Let It Snow – 5 Ways to Get Your Elevator Ready

SnowWe are getting unseasonable and unreasonable snow in our neck of the woods–Southern Illinois–so we thought we would revisit precautions for cold weather when it comes to your elevator.

First, we begin with two words that are rarely used in terms of elevators anymore but are likely the most important…preventative maintenance. It is the easiest way to ensure that your elevator will give you great service throughout the entire year, but especially in winter. Routine inspections will catch problems that can cause shutdowns before they happen. Unfortunately, many contracts that once specified monthly checkups no longer exist. The friendly elevator technician seems to visit less and less, unless there is an emergency. So first things first, check your current contract and see if you are owed a visit. If so, schedule one pronto! While the technician is there, cover the items listed below. You should make every effort to look into these with your service provider before the wintry weather gets too bad:

  1. Hydraulic oil temps – A chill in the air can cause fluctuations in temperature of the hydraulic fluid that makes your elevator run. Optimally, the oil should be between 75 to 95 degree Fahrenheit, although it can tolerate temps lower and higher. If you have no heat in the machine room, your equipment is in a garage or on a roof with windy weather, you may need to see about getting a tank heater or insulating the machine room and getting some heat. You know you may have a problem with this if your elevator has trouble leveling at the floor properly.
  2. Have you ever heard an elevator moan and groan? That could also be due to cold weather. The grease or lubricant on the rails may be dry or sticky.  You have probably heard the term “Slower than molasses in the winter.”  Your lubricant can be the same. You may need to check with the maintenance provider if you are hearing odd, creaking noises from the hoistway. They can grease the skids, so to say.
  3. If your elevator car is just too cold in the winter, you may have the elevator parked on a cold floor. Many elevators have exterior access and sometimes the car is inadvertently parked at those floors when idle. Be sure to not have your car automatically parked at exterior hoistway openings or parking garage entrances. If you want a cozier ride, have the car park on a floor with heat and air.
  4. Have your technician double check the battery lowering or battery backup system. Many elevators have a way for the elevator to automatically move to the lowest or main floor for egress when the power goes out. A battery is used for that lowering. If the power goes out due to ice storms or heavy snow, the backup is needed. So, now is the time to make sure the system works as intended.
  5. Check the sump pump – Most elevators have a pump in the bottom of the pit. The purpose, of course, is to keep water from building up in the pit and damaging the equipment that resides at the bottom of the hoistway. It turns out, having standing water is a bad thing, and if the pump is broken, turned off or unplugged, that standing water can turn to ice in the winter and make things worse. To prevent ice from building up and creating problems with freezes and thaws, make sure your tech checks the pump.

If you are a building owner or manager, it is a good idea to take care of getting these specific items looked at as soon as possible. Due to the reduction of the occurrence of monthly maintenance and most companies only providing maintenance when they want to, it may take a prompting phone call. It is much better to deal with scheduling the visit now than when someone gets stuck or the elevator stops working. Remember, cold weather can cause all sorts of problems, both immediate or over a long period of time. Be proactive so your elevator can give you years of reliable service.


Trapped for Real – Respond with Heart

A lot of our blog readers are people very familiar with elevators and the elevator industry: Elevator contractors, elevator technicians, general contractors, building owners and building managers. So when we hear about someone getting stuck in an elevator we tend to think it is not a big deal. Although it is an infrequent occurrence, it happens often enough that we tend to lose proper perspective and forget that it is real people being held prisoner in a wooden or metal box between stops.

Our industry tends to think, so you had to wait a couple of minutes to get out of the elevator, what’s the problem? No harm, no foul seems to sometimes be the prevailing attitude. Frankly, it is that attitude that needs some adjustment. There is real fear and angst that we need to recognize and address.

To help demonstrate what it means for the average person to get stuck, I am posting a link to an article written by someone that was stuck in an ever increasingly hot elevator with a baby, husband and two elderly women. Read it with an open mind and an open heart. My hope is that it will reinvigorate your efforts to keep your elevators safe, maintain them properly and respond properly when someone gets stuck. As a second resource here is a link to a post about what you should do if someone gets stuck and you are in charge for all you building managers especially.

But without further introduction here is the perspective of a mom and family getting stuck in an elevator.

The Purrfect Gift – Long-Term Elevator Costs

Photo by Dan Gold on Unsplash

My mother-in law has made several mistakes in her life, but few rank as high as her comment that one of our brand new kitties was so “absolutely cute” that she wished she could have one.

