How to Buy an Elevator 101

Elevator car interior showing elevator buttons, the panel and raised wood panels.

Volumes have been written about elevators. A simple search can tell you all you would ever need to know about their history, how they work and even more about components such as buttons and cabs. But one thing that seems to be lacking is solid advice on actually buying an elevator.

The List

With this in mind, we have compiled information to keep in mind when thinking about purchasing any type of vertical transportation, whether it be a LU/LA, modular or stick-built elevator.  The first list is information that you should acquaint yourself with before starting the purchasing process, while the second list is a set of questions to consider when talking with an elevator company.

  1. Assess your needs. Why do you feel you need an elevator? One common reason we hear is to comply with current building and ADA codes, but beyond that, what are you hoping to accomplish with an elevator? You can meet codes easily enough, but is that all you are hoping to do?
  2. Think hard about use. Do you see the elevator being used for passenger traffic, freight or both? How often do you think it will be used and for what purpose? Is a gurney compliant elevator wanted or even required? Here’s a short story about what happens when you don’t think it through.
  3. Where will the elevator be placed? An elevator is no small item. In most cases, it is the largest moving object in any building and it takes up significant space. It is not just the shaft or hoistway; there also has to be some sort of machine room unless utilizing a machine roomless system. Elevators can be on the outside of the building or in an internal space. You should also prepare yourself for the bad news that it won’t work where you want it to go. Help from a consultant, architect or local elevator company may come in handy.
  4. Learn some basic terms. On the surface, elevators seem easy enough. You push a button and the door opens, you push another button and it takes you to your floor. However, there is a catalog of terms that apply specifically to the elevator industry. To have an initial conversation, you need to understand basic terms like travel distance, hoistway, car or cab, hall call and stops.
  5. Before you call, know how many stops the elevator will have and whether the doors are inline (all on the same side) or front and back.
  6. Consider overall timeline for completion. Sometimes it makes little difference, but for a stick-built elevator, you are talking months. With a modular elevator, the same elevator can be manufactures and installed in 10 weeks or less.
  7. Lastly, consider the design of the elevator. Stainless steel is common, but several design options are available. Here are a few samples.

Questions to Ask

Part of a discussion with an elevator professional is you asking questions. This is the best way to get the information you need to help you in your decision making process. All of the questions below can be answered by an elevator professional. If the company you have contacted refuses to answer the questions below, start shopping for a new company.

  1. What type of drive system is recommended for my specific project based on floor travel? Options include holeless hydraulic, in-ground hydraulic, traction, machine roomless and roped hydraulic. Each type has a price and a length of travel they are usually recommended for. Avoid being pigeonholed by choosing a company that can’t provide all types of elevators. Also, any quality elevator consultant or elevator company should be able to help you determine the best option.
  2.  Are the various parts of the elevator proprietary? Proprietary parts can mean short-term savings but long-term headaches. It is best to avoid them if possible and purchase an elevator with non-proprietary parts. Even the National Association of Elevator Contractors is objecting to the use of proprietary parts because it drives up costs.
  3. Who will complete the installation and who will perform the maintenance once it is installed? When thinking about purchasing an elevator, a maintenance agreement has to be part of the thought process. Go over the contracts with a fine tooth comb and realize many have clauses that are five-year deals with automatic increases built in. Here is a series of articles on contracts that you should look at before you buy.
  4. What is the price of the elevator and what is the anticipated annual cost of maintaining the elevator? Depending on the type of conveyance for the elevator and usage, annual costs will vary.

We hope you find this list helpful, regardless of the choice you make. Feel free to contact us at any time to discuss your project or to ask general questions. Of course, we do hope you will consider a Phoenix Modular Elevator for your next project. If you have one in mind, click the button for a free quick quote.

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