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Affordable elevator upgrades

Updated: Mar 11, 2020

A full elevator modernization is expensive, but there are other solutions that may be more tailored to your budget. Buildings magazine has suggestions on how you can cut down on elevator energy waste with some less expensive alternatives.

Start by getting a handle on how much energy your elevators use by sub-metering the equipment or conducting an audit. This practice results in the most accurate measurements and some utilities will subsidize energy efficiency.

Next, consider replacing the components responsible for the most energy use, like the drive system. Older drives, such as motor generator sets, run semi-continuously, which can be very inefficient and contribute to a large waste of energy. Older drives lack the capability to push clean power back into the building. Therefore, energy is dissipated through heat, so older machines require HVAC to prevent equipment from overheating.

Other small scale solutions include replacing the lights, the starter and controllers. LEDs or other high-efficiency, low-heat lighting provide a quick payoff. LED push buttons are also available. According to the article in Buildings, you can expect to save $300-500 per year by replacing the starter. A smart starter also protects against poor quality power that can lead to brownouts. If you’re considering a larger-scale project, check to see if code will allow adding controllers with standby mode that enables the elevator to either shut off or reduce lighting and HVAC while the elevator is unoccupied.

You don't have to take on the entire modernization all at once. Instead, phase in more substantial improvements to make them more affordable. For instance, start by replacing the DC motor with an AC motor and change out the drive mechanisms. Then, upgrade the cab interiors. Another upgrade that benefits both you and your tenants are regenerative drives that reclaim the energy created while braking or slowing down and fuel it back into the building. Consider adding smart control that groups passengers in the most efficient way, reducing the number of stops for all riders.

Got an older geared elevator? A geared to gearless modernization eliminates the motor generator, reducing noise levels and power consumption.

So why spend the money? An inefficient elevator isn’t just an energy hog – its wasteful operation is a red flag for bigger, more expensive problems. A poorly functioning elevator can cause headaches in both the short and long term by inconveniencing building occupants.

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