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The Pressure’s On

balloonPositive Pressure Issues

Sometimes doors are required to perform conflicting functions simultaneously.  For example, in order to comply with the American Disabilities Act a particular door may be restricted to a door closer that requires as little as five pounds of opening force.  This same door may be required to lock automatically without fail.

One solution could be to use a non-hydraulic, motorized power operator (automatic door opener) instead of a standard hydraulic closer.  Since many non-hydraulic power operators do not depend on a spring for closing force it is possible for them to have an ADA compliant opening force and also exert a closing adequate to close and latch the door.  Most power operators that fit this description must be installed by AAADM certified installers.

Without the magic fix of the non-hydraulic power operator, all a door technician can do is fine tune the door so that it swings perfectly and is perfectly balanced; fine tune the locks, hinges and door closer to peak performance under the opening force restriction; and pray there isn’t a positive pressure or wind issue.

One caveat:  deprived of electricity, a non-hydraulic power operator will neither open nor close the door.

Positive pressure HVAC operation is a prime example of how the intended function of a door can be impeded or prevented by the normal operation of building infrastructure.   Positive pressure in a building is accomplished by using the HVAC system to add air from outside the building to the air that is already in the building.  As with a balloon, the added air pushes outwards in all directions.  When an exterior door is opened, air flows out through the open portal, acting as an invisible barrier that keeps outside air out.

Unfortunately positive pressure acts like a constant wind pushing on the inside of the exterior doors.   Since almost all exterior doors swing out, the net effect of positive pressure HVAC on exterior doors is that of blowing to doors open and/or preventing them from closing.

The non-hydraulic power operator idea discussed above can usually solve the problem, but I have had some success adjusting door closers to compensate for positive pressure situations.  I have found that a slow swinging speed followed by a fast latching speed will often accomplish the mission.  This solution, however, can create other problems such as creating a wider time window for unauthorized persons to enter while the door is still shutting, for example.

I have found no reliable fix for an opening subjected to positive pressure that must comply with ADA reduced opening force requirements; however, since positive pressure on out-swinging doors inherently reduces opening force, there is some hope.

In the best of all worlds, door hardware technicians and HVAC technicians work together to coordinate positive pressure ventilation needs with security and ADA compliance requirements.

Excerpt from Tom’s article “Butcher, Baker, Door Hardware Technician… ” published in the February 2015 issue of Doors and Hardware Magazine, magazine of the Door Hardware Institute.