Are Automatic Bollards Affected by the Cold?

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Automatic bollards offer convenient access control for sites requiring regular entry and exit clearance. However, some owners wonder whether winter temperatures could impact automated operations or cause malfunctions.

Below, we look at how cold weather can potentially influence automated bollard performance, and steps to take to prevent issues. 

How Does the Cold Affect Automatic Bollards?

Most automatic bollards operate using hydraulic actuation, which relies on fluid pressure to raise and lower the post. However, extremely cold conditions can influence the properties of hydraulic oils.

For example, standard hydraulic oils can become more viscous in low temperatures. This thicker, more syrupy texture makes it more difficult for the oil to flow freely through valves and cylinders. Therefore, cold temperatures could potentially:

  • Impede the smooth operation of hydraulics and cause delays in bollard retraction or deployment. 
  • Cause malfunctions like bollards only raising partially.
  • Cause any water content in the hydraulic fluid to freeze overnight, damaging equipment through expansion inside valves and cylinders. This can prevent operation altogether until thawed.
  • Affect electronics like programmable controllers if not adequately protected.

However, Macs Bollards hydraulic bollards can operate in temperatures of -40c to +70c. 

Steps to Prevent Cold Weather Issues

While cold conditions can influence your equipment, there are several precautions you can take to reduce problems:

  • Use hydraulic fluid designed for low-temperature operation. 
  • Insulate any exposed hydraulic lines and valves. This reduces heat loss from fluids.
  • Install a hydraulic power pack internally if possible. Exterior mounting increases cold exposure. 
  • Protect electronic controls via sealed, heated cabinets. A thermostat can help you maintain optimal temperatures.
  • Apply protective wax-based coatings to exposed bollard pistons. This prevents any ice buildup that could impede their operation. 
  • Schedule preventative maintenance before winter. Engineers can identify and rectify any cold climate vulnerabilities.

Taking a proactive approach minimises the influence of cold. However, extreme ice or snow buildup may still require de-icing by personnel to restore function.

Design Factors Impacting Winter Hardiness

Certain bollard design and installation factors also determine cold resilience:

Equipment Ratings

Meticulously review the manufacturer’s specifications. Opting for units explicitly designed for cold weather environments provides extra peace of mind and ensures smooth operation even during the harshest weather.

Hydraulic Type

To ensure optimal functioning in winter, consider hydraulic units filled with advanced synthetic oils instead of traditional mineral oils. Synthetic oils exhibit superior cold flow properties, meaning they maintain their viscosity and lubricity even at significantly lower temperatures.

This, in turn, prevents hydraulic sluggishness and guarantees consistent, reliable bollard movement throughout the winter months.

Power Packs

Harsh winter conditions can disrupt regular power supplies. To safeguard against such eventualities, prioritise bollards equipped with internal power packs. These built-in batteries eliminate the risk of external exposure and provide temporary power backup in case of unexpected outages. 

Foundations

The earth itself can pose a challenge in winter. Frost can freeze and thaw water in the ground, wreaking havoc on foundations, potentially impacting bollard stability and functionality. To combat this threat, ensure your bollards are installed on adequate foundations that can withstand frost movement.

Macs Bollards are usually installed with a minimum 300mm soakaway beneath bollard foundations to allow natural drainage.

Coatings

Winter weather often brings corrosive road salts, capable of rapidly degrading exposed metal surfaces. To protect your bollards, prioritise units with anti-corrosion coatings. These act as a protective barrier, minimising the damaging effects of salt and extending the lifespan of your investment. 

For ultimate corrosion resistance, consider bollards manufactured using stainless steel – a material inherently resistant to rust and ideal for enduring harsh winter conditions.

Get Expert Automatic Bollard Advice From MACS Bollards 

Extreme cold carries the potential to hamper the operation of automatic bollards relying on hydraulic actuation. However, winter-specific design factors and maintenance can dramatically improve cold climate readiness. 

For advice on selecting automatic bollards capable of withstanding harsh winters, please contact the team at Macs Bollards on 0161 320 6463 or at enquiries@macs-bollards.com. Our experts can recommend optimised solutions for year-round reliability.

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