Common Types of Elevators

Usually, when we think of an elevator, the image of pushing the button and waiting for the doors to open, stepping inside and being whisked up into the building comes to mind. This lift is the most common; a passenger elevator in a multi-story, commercial building, designed to carry people from one level to another. Many people are surprised to find that elevators and lifts actually come in a wide variety of styles and options, for commercial and personal use, and even for homes with only one flight of stairs.

To begin with, there are the passenger elevators built for commercial use. Aside from the one mentioned above, there are express elevators, which do not service all floors of a building, and usually move passengers from the building’s lobby to the top floors.  Urban transport elevators carry passengers through open urban space, like from the bottom of the hill to the top. The size and number of passengers a commercial elevator carries depends on the building’s use, structure and design. High-rise office buildings, hospitals, and government buildings and other commercial spaces are required to have elevators so that accessibility is guaranteed. In addition, freight, stage, vehicle and boat elevators, though not built to move passengers, are also commonly used in the commercial world.

On a smaller level is the residential elevator, which is designed primarily for home use and enhances the mobility of the homeowners.  Residential elevators are available in several price points, from utilitarian to luxury and several points in between. There are indoor and outdoor residential elevators, which are built into the structure of the home, and home stair lifts which attach to the stairway and allow the user to sit and be lifted up the stairs.  Each of these residential types take the place of stairs so that the homeowner can move easily throughout the home.

Not only are there several different types of elevators, but they each operate in several different ways.  Aside from where the elevator will be used, the differences in these types also comes down to the way the operating system works.  Hydraulic and electric or cable-driven elevators are the two most common types.  Each of these two types can be found in both commercial and residential settings.

Hydraulic elevators have a basic design of a car attached to a lifting system. The car, inside the shaft is attached to guide rails or a rope. Motion for the car comes from the hydraulic ram, a fluid-driven piston mounted inside a cylinder underneath.  The hydraulic elevator is a safe and reliable option, but a big drawback of this design is that it requires a large “machine room” to house a 20-gallon reservoir filled with petroleum-based hydraulic oil in a separate room in your home, which takes up valuable floor space. They have a high risk of fluid leaks and are quite expensive to repair due to the abundance of complex engine parts. In addition, studies have shown they use 30 times more energy than an traction elevator, driving up energy costs over time.

Electric or cable-driven elevators use a pulley, counterweight, electric motor, and track to move the car up and down the shaft. The electric motor turns the pulley and moves the cables to raise and lower the elevator car. The counterweight helps the elevator use less energy, and the track ensures the counterweight and car don’t sway.

Electric or cable-driven elevators do not use hydraulic fluid, making them more environmentally friendly and the required maintenance needed less frequently. They do not demand a pit and machine room, which cuts down labor costs during installation. Instead, all drive equipment is mounted at the top of the elevator shaft where it will be out of the way and safe from any possible flooding.

An electric elevator installs quickly and seamlessly and provides a smooth, stable ride by incorporating a variable speed drive. The system also features a programmable controller with on-board diagnostics. And, if you add another floor to your home in the future, the elevator’s rail length can be extended.

In addition to electric and hydraulic elevators, other systems include pneumatic, winding drum, and counterweight. Some of these require a machine room which is either below or above the hoist way. These rooms are for storing the hydraulic pump or electric motor along with the controller cabinet. There are smaller elevator systems that don’t use a machine room as all components fit inside the hoist way and car. In small commercial systems a cabinet with a computer is often added above.

With offices in New Bern and Charlotte, NC, Liftavator Accessibility Solutions offers residential and commercial elevators and lifts across North Carolina and many areas of the Southeast.  No matter your budget, we will can help you find, install and maintain the perfect unit for your needs, and we look forward to helping you make your home or office more accessible. Explore our website or give us a call today to learn more about the many types of high-quality solutions we offer.


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