The Distinctions Between Low and High Energy Door Operators


When you’re specifying power operators for swinging doors, you have two types to choose from:

  • Low energy
  • High energy (a.k.a. Full Power)

What’s the difference?

The opening speed, force, and safety device requirements differ between low and high-energy door operators.

Low energy power operator requirements only apply to swing door operators. The activation of all doors described in the ANSI/BHMA A156.19 standard requires a “knowing act” switch activation. Examples of approved “knowing act” devices are push button actuators, keypads, key switches and card readers.

The A156.19 standard also covers “power assist” operation and includes provisions to reduce the chance of injury or entrapment without the use of guiderails, safety devices, etc. Designed to provide enhanced accessibility, these operators open slowly with minimal force, and they do not require safety devices.

On openings used primarily by the aged or infirm with impaired mobility, the addition of safety sensors, while not required, can greatly enhance the operation of a low energy opening by preventing the door from contacting a slow-moving pedestrian

In comparison, high energy/full power devices (automatic power operators) operate quickly and continuously in all pedestrian environments. They do require safety devices.

High energy power operator requirements deal with higher speed, forces, shorter time delays, and activating sensing devices. Per ANSI/BHMA A156.10, high energy power operators require use of guiderails, safety devices, sensors, etc. These requirements can vary significantly based on the opening and traffic type.

Benefits of Power Operators

Each of the power operator types offers its own set of advantages.

Low energy

  • Cost efficientLow-Energy
  • Smaller in size – less visible.
  • Easy to install – can be installed by one person and installation is similar to standard door closers
  • Does not require safety devices – making them easier to install and in need less maintenance
  • Suited for existing or new installations
  • Slow speed offers plenty of time to “position” for passage (walkers, wheel chairs, crutches, etc.)
  • No need to “dodge” a fast moving door
  • 0 degree to 90 degree opening
  • 90 degree to 0 degree closing
  • Can function like a standard closer
  • Power open only
  • Operates like standard closer upon power loss
  • Meets fire door requirements – self-closing under loss of power


High Energy

  • Full-EnergyHigh speed – for unencumbered passage
  • Quicker passage – allows able-bodied users to get through faster
  • 100% duty cycle – high frequency
  • Works for sliding, swinging, folding, and revolving door applications



If you want more information about either type of power door operator, contact DORMA. We’ll be happy to answer your questions and provide the insight you need for making the right door operator selection.


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