Elevator modernization may seem like a topic many building owners would prefer to avoid. However, there are some powerful reasons why an elevator overhaul may be a great investment. In many cases, modernization provides the opportunity for improved safety, better performance, energy savings, and an overall more pleasing experience.
The first and most important aspect to consider is the safety of your equipment. When new safety regulations are put in place, they often only apply to new installations of elevators. Older equipment is generally exempt. For instance, many older elevators still rely on a mechanical safety edge to detect obstacles or passengers in the doorway. These bumper guards may require up to 30 pounds of pressure to reverse the direction of the door. The infrared light curtain is replacing the mechanical edge and provides for a “no touch” method of monitoring the entry space. Similarly, phone monitoring systems have continually improved. A code-compliant ADA phone, which is connected to a 24/7 monitoring service, is crucial to ensuring the safety and confidence of passengers.
Be sure you know how your elevator will respond in the event of an emergency. According to modern standards, the elevator should travel to the main floor and park with the doors open while the building’s fire alarm system is activated. This allows any passengers to safely exit the building and prevents anyone else from becoming trapped in the elevator.
Consult with your maintenance provider about the use of door restrictors. These important safety devices, which have been in regular use since the 1980’s, prevent the passenger from opening the car doors of a stalled elevator. A passenger attempting to exit a stalled car is in grave danger and risks a life-threatening fall down the shaft.
Beyond a basic code compliance upgrade, a full elevator modernization offers increased energy savings, convenience, and reliability. The beautiful thing about an elevator modernization is that, if you like the aesthetics of your elevator, you don’t have to trade that in to get the best technology on the market. If you were weighing the pros and cons of trading in your carefully restored 1964 Chevy for a brand new car, you would be giving up the image of the older make for fewer headaches and better performance. When it comes to elevator modernization, in most cases, you don’t have to choose. You can keep what you like of architectural aspects, and elements of style.
Updating an older controller will greatly increase efficiency and convenience for passengers. Newer state-of-the-art controllers utilize “smart” systems that can rely on intelligent traffic handling to “learn” traffic patterns. These solid-state systems are less susceptible to corrosion and overuse than the mechanical relays they have replaced. A modern controller may feature a hibernation mode which turns off fans and lights when the elevator is not in use.
For hydraulic elevators, replacing the power unit could result in a significant improvement. The power unit includes the pump, motor, and valve assembly. Newer designs have fewer moving parts, are easier to adjust, and require less maintenance. The latest improvements in valve design include self-adjusting technology which improves performance in varying temperature conditions.
In traction installations, the hoist motor should be replaced at the same time as the controller. Older units may be prone to high energy consumption and excessive brush wear. Carbon dust in the machine room may wreak havoc with other more sensitive equipment. Generally, a newer hoisting motor will require far less maintenance in the long run.
Replacement of door equipment and fixtures, such as the car panel, hall buttons, and position indicators will certainly improve performance if these “wear items” have been abused or if routine maintenance has been neglected. Additionally, since passengers interact with the elevator through the use of these components, upgrading them will make the entire elevator modernization tangible. Replace worn-out cab interiors and lighting fixtures for a more comfortable ride. Increasingly, LED lighting is eliminating the use of incandescent light bulbs. LEDs last up to five times longer and typically use less energy.
An elevator modernization is no small undertaking. It is important to plan ahead for the project. If older elevator equipment suddenly becomes inoperable, your elevator could be shut-down for months before the modernization can be completed. Every modernization project should begin with a thorough survey of existing equipment in order to minimize complications. Time is needed to acquire the necessary building permits, and for new equipment to be ordered and delivered. Allow several months of planning before the actual work begins. Consider the time frame that will be the least inconvenient to those who regularly use the elevator.
Think carefully about future modernizations. As new technology becomes available, you will want to have the option of installing those components without replacing the entire elevator you’ve just finished paying for. Many proprietary systems don’t allow isolated parts to be upgraded. Lighter duty designs, smaller machines, and non-serviceable parts will seriously reduce the life-span of your elevator equipment. Many of the corporate giants have engaged in designed obsolescence in order to ensure high maintenance and future replacement revenue. Be sure that the investment you make now, will continue to yield returns for many years to come.
Pros and Cons of Elevator Modernization.
When it becomes difficult to acquire parts or if shut-down calls become more frequent, it’s definitely time to consider modernization. While a major elevator upgrade is a significant investment, a well-done project will undoubtedly increase property value. There will certainly be a short-term inconvenience while the work is being completed, but in the long run, elevator wait times will be significantly decreased, and less maintenance will be required. If you’re replacing costly proprietary equipment with more accessible, non-proprietary versions, you can expect lower maintenance costs well into the future.