about $500 to add solar to your gate. What if you are starting from scratch, and don’t even have a gate yet? How much can you expect to spend in total then?
Costs will be all over the map depending on a variety of factors. Below we look at a handful of factors that affect your total investment (the cost estimates below are from Fixr).
The size of the gate door will make a huge impact on the overall cost of the installation. Most gates range between 10-16′ wide and are usually 6-8′ high. Moving from the low end of the size spectrum to the high end can increase prices by 20-40%.
Type of gate
The primary options include swinging gates, sliding gates, and vertical lift gates. Swinging gates will be the least expensive, at around $800-$1,600, but they also require a lot of extra space for opening and closing.
For areas with uneven terrain or less space, sliding gates can work well because the gate slides into an enclosure or alongside the fence itself. This allows the gate to operate with a very small footprint, but can cost upwards of $2,250-$4,000.
The materials used for the gate itself affects the cost considerably.
- Chain link is the least expensive option, but it definitely won’t be adding any style points to your home. It would work marvelously in a farm setting or another area set away from your home where looks don’t matter much. $150-$500
- Wood can be very visually appealing and offers lots of options for wood type, stains, and painting. Wood requires frequent maintenance, however, and is prone to rotting unless taken care of properly. $400-$750
- Aluminum is extremely lightweight, which helps with extremely large gate setups. It is also resistant to rust and can be painted, making it a solid choice for most applications. $800-$2,250
- Iron gates conjure up images of ornate fences and gates surrounding a sprawling mansion. There might even be a gargoyle up there somewhere. This material is extremely durable and can look great, but it carries a high cost for the perks. Also, be sure to keep it painted, as iron rusts quickly! $800-$4,000
- Steel is a strong, durable, and long-lasting choice. Those qualities also mean that it is quite expensive. Steel itself is also heavy and prone to rusting unless maintained well. $800-4,000
As with most projects, the labor involved can often end up costing more than the materials themselves. For a professional team to install the gate, it could cost anywhere between $500-$5,000. This fee typically includes digging posts, measuring the gate dimensions, adding hinges and hardware, hanging the gate, and installing anything related to the automatic opener and accessories.
Obviously, taking on this project yourself could be risky if you aren’t prepared for it, but you would stand to save a lot of money. It would be unlikely that you would be wasting anything more than time if you want to give it a go with a couple of friends!
As mentioned above, there are tons of different accessories that can be added to a solar powered driveway gate to fit your individual needs. If you are worried about security, add a camera. If you have a huge driveway and need a way to communicate with visitors more easily, add an intercom. If your driveway is difficult to see at night, consider solar powered security lights.
Most of the accessories listed below can easily be wired into your solar battery setup and don’t take much energy to power. They have a variety of costs, but typically they can each be had for around $50-$250.
- Pincode keypad for an additional entry method
- Motion sensor for exiting/entering vehicles
- Intercom system for communicating with the household
- Padlock for more security
- Gate wheel for added stability on larger gates
- Lighting around gate posts for easy visibility and security
- Security Camera or alarms
Hopefully, we’ve covered all of the basics concerning purchasing and installing a new solar driveway gate for your home or property. There are an endless number of ways that you can customize and accessorize your gate to fit your needs, but the benefits are clear. With a solar powered gate, you will have the security and convenience you are looking for at home!
Now that you’ve got the solar bug, why stop there? Consider stepping up your Going Green journey with a solar carport, or even better yet – a solar powered car!
Do you have a solar driveway gate? What has your experience been with them? What would you have done differently? Let us know in the comments!
Image Credits under CC License via Flickr – 1, 2 & Pixabay – 3