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?

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