The story begins one cold, blustery day in December when my mother-in-law came for a short visit to our house. During her stop, she heard a muffled meowing coming from a crate on our front porch that had old quilting poking out between the slats. At once, she bent down to carefully peer into the well-insulated wooden box and saw a moving, purring mound of black and white fur comprised of a mother cat and four cute kitties all snuggled safely together. Almost everyone loves the sight of a four-week old kitty-cat and, if I can say it, especially women. After all, kittens are furry, fun, curious and cuddly, and these had a large sympathy quotient, as there was a bit of a chill in the air.

With Christmas looming large on the horizon, guess what brilliant idea I had and what the mother-in law got under the tree? A lovable, black and white kitten freshly weened and ready for all the affection a mother could supply. I didn’t leave her totally empty-handed with her new pet. She also got a huge bag of kitty litter, several bags of food, bowls and assorted toys.

Everyone was happy, right? My mother-in-law got a new friend, the cat was off the front porch and I found a sucker willing to take in a new border.

But then, as things tend to do, the shine comes off the penny a bit, when the cat (not cuddly kitty anymore) uses the antique couch leg for a scratching post, starts coughing up who knows what staining the carpet and seems to reject every brand of cat food costing less than $25 a bag. Let me put it this way; you know you are in trouble when the only food your cat can hold down consists of whole Atlantic herring, yellowtail flounder, chickpeas and sun dried green lentils. I mean, I don’t even know what “sun dried lentil” are!

An elevator can be the same in a way. Everyone is excited to get one and they arrive fresh and new with bright buttons and shiny doors, plus all the stuff you need; a ring full of keys that jingle when you walk, a tank full of oil and a friendly man that stops by every once in a while to keep it purring just like it is supposed to.

The shine comes off the elevator penny as well. It gets dinged and scratched from every day use, it shakes a bit and groans a little more and the costs keep piling up. Many don’t realize with cats you are talking about life span of costs of around 15 years. Vets, medicine, food, toys, time, destruction and on and on the list of expenses goes and builds. An elevator has a lifespan of twice that with a similar list of expenses. Oil or ropes, lube, parts, wear and tear and the biggest expense of all, monthly maintenance. Bigg elevator companies can charge as much as $250 for a hydraulic elevator every month,whether they come out to check the unit or not. For a traction unit, Bigg Elevator starts their pricing at $600 per unit per month. To make matters worse, the maintenance fee can be automatically increased at the whim of the elevator company. Don’t believe me? Check your current contract.

The bottom line is that when getting an elevator or pet, think long-term as far as the costs are concerned.

Long-term, know that the initial elevator investment is often the tip of the iceberg and Bigg Elevator can make the price look awfully attractive to get you locked in, until the boom is lowered with future costs. Instead, be a smart buyer and get what you need, not what is being pushed, before signing on the dotted line. As an example right now we are getting lots of calls from wary consumers being up-sold traction units with proprietary parts on two-story and three-story buildings. Not cool. They are more expensive up front and in maintenance costs in the long run and are simply not needed in most cases. Why saddle yourself with a larger bill than you need for the life of an elevator?

The long-term expense for giving a pet as gifts means weighing carefully the value of the relationship with your mother-in-law versus the cost of raising the pet yourself…well…looks like mom gets a puppy for Christmas this year.

If you want a truthful assessment of your needs call us anytime. Get started here.

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Manufacturing Day – The Bright Future


“What’s wrong with these teenagers?” Sit long enough on a bar stool at a diner or greasy spoon and you are bound to hear that sentiment expressed by someone. There is the notion that hard work in a manufacturing setting is not the work that the soft hands of the current generation would be comfortable with.

But at the recent Manufacturing Day, Phoenix Modular Elevator opened our doors to dozens of young people from Southern Illinois interested in manufacturing as a career. We found great hope and a bright future for the manufacturing industry in the young people we welcomed.  As a matter of fact, when we asked one of our tour groups who was considering a future in manufacturing, nearly every hand shot up immediately. However, that has not always been the case. For some time, manufacturing was downplayed in some circles and the future of manufacturing was in doubt. As a response to this misconception, Manufacturing Day was created.

Manufacturing Day began in 2012 and since then, the annual, nationwide event strives to correct public perception, that manufacturing is a sure sign of missed opportunity and a lack of realized potential in a young person or that working in a factory was somehow substandard. Nothing is further from the truth.

