Category Archives: Know Your Elevator

Freight Vs. Passenger – The Difference is more than Size

The differences between freight and passenger elevators are as simple as the definitions of each that you can find in the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) – Code for Elevators and Escalators. Unfortunately, just like most code books, the definition doesn’t really reveal much. For instance the freight elevator is defined as, and I quote:

“An elevator used primarily for carrying freight” (no kidding) “and on which only the operator and the persons necessary for unloading and loading the freight are permitted to ride.”

The code does go on to indicate there are three different classes of freight elevator– general, motor vehicle, and truck loading–but beyond that there is little that legally distinguishes freight from passenger. This is confirmed by the definition of a passenger elevator. It is defined in the same publication as:

“An elevator used primarily to carry persons” (again, no kidding) “other than the operator and persons necessary for loading and unloading.”

Well that was the shortest blog post ever right? Now we all know the differences.

It’s, sadly, not entirely that easy, because beyond the code and just hanging a sign that says it is a freight elevator, there are accepted features of a freight that make it very different, when talking to a person in the elevator industry.

fed1
Photo courtesy Fred Small – http://www.elevatorbobs-elevator-pics.com

The first thing you notice about freight elevators is that the doors usually open from the middle with the opening being horizontal not vertical. This is not a requirement by any law and some vertical parting doors are in operation for freight elevators (usually hinged).  Some are even on the market today, but usually one of the factors that separate passenger and freight is the way the doors work: up and down (instead of left and right). The reason they are designed this way is because the opening for entry to the car is to cover the entire width of the car itself to get things in and out easier. However that is only part of the reason. Doors opening up and down also saves space. If the doors moved to the left and right, instead of up and down, the hoistway would have to be extremely wide to accommodate doors big enough for the actual freight being carried. So, the hatch doors opening up and down is to save space in the hoistway and, as a result, it saves space in the interior of the building, as well.

Another feature is that quite often the doors are manually operated, especially for older models, with a gate closing the exit or exits of the elevator car. As a safety feature, the elevator will not run until the gate and doors are fully closed, even if they are manually operated.  Wooden gates were popular at one time and many are still in use, however, there are currently stronger, heavy duty metal gates that are more often installed.

Freight Elevator they are different than passenger elevators.
Photo courtesy Pierre Tremble – http://www.elevatorbobs-elevator-pics.com

Also, doors don’t have to be muscled open and closed when using automatic, instead of manual doors. They can be operated with the touch of a button, if desired. To make the gate easy to use, they are often counter-weighted and they can be manually raised and lowered or can be controlled with pressing a button, as well.

Not to confuse matters, but it’s important to keep in mind that freight elevators can also have rather standard looking doors too, with them all operating like a regular passenger elevator, just heavier duty.

Another feature that you would notice right away is that the freight elevator does not, in most cases, have a dark, but warm, hand rubbed walnut finish with gold inlays and mirrors in the interior of the car. The cars are built to be utilitarian with 14 gauge or better steel wall panels and a heavy reinforced gate. The floor is also made for heavy, and I mean heavy, traffic. It is usually a no skid steel floor on a steel car platform. Sometimes the heavy steel floor is covered in a rubber, non-slip surface. All of these features are to make the elevator as durable, and safe, as possible.

In the freight elevator car, unlike passenger elevators, the rails you find are strategically placed to take the brunt of the damage from carts or loads being moved by hand trucks or fork lifts. This saves the car a lot of damage. Also, the rails are designed to be easily changed when damage does occur.

Just as the definition according to the ASME code book is ambiguous, at best, so is what can be called a freight elevator. Almost any type of elevator can qualify as a freight elevator because the uses can be so varied depending on the need. But when it comes to describing the standard freight elevator, look for the doors and the width of the opening first, as it is usually a dead give away whether or not it’s freight.

 

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A view from under the elevator car of an in-ground jack.

All About Elevator Jacks

A view from under the elevator car of an in-ground jack.
A view from under the elevator car of an in-ground jack with the piston extended.

