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

Hydraulic – Don’t Believe What You Hear

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.

Rumors are not relegated to the far reaches of society or the hoi polloi.  They can encompass the middle and upper classes, sometimes making the chatter even more believable. This idle talk can be about subjects as innocuous as elevators. One of the fabricated tales often heard by those in the periphery of the elevator industry is that hydraulic elevators are bad for the environment. This old canard is based on out-of-date technology and just plain old poor information, but yet the rumor still survives. Just like JFK assassination theories, stories of aliens visiting with Donald Trump in the White House, and Hitler living in Brazil with Elvis, the persistent fable rears its ugly head all too consistently. The truth of the matter is that modern hydraulic elevators pose no real threat to the environment and to say otherwise is a prevarication of the worst order.

However, true anti-hydraulicists often echo this line as if from the mouths of angels:

The elevator will cause the groundwater to be infiltrated by the poisonous oils that make the elevator go up and down. These contaminants will travel through underground aquifers to the local lakes, streams, creeks, and rivers, thus choking off fish and other wildlife and harming children that swim in them. 

In reality, the facts about hydraulic elevators tell a much different story:

In ground hydraulic jack

Hydraulic elevators go up because hydraulic fluid pushes a piston or plunger inside a jack up by a motor and pump in a tank.  This causes the elevator to rise when you push a button. That much is true. It is also true that the jack can be in the ground. What the fear-monger fails to mention is that now elevator jacks are all encased in heavy PVC piping that catches any leaks.  No fluid will reach the ground, the groundwater, or the rivers and streams. Because the jacks are not in dirt or groundwater and because the casing is plastic, they tend not to rust out at all, giving decades of reliable service. 

Yes, but what if the the jack breaks, then the PVC fails? What then?

Well, believe it or not, hydraulic fluid has changed over the decades, and when a new hydraulic elevator is installed or the oil is changed, a biodegradable oil can be part of the package. For instance, AgriTech produces soy-based hydraulic elevator fluids that are designed specifically for use in elevator hydraulic systems for pressurized fluid. This oil is anti-wear, non-corrosive, and high performance.  But just as importantly, this oil is truly green and renewable. 

Another reason that hydraulic elevators are safe is that many hydraulic elevator jacks aren’t in the ground anymore. It is true that some jacks are still in ground. It is often the best option, depending on the travel distance of the elevator. But now for most operations between two and four stories, you will find two jacks that work in tandem to push the elevator to the desired height. These jacks are sitting on the bottom of a four-foot-deep, concrete elevator pit that is under every commercial elevator. The tops of these jacks are attached to a sling on both the sides of the elevator car. From there, even if there is a leak, it will never be more fluid than the pit can hold. If the sump pump tries to pump out the oil, many jurisdictions require an oil/water separator.

So you can see, the elevator industry has evolved, making the product safer for the elevator-traveling public and the environment. One hopes that once and for all, we can dispel the myth of the dangerous hydraulic elevator.


Hollywood Elevators Vs. Real Life

I ran across this from video from Mashable. Our good friends at Elevator World posted it on their blog and we thought we should share it with all of our friends. Here it is! Enjoy!


Feel free to check out the Elevator World blog! They have lots of great posts and are definitely worth checking out and following. If you want to know more about elevators, and Hollywood, we posted an article called “What’s on an elevator car top? Besides Bruce Willis”:  You can read it here.

What is most important to take away is that elevators are extremely safe (regardless of what you see on the big screen) when you are in the car. However, there are lots of moving parts in the hoistway or shaft and you should never venture outside the car unless instructed by emergency personnel or a qualified elevator technician.

Modular Ready for Disaster

Credit Mark Murray
Photo Credit – MassLive/Mark Murray

Imagine if a tornado or other act of nature destroyed your local school just before summer break and just twelve weeks prior to the first day of class for the next school year.  What would you do then? How would you meet the needs of the community, students and teachers? This time of year with hurricane season bearing down on us, it is a distinct possibility that a damaging storm could occur.

Elias Brookings Elementary School in Springfield, Massachusetts was faced with that problem.  It was June 1, 2011 when a tornado moved quickly through the city, leaving damage to property and four dead in its path. Significant damage was done to some of the school buildings, leaving Brookings Elementary unusable.

With classes for the next school year slated to start on August 29th, options were limited, so a bold plan was announced. An entire functioning temporary two-story classroom building would be operational by the first bell of the new school year, to be used while a new building would be planned and constructed. Complicating matters was that two-stories were needed for the temporary school building due to the limited space available on the property, so an elevator had to be part of the package. 

Click Here to read how modular was the only solution. 

An MRL Still Needs a Pit

basis-brooklyn-mrl-finalEveryday at Phoenix Modular we field questions about elevators. When we get the same question multiple times, we usually make it the subject of a blog post as it’s likely that there are more people out there with a similar inquiry. A question that we are getting on a near-monthly basis often goes something like this…

Caller: I was doing some research about machine room-less elevators, and thought about maybe getting one installed and I was wondering if it still needed a pit?

PME: Well, we do provide machine room-less elevators (MRLs), but they do need a pit as all commercial quality elevators do. There are components that have to go under everything and just putting the motor at the top does not change the need for a pit.

Click for the rest of the conversation and the solution.

More than Magic – Elevator Technician Check List

trick-859307_1920The elevator technician checks in at the office on the routine maintenance stop and then disappears for quite some time. You may see the tech coming and going but, more often than not, he seems almost Mercurial in his appearing and disappearing.  This leads many to wonder if another dimension exists beyond the walls of the hoistway or what tricks he may have up his sleeve and, if this is not the case, what exactly is going on between appearances or short walks to the service van.

Turns out, most of the time spent is not actually turning wrenches, but checking the elevator from head to toe or the top of the hoistway to the pit. All elevator technicians or their companies should be able to provide you with a comprehensive list of the things they look at and do every time they show up for routine maintenance.

Abracadabra…click for the whole story.