Phoenix Modular Elevator has participated in Manufacturing Day for two consecutive years and during both, students were given a chance to see the process of making a modular elevator, interacting with employees from sales and engineering to fabrication and wiring. You could feel the excitement as the factory was buzzing with personal stories of how employees found their way to careers in manufacturing and how young people could prepare themselves for a challenging opportunity in the factory environment. Questions about apprenticeships and getting their foot in the door were common, as well as certifications or degrees needed. The young people came to realize that in manufacturing environments, the employees are highly trained, well-paid and often work on state-of the-art equipment creating with their hands and minds real products that are in use everyday.

At Phoenix Modular Elevator, the students were surprised that the elevators produced have been placed all over North America, from Prince Edward Island to Los Angeles, Alaska’s Ice Road to southern Florida and also that the company has realized significant growth over the past few years. They were intrigued by the fact that we are currently in a factory that is only one year old and we are doubling the size and capacity of our manufacturing line by the beginning of next year.

In large part, the participants found the notion that factories are antiquated and designed for low-skilled workers debunked. They witnessed quality workmanship at the highest skill level and a workforce that was engaged in process improvement and the future growth of the company.

The funny thing… ten years ago, if you had gone to that very same bar or restaurant, you would have heard the very same comments or something similar bemoaning the state of young people. The truth is that every generation, when passed the torch of the future, are often criticized. It is a national pastime. But we at PME are taking a different approach. We are embracing the young people on the horizon of their careers, as they are the future; a very bright future.

If you would like more info about our product or even have a project in mind, click below.

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Elevator Flooded – What To Do

Photo by Drew Coffman on Unsplash

When dark clouds roll in, there is often concern for the elevator. This is because often the lowest part of any building is in an unlikely place; under the elevator. Almost every elevator sits atop an elevator pit and as the elevator often travels to all the levels of the building (including the basement or underground parking) the pit and all the elevator components are possible trouble spots when there is too much rain like we are seeing this hurricane season. Because flood waters can permanently damage the equipment, it maybe a good idea to know what you can do to keep the elevator safe in storms and in as good operating condition as possible depending on the circumstances.

First, remember that you can get a pit flood alarm system, a sump pump and back up electricity source for the pump. But those devices maybe OK for a leaky pipe or stopped up drain; they are usually pointless for catastrophic events where electricity will be off for an extended period of time. So what should you do if a hurricane is bearing down?

Here is a list of things to do:

  1. Use the elevator to evacuate those who need the elevator before it becomes an emergency. The disabled, children, and the elderly may be reliant on the elevator. People are looking to you to make important decisions for them. Listen to local authorities and heed their warnings. Evacuate when told or sooner.
  2. When in doubt don’t ride the elevator or permit others to ride. Play it safe. If water is standing in the pit at all, it is a bad idea to let people ride. Don’t do it!!! It is also a very bad idea for people to ride the elevator at the height of a hurricane or severe storm even if there is no flooding. A power outage could put people at risk.
  3. If you have multiple elevators, reduce the overall number of those in service to one, making sure it is one that goes to all floors. Once everyone is evacuated, reserve use of the elevator to emergency personnel only.
  4. For the elevators not is use, take them up to the highest floor available for hydraulic and to a middle floors for traction elevators. Make sure all the doors are closed to the elevator cars.
  5. Shut things down! Turn off all of the main disconnects for any elevator deemed unessential.
  6. In a low rise building, when it is time to go, run the last hydraulic elevator to the top floor, then disconnect the main for this elevator as well. Remember keep safe. If there is no time, don’t take the time to save the elevator if it means putting your life in jeopardy. For a traction elevator, halfway up will do.
  7. If possible sandbag the machine room doors and vents if it is predicted flood waters will get higher than the entrance. Also sandbag any penthouse machine to prevent blown in water.
  8. Make sure all the hoistway and machine room venting is closed or blocked.

All of the above are suggestions and pre-suppose that there is time. DO NOT PUT YOUR LIFE AT RISK over elevators. Don’t go anywhere near submerged power lines or handle wet electronics.

Once the flood is over, then call in a professional to assess damage and get the elevators operational again. Make sure you document everything you can from severity of damage to costs of repairs. Also take the time to do research before any flooding occurs. Here is a great place to start. The best way to handle a flooded elevator is to be prepared before hand.