When it comes to many elevator applications, especially for buildings between 2 and 5 stories, you will find a hydraulic jack is a common, yet crucial part of the system that drives the elevator up. As a matter of fact, approximately 70% of all elevators installed are hydraulic in nature and contain jacks.  The jacks are part of a system that includes hydraulic fluid, tanks, motors, and pumps with the jack being the final piece of the system.  So, understanding the basics of the elevator jack is crucial if you are considering buying a new elevator or modernizing the jacks in an existing elevator.

Depending on the system you have, the distance your elevator travels, and the space available, you have several options available. This article will explain the various types of jacks and the advantages and disadvantages associated with each.

  • Single Stage Holeless – Many times when new elevators are being placed, you can’t drill a hole in the bottom of the elevator pit or it is cost prohibitive to do so. Enter the holeless elevator jack. The most common jack used for short travel distances is the single-stage variety. A single stage means that it is one piston that goes up and down and it does not telescope when it reaches a certain height. These can be used for passenger or freight elevators.

The benefits of this type of jack (often called a twin-jack and used in tandem on either side of the elevator car) is that they are lighter and easier to put into place, are the most economical choice, and can be designed to carry very heavy loads. On the downside, because you are often dealing with two jacks, more adjustments must be made and it takes a bit more maintenance. Also, because the jacks commonly go on either side of the car, and there is no hole for the jacks to retreat in, there must be more space at the top of the hoistway above the car.

  • Single Stage In-Ground – This option is very common, especially when you can drill a hole in the bottom of the pit and want to travel multiple floors.  Because it does not telescope, the moving parts are limited and it is, therefore, reliable. It has also been around for a very long time as a solution and has a solid track record.

The good things about a single stage in-ground jack is that it is easy to install, fairly economical, especially for mid-rise projects, has a huge capacity, and maintenance is limited to one jack.   They also provide a very smooth ride. On the downside, the jack is in a hole. This can lead to leaks of hydraulic fluid into the underground water supply or contamination of the soil. Keep in mind that most of the contamination issues have been resolved with new technology and regulations. However, the threat remains: units can have a cracked PVC casing which can cause flooding of the pit and some fluid leakage. Also, old corroded sheaths that the jacks reside in need to be replaced, usually at a significant cost.   Also, the depth of the jack must be equal to the travel of the elevator car. This can mean an expensive, deep hole.

  • Telescopic Jacks (Holeless and In-Ground) – Telescopic jacks can have up to four pistons, each traveling inside each other. These are used when a more compact solution is needed for either freight or passenger elevators. Telescopic jacks going in-ground will reduce the depth of the hole required, but can sometimes be more costly in and of themselves.

The big plus is that there is a reduced drilling cost for an in-ground application and a higher travel distance than for holeless projects.  Also, the installation is usually fast as the jacks are compact and easy to handle. The disadvantages include the obvious; there are more moving parts, so initial set up may be more complicated (bleeding the jack completely, is required). Depending on overall travel distance, follower guides will be needed, requiring additional engineering. Long-term maintenance may be more costly, as well. Finally, there are simply more packing and seals due to multiple pistons.

Jack Travel-01

Each of the above jacks have their place and purpose depending on travel distance, but, as you can see in the chart, there is overlap based solely the height the elevator needs to go to. Other factors include price, the ability to drill, and even personal preference (some feel the ride is better in elevators that have an in-ground jack).

The best way to determine the optimal option for your building project is to contact an elevator consultant or an unbiased company that can provide any type of elevator.  They should welcome all your questions and be willing to break down all possibilities by price or other factors important to your project. If you would like to talk with us about elevator jacks, visit us here.

Speed Does Not Mean Fast

1_thumbRecently, it was announced that the CTF Finance Center in Guangzhou, China broke records as the fastest elevator in the world to date. Believe it or not, it travels at an astounding 46.9 miles per hour straight up! Wow! An elevator in Shanghai, China (Shanghai Tower) finishes in second place with a speed of 42.8 mph and the fastest North American elevator clocks in at a paltry 22.7 mph in comparison. It is located at the Freedom Tower at 1 World Trade Center in New York. It is a bit slower but the show you get going up and down is worth it.

