So your Elevator Contractor has recommended that your aging elevator is due for a modernization. If you don’t know what this means, then get educated here. A modernization is expensive, so this post will explain the benefits so you can decide if they’re worth the cost.
The benefits of elevator modernization fall into 2 buckets: improved safety, and improved technology.
Codes & Safety: As people have been injured on elevators over the years, manufacturers have developed safety solutions that reduce risks. The elevator code gurus ultimately make these “solutions” requirements for new elevators, but older elevators are traditionally grandfathered in and are not forced to adopt the upgraded code. This means that over time, an elevator can be significantly out of code and not as safe as it should be. Your elevator may need the following for safety:
- Phone – If you get stuck in an elevator, it’s nice to know that there is a phone that dials a 24/7 monitored location that can send for help to get you out. But you also want to know that the phone will work when you need it to. The 2010 version of the elevator code adds a feature that tests the phone line every hour, and an indicator light on the hall station blinks if the phone line isn’t connected.
- Fire Service – This is a feature tied into the building’s fire/smoke alarm system that, when an alarm triggers, sends the elevator to the main egress floor, opens the doors and shuts off. This gets everyone out of the elevator safely and prevents additional people from using the elevator.
- Door Restrictor – A door restrictor stops the car door from opening when it shouldn’t. This means that in between floors, the doors will remain closed, so that passengers can’t squeeze out and fall down the shaft.
- Light Curtain – Some elevators still have the old bump pads. Sometimes, frail people get hurt when these whack them on the shoulder or leg. The current version of this safety feature is infrared beams that form a curtain of light that sense when someone is in the doorway. No physical contact, so no one gets hurt.
Note that you can install most of the above on their own. But replacing an entire component can give you updated technology plus the safety features above ride along for free. For example, a full modernization will replace the equipment that opens and closes the doors. All new door operators have door restrictors, so you’d get that included. If you replace all the fixtures (button panels), you’ll automatically get a phone and fire service.
New Technologies: Safety is the biggest reason to modernize an elevator. However, a second consideration is new technology that increases elevator efficiency and responsiveness.
Shorter Travel Times: It’s not only speed that governs how long it takes you to from Floor A to Floor B. Electronically-controlled acceleration and deceleration and smart dispatching systems that distribute cars on different floors and collect passengers efficiently decrease the wait time component of travel time.
- Elevators that Learn – It seems Orwellian, but modernization can provide elevators the ability to learn traffic patterns. This allows the elevator car to be positioned at high-use floors during peak times. Then they take over the world.
- Acceleration – It is true that top speeds have generally stayed the same, however, modernization can allow for quicker acceleration and deceleration. If this is coupled with quick opening and closing doors, the elevator will be much more responsive.
- Destination Dispatch – Instead of repeatedly pushing the elevator button on the ground floor, why not tell the elevator where you are going? With a destination dispatch system, passengers type their destination floor onto a screen and the elevator will group passengers by floors, and send them to specific elevators that will get them there with fewer stops. Also, each tenant or rider can have a programmable card that would eliminate punching the lobby hall call buttons. More efficient trips mean lower electric bills too.
- Green Motors – A newer motor may cut total electric consumption for the elevator by 40%, according to some industry analysts. Also, newer motors run cooler, reducing the cost of air-conditioning.
- Regenerative Drives – It your elevator is over 20 years old, it can be retrofitted with a regenerative drive that translates braking force into usable energy. This usable energy is then transferred back into the building’s systems.
- LEDs in the the Car – Changing the lighting in the car to LED makes the elevator greener and less costly to run. The LED generally lasts five times longer than an incandescent bulb and uses half the amount of electricity.
- Buttons – LEDs can also be used in call buttons and elevator car buttons. There is less savings than the car lights, but their use will save some energy cost.
- Hibernation – Most new systems have a “sleep mode” which allows elevator cars that are not in use to turn off the lights and fan. The car is always ready to spring into action when called but keeps from burning electricity when not needed.
Keep in mind that modernization can save money over time, but each elevator will have its own return on investment (ROI) depending on age and current equipment. Hiring a qualified elevator consultant can give you a closer estimate of ROI and can advise on whether you need one. You can also get more than one elevator company to give you an assessment and estimate. Multiple opinions can often give you a broader perspective and help you make a decision.
If you decide not to modernize for now, keep in mind that elevator safety should always come first. You can still install the improved safety features listed above and ensure your passengers ride safely.