Printed from the blog of Lori Greene, AHC/CDC, CCPR, FDAI
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Aug 14 2017

QQ: What is a power-assist operator?

This is Part 1 of a 2-part question, so check tomorrow’s post for Part 2.  First, I’d like to clarify what defines a power-assist operator.  Although many people think that a power-assist operator is the same as a low-energy operator, or that it is an automatic operator that is initiated by pushing or pulling on the door, BHMA A156.19 defines it this way:

2.3 Power Assist Door A door with a power mechanism that activates by pushing or pulling the door, reducing the opening resistance of a self-closing door to allow easier manual opening of the door. If the opening force on the door is released, the door shall come to a stop and either immediately begin to close, or begin to close after a predetermined time.

The key difference between a low-energy operator and a power-assist operator is that a low-energy operator opens the door automatically, and a power-assist operator reduces the opening force but still requires the user to open the door manually.  While the definition does mention pushing or pulling the door, a power-assist operator can also be activated by a button on the wall which reduces the opening force (but does not automatically open the door).  A156.19 says:  “Power assist doors shall operate only by pushing or pulling the door. An activating means is permitted to be used to put the door in the power assist mode.”

Power-assist operators are not very common these days, which is probably where the confusion arises.  The accessibility standards recognize low-energy operators and power-assist operators as two different things, with a third category for full-powered automatic doors that must comply with BHMA A156.10.  One important thing to note about power-assist doors is that they are subject to the maneuvering-clearance requirements for manual doors.  This makes sense, because power-assist doors are operated manually, but with less force than a manual door.

Any questions before we move on to QQ Part 2?

5 Responses to “QQ: What is a power-assist operator?”

  1. alex sency says:

    is a push and go feature on a low energy door considered power assist?

  2. Eric Rieckers says:

    People today would assume that a wall switch will activate a low-energy operator and not just an power-assist operator. I imagine that would cause some confusion for someone if they kept hitting the wall switch and the door not opening automatically.

  3. Joe D. says:

    Very good point Eric! The only people that know the difference are those skilled in the trade.

  4. Tom Breese says:

    This “power-assist” device is an enigma! All kinds of regulations regarding their operation and signage and such, but I’m not able to find a manufacturer who makes such an item — and I’ve searched many times (would be ideal for use with large/heavy doors). LCN used to have a pneumatic power-assist device some 35 years ago, but no longer offers it. I’d always thought that Stanley made one, but I’ve confirmed that they don’t. An assisted-living center facility I’d surveyed had one, or so I thought: it was a very-slow-opening low-energy operator with jamb-mounted actuators and with a Push-N-Go feature. Manually pushing the door initiated the opening operation, and you could feel the motor operating and “helping you” open the door (very easy push, but I didn’t measure it…), but when you stopped pushing the door would very slowly continue to cycle fully-open. Of course, you could just use the jamb-mounted actuator and catch a nap while the door opened.
    So, I guess a low-energy operator with Push-N-Go can be field-adjusted to function ‘like’ a power-assist device. I’d be very interested in knowing of a true “power-assist” device, though.

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