As it turns out, the elevator in your building is not breaking any world records, but, unless you are in the Willis Tower in Chicago or the Empire State Building in New York, you probably don’t need a three million dollar monstrosity that can hit highway speeds.

Quick! Click here for more on elevator speed.

Keep Your Cool – Winning the Temperature Battle

Clean Machine RoomIn our office, there are a handful of dictators vying for power, and yes, they know who they are. They run roughshod over the whole office, seizing control, forming alliances and flexing more muscle than Mussolini in pre-war Italy. Because of the internal power struggle, there is more drama, intrigue and manipulation than in an episode of Game of Thrones as hopes are raised then dashed, and the struggle for control reaches a literal fever pitch.

What is the object of their desires? What do they wish to control beyond anything else? The office thermostat. Since the advent of modern history and the birth of Willis Carrier (of Carrier Air-conditioning fame), I feel I am safe by saying there is nothing that has affected more lives, created more tension and led to more divorces than the temperature control on a heating and air-conditioning unit. The problem is some like it hot and some like it cool, and they are willing to do anything to get their way.

When it comes to your elevator machine room, there is also a temperature struggle, and the consequences of that brawl may be more significant than just a little discomfort or office politics. Click here to read the rest of the article and guidelines.

Elevator Keys – Ring Full of Questions

Firemans KeyYou just got a brand new elevator or completed an elevator modernization. On the way out the door, the elevator technician gives you a quick demonstration and a ring full of keys. As the maintenance supervisor, property manager or building owner, you already have enough keys on your chain to drown if you fell into the swimming pool, and the elevator guy just gave you five more! What do all these keys do, and do you really need them all on the key chain you carry around everyday?

The problem is that the answer to this question varies due to elevator companies, components, location and function.  For instance, here is a catalog of keys and locks from a company often used when manufacturing commercial quality elevators. There are dozens of locks and keys for a wide variety of applications. As a matter of fact here is just a partial list of the number of available keys based on the manufacturer:

  • Adams Fixtures (40)
  • Armor Elevator (16)
  • C.J. Anderson (9)
  • Chicago Lock (29)
  • Dover Elevator (37)
  • E.R.M. Fixtures (13)
  • EPCO Fixtures (38)
  • GAL Fixtures (6)
  • Haughton Elevator (7)
  • Innovation Fixtures (19)
  • KONE Elevator (11)
  • MAD Fixtures (7)
  • Medeco / Assa Abloy (1)
  • Monitor / Janus Fixtures (256)
  • Montgomery Elevator (52)
  • Montgomery KONE (13)
  • National Elevator Cab & Door (252)
  • NCL / National Cabinet Locks (1)
  • O. Thompson / Payne Elevator (5)
  • Otis Elevator (14)
  • PTL Fixtures (30)
  • S.E.E.S. Inc. (4)
  • Schindler Elevator (13)
  • ThyssenKrupp Elevator (13)
  • Universal Fire Service Keys (10)
  • US Elevator (9)
  • Vermaport Ltd (1)

If you’re keeping track that is over 900 in just a partial list. Making a comprehensive list and description of what each and every key does would fill volumes. So rather than focus on what specifically each key, it is much more important to see what the rules are that govern key use. To get specific instruction on what a key may do, contact us at Phoenix Modular Elevator, your elevator technician or the company you work with that services your elevator.

The most common keys are for fire service and access to the elevator, lights, and fans. But, do you need to keep these keys handy, hanging off your already sagging belt? The answer is a resounding no. Elevator keys are specifically designed to be used for servicing the elevator, making the elevator inoperable or for firefighting purposes only. Unless you are a trained elevator technician or firefighter, you should not use the keys at all. You should keep them in a safe location away from the public. In other words, do not use the elevator keys!

To be completely technical, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Safety Code for Elevators and Escalators addresses keys for elevators. You can find the information in ASME A17.1 – 2013, Section 8.1, where it designates that the elevator keys shall be kept on the premises, readily accessible to the proper personnel, but not accessible to the general public.

The keys do a number of things that primarily involve only the elevator technician and firefighters. Rather than unnecessarily adding to your growing key collection, keep them in a safe place away from the public.