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How to Choose the Right Door Closer

Posted on 10/6/2015 11:52 AM by Matthew Davis


Choosing a door closer changes depending on many different factors including customer preference, manufacturer options, and building specifications. Other factors to consider include:

  • Size and weight of the door
  • Location of the door
  • Opening and closing frequency
  • Mounting location
  • Affordability
  • Backswing requirements

Traffic Volume Considerations

In general, overhead door closers are used typically for medium- to heavy-traffic locations, and they are extremely durable. There are options for interior or exterior doors, and they’re one of the most common types that are used.

Floor-spring or overhead spring closers, on the other hand, are a bit more durable, and they work nicely for heavy traffic doors. Additionally, they are not visible like overhead closers, making them one of the most attractive options. Finally, concealed and frame-mounted closers are typically used for medium traffic, interior doors.

Deciding on a door closer depends on a variety of factors. It starts with understanding the various types, and the benefits that they have to offer. Then, matching the door to the type of door closer that you’re using is the key.  Heavier doors and doors with higher traffic require durable, strong door closers. Lighter doors do not. Either way, if you’re unsure, the best option might be to consult with a door installer or vendor.

Building Code Considerations

Each area can have slightly different building codes depending on the location of the building. Federal, state, and even local building codes can have an impact on determining the door closer required. The Builders Hardware Manufacturers Association (BHMA) and American National Standards Institute (ANSI) provide extensive standards for door closers. The full list can be found here. Generally, each door closer needs to meet different levels of performance broken up in 3 grades with 1 being the highest and 3 being the basic level. Performance is judged based on cycle testing as well as closing force and finish tests. The tests are done in a neutral air pressure laboratory at 60-85 degrees F.

Door closers have the following requirements:

  • Grade 1: 2,000,000 cycles at 60% efficiency
  • Grade 2: 1,000,000 cycles at 60% efficiency
  • Grade 3: 500,000 cycles at 50% efficiency

If doors are being installed into a high volume area like a major office building or shopping mall, it is crucial to only use door closers that have been rated as Grade 1 closers.

The American Disability Act also provides a list of clear requirements when looking at doors and door closers. The ADA states that interior doors should require no more than 5 lbs of force to operate and exterior doors should have the minimum force possible. The ADA also states that the closing or swing speed shall not be faster than 5 seconds and the latching speed should be quick enough to latch the door, but not slam it.

Aesthetic Considerations

A door closer might be chosen for its appearance, as some are more attractive than others. The majority of door closer units are adjustable, allowing operators to set a specific closing rate and opening resistance. Types of door closers include:

Overhead Door Closers

Overhead door closers are the most common, and they’re widely used throughout commercial properties. For example, interior doors within offices, like conference doors, are typically affixed with a door closer that automatically closes the door. Additionally, commercial front doors are also installed with a closer unit, and overhead units are a popular choice. There are three common types of overhead door closers including:

  • Regular Arm: The regular arm, or standard arm, closer is a pull-side application, meaning it is located on the exterior of the door. In these applications, there are two arms, one attached to the frame and another to a spring-loaded box on the pull-side of the door. The arms, when closed, project out perpendicularly from the door, which is less attractive than other applications. This is the most power-efficient option available.
  • Top Jamb: Top jamb door closers, like regular arm closers, have arms that project out from the door perpendicularly. Yet, the biggest difference is that the spring-loaded box is mounted on the face of the doorframe. These are often used for aluminum or glass storefront doors, because these doors generally have narrow top rails. Like regular arm closers, top jamb closers are fairly power efficient.
  • Parallel Arm: With a parallel arm application, there are two arms that sit on top of the door when it is closed. They are attached to the door via a spring-loaded box, which sits at the top of the push-side of the door and powers the closing action. Parallel arm door closers are one of the most common applications, particularly in commercial properties and schools, because they reduce the risk of vandalism to the arm and they are more attractive than other overhead options. Due to the arm geometry, these are less power efficient than regular arm and top jamb closers.

Other Types of Door Closers

Although overhead closers are the most common, there are other types that aren’t mounted at the top of the door. Concealed closers, for example, are hidden within the jamb, offering a more appealing look. Similarly, floor closers are concealed within the floor and they aren’t visible when the door is opened. Examples include:

  • Concealed: Concealed closers are fitted into recesses in the door and frame. Thus, they aren’t visible when the door is closed. They are available as hydraulic or spring-loaded versions, and they are typically used for interior doors that are fairly light.
  • Surface-mounted: These types of door closers are fitted to the door frame, with a bar along the back of the door. Typically, these are fairly small in size, and they can be used to match the color of the door. They are a cost-effective option for automatically closing doors.
  • Floor-Spring: Floor-spring closers are typically used on glass storefront doors. They are mounted in the floor, and are concealed. A bar within the closer is fitted into the underside of the door, which controls the closing action. These provide one of the most appealing looks, and they are often used for upscale commercial properties. Floor-spring closers typically have an open setting, so that they can be left open. Over-head spring closers are also available.

