What is a Maglock and When You Need it to Secure Your Door?

What is a Maglock?

A maglock is an electrified locking device that uses low-voltage power to keep an entrance secure. Also referred to as an electromagnetic lock or magnetic lock, they consist of an electromagnet and an armature plate.  The electromagnet mounts to the door frame, and gets wired back to a power supply, while the armature plate mounts to the door.

With power, the electromagnet is energized, creating a magnetic flux that attracts the armature plate. The result is a locking action, which causes the entrance to remain secure. Because the surface area is relatively large, the force created by the magnetic flux is strong enough to keep the door locked under stress. 

When power is removed, the maglock releases, allowing the door to open. This setup is referred to as fail-safe, meaning that when power fails, the door allows for safe exit.

Maglocks are considered one of the most secure and reliable locks avaialable. They don’t rely on the door handle and do not have any moving parts, therefore making them ideal for high security applications. 

Maglock Holding Force & Power

The metal plate in the maglock is surrounded by a coil of wires that can be magnetized.  Therefore, more coils equals more holding force. Maglock holding force, or “strength”, is measured in hundreds of pounds. This describes the amount of pulling force it can withstand.

The strongest models are closer to 3000 pounds, while the lowest holding force is around 600 pounds. In general, most doors are secured with a 1200-1500 pound maglock. 

Magnetic locks depend on constant power to remain secure. For this reason, they need a reliable power source. Most maglocks require a dedicated, individually fused, 12VDC or 24VAC power supply. The power supply needs to be hardwired into the buildings electrical system, typically 120VAC.  Further, it’s also best to have the power supply on a dedicated electrical circuit, with it’s own breaker, and integrated into buildings backup generator.

Types of Maglocks

The most common maglock is the Conventional/Pull style.  This is where the magnet is installed on the “secure” side of the door frame, hanging down, acting like a stopper for the door. The armature plate is installed on the door, and connects to the magnet.

Modifications and special brackets can be required if the direction of the door swing isn’t conventional.  For instance, an inswinging door will require the magnetic lock to be moved higher on the frame – flush with the top frame – and a “z-bracket” will be required to elevate the armature plate.

On the other hand, a Shear style maglock is completely recessed into the door frame.  This type of lock is not commonly used because the door and frame needs to be fabricated before they are installed. This can be done for new doors, but retrofitting a door with a shear style maglock is impossible.

Specialty maglocks exist when there is a need to secure double doors, frameless glass doors, cages, gates, or fence doors.

Maglock Inswing Door
Double Door Maglock

Building Permit Requirements

You will need to consider the local building code requirements when you’re installing maglocks. Each municipality has different requirements, procedures, and fees.  Many codes require integration with fire alarm systems and maglocks to unlock when an alarm is triggered.

Since the code is different in each municipality, a quick google search will typically bring you to the correct process for the City you are installing in. For example, here is the link for maglock permits in the City of Toronto.

When to use a Maglock

Due to the additional costs and complications associated with maglocks, it always best to choose a different type of electrified door hardware, such as an electric door strike. That being said, there are certain situations where a maglock is the only option.

Securing an Exit:

If you need to lock an emergency exit, or any type of exit, an maglock is the only way. All maglocks need to be integrated into the fire alarm system in order to release when there is an emergency.

Controlling Access both Ways

If you are installing a card reader system and need to control access both ways on a door. This scenario would require a card reader installed on each side of the door, and it only opens when an authorized person swipes.  

Building Occupancy Control

When you need to know exactly how many people are in your building, and want to design an accurate evactuation plan, maglocks are required on all your entrance/exit doors. A card reader on both sides of the door will require people to swipe when they enter the building, and swipe when they exit the building. 

How much does a Maglock Cost?

Maglocks are easy to install and relatively inexpensive.  They cost between $350-750 for the hardware and $500-$800 for labour.

However, the added expense and headache of obtaining a building permit don’t make maglocks a favourable choice. The process includes getting electrical engineer drawings, installing emergency pull stations, ensuring emergency lighting is adequate, and integrating it with the fire alarm system. 

If possibe, I recommend avoiding a magnetic lock.  The additional costs for a single door can be $7000-$10,000.  If you are installing multiple maglocks, the costs per door are lower. 

Fun fact – The Modern Maglock was invented in Canada

The first maglock was designed by Sumner “Irving” Saphirstein in 1969 for doors at the Montreal Forum.  Local authorities had concerns about fire safety, which prompted building management to find a locking solution that would allow a safe exit.

Securing your doors with electrified hardware is tricky. When possible, we recommend using an electric door strike rather than a maglock.  Electric door strikes do not restrict egress, therefore do not require permits.

Access Control GuideIf you liked this article, you might also like this one on Electric Door Strikes.

If you’re looking for an access control system, you might want to consider dowloading our Ultimate Access Control Guide.  It has everything you need to know before you purchase an access control system.  You can download it here.

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2020-06-15T14:38:16-04:00

About the Author:

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At the age of 24, with no experience in the security industry or any money in the bank, Carlo quit his job and started Spotter Security from his parent's basement. Founded in 2004, Spotter grew from a single man operation into a multi-million dollar security system integrator that caters to businessess and construction sites across Canada.