Making the Right Choice

As a building manager or owner, all this can be overwhelming. It’s essential to first consider building codes and traffic requirements before looking at the different aesthetic options. The wrong type can lead to the closer needing replacement in a short-period of time and also could lead to fines. As mentioned earlier, it’s essential to choose ANSI Grade 1 closers for high volume doors. If you have a small interior office, Grade 2 door closers are acceptable and for closets, Grade 3 closers will work fine.

Once the grade requirement is met, energy efficiency and aesthetics can be taken into account. Exterior facing doors that will not be used for shipments could be left open far longer than needed leading to larger energy bills. Conversely, doors that automatically close too quickly that are used for shipments could lead to a productivity decline and later a demand that a different closer be used. The application of each door will change the type of closer needed. One way to mitigate this potential problem would be to discuss the needs of each door with someone who would be working in the area.

Matthew Davis is an associate of Aeroseal Windows & Storefront, a commercial windows and doors installer.

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Advancements in Water Leak Detection

Posted on 10/1/2015 9:52 AM by Laurie C. Conner

Surprisingly, natural disasters are not the highest risk to buildings, it is water leaks which cause the most damage, drip by drip.

Water damage is the leading cause of insurance claims in the United States, even exceeding fire and theft claims combined, but the latest advancements in water leak sensing and shut-off technology can uncover risk for building owners and managers, and headaches for engineers.

Potential for high losses in high-rises

Water is labeled “the enemy” by some insurance claims managers. Occasionally pipes make a splash – bursting with an impressive show. Others dribble, unnoticed, for extended periods in cabinets or hidden spaces.

Multi-story buildings, especially structures of 20+ years and those with numerous tenants, carry high risk related to water damage. Normal infrastructure wear and tear as well as human error increases chances for leaks. For example, water trickled down nine floors of an office building after a leak on a hot water tank relief valve went undetected for a weekend. Losses totaled $600,000.

On top of costs to rebuild, estimates and headaches grow when tenants and owners experience loss of use. Also, mold and mildew can increase a claim tenfold and require strict environmental compliance.

The ‘smoke detector’ for water

Smoke alarms moved from rare to ubiquitous as innovators refined technology and improved affordability. Leak sensing systems are the ‘smoke alarm’ for water and poised to follow a similar growth path. While fire prevention deserves priority as a life-saving measure, drips and small floods harm property and assets and interrupt business, residence and quality of life.

Water leak sensing innovation

High-rise building owners, managers and engineers thirsty for a solution will discover advancements in water leak sensing are making the systems easier to install and manage. Some products work well for single dwellings and specific uses, but they prove difficult to scale for multi-level residential or commercial applications. The latest devices mitigate high risk for large structures and protect property and assets by leveraging modern technology:

Wireless – No one wants to fish wires through crawl spaces, not to mention suffer the expense and disruption wired installation involves. Wireless water leak sensing ensures any building, new or existing – even historical – can be retrofitted with sensors. When a leak occurs, the unit responds with a local alarm and delivers notifications by phone, text and email to managers. It also tracks the time of response.

Cloud-based – Sensors are placed at sites of potential leaks – sinks, air conditioners, toilets, plumbing chases and more. For buildings with hundreds of units, individual systems would ring multiple cell phones. Instead, cloud technology supports combination of data from all units into a single portal monitored by building operators. Additionally, cloud-based management will not be interrupted by power outages.

Automated – In some cases, automatically shutting off a water valve when a leak is detected is worth any inconvenience to users; for instance, the building may lack 24/7 monitoring or the water source itself is near mission-critical equipment. In other situations, immediate notification supports adequate protection. Useful leak sensing systems offer both options.

Building engineers and property managers can identify problem areas where wireless leak detection can be of most benefit. A typical system has a payback of less than 1 year by avoiding just one leak. No one will miss the drip.

Tips on choosing a system

A building assessment must be done to determine your building’s needs. Identity the common areas where water leaks occur and other critical areas you would like to protect. Determine if you would like to protect common areas, tenant suites, or both and decide whether you would like the extra protection by using automatic water shut off valves.

Once you determine your needs there are options you can pursue. For property managers who want to reduce costs, standalone systems that are specific to individual tenants may be a viable option. The drawback here is that the responsibility is on the tenant and building engineers will not know if there is a leak unless reported by the tenant.

Water leak detection systems that utilize current technology and integrate with BMS systems may also be a way to go. The caution here is that BMS systems are not always reliable and subject to failure during power outages. For property managers and building engineers that want comprehensive water leak detection, look for systems that offer the advancements in wireless and monitoring technology as well as capabilities that work well within the specific building portfolio being considered.

Laurie C. Conner is President and CEO of The Detection Group. Reach her at: lconner@thedetectiongroup.com.

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