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How Does a Pneumatic Elevator Work?

A pneumatic lift is one of the more contemporary designs for residential elevators. This type requires minimal installation and fits easily into most homes.

Vacuum elevators utilize a group of turbines located at the top of the cylinder to provide lifting power. There is a seal above the car, which allows the vacuum above pull the car upward. The car is locked into place with electro-mechanical brakes upon arriving at upper levels. When moving downward, the elevator is silent as the turbines are not running. The vacuum elevators do not require a machine room as the controller and turbines are built into the top of the cylinder. The hoistway is integrated into the vacuum elevator design, so it saves construction costs with remodels.
The benefits include ease of installation. This elevator has a small footprint, allowing it to fit almost anywhere. It is easily added to an existing home.

The negative points include noise, bouncy ride, and code compliance. The turbines make a fair amount of noise when moving in the up direction. The car will bounce slightly when moving over seals in the cylinder. The vacuum elevators are very safe, but do not meet every requirement in elevator code. There are many states that will not allow permits for this elevator.

How Hydraulic Lift Elevators Work

One of the more common mechanisms for a residential elevator used is a hydraulic lift. Hydraulic Elevators utilize an oil pump located in a machine room to provide the lifting power. The machine room is preferred to be adjacent to the hoistway, but can be up to 30 ft away. The machine room may be on any level or the house. In flood areas, it is recommended that the machine room is on an upper level. A hydraulic piston is located in the hoistway between the rails, next to the moving car. As hydraulic fluid is pumped into the piston, the car moves upward. As hydraulic fluid is released back to the reservoir in the machine room, the car moves downward.

The benefits include smooth operation, quiet operation, and easy emergency lowering. The hydraulic elevator is nearly silent in the down direction as the pump is not running. In the up direction, the pump is running in a separate machine room, reducing the noise. If the elevator stopped between levels for any reason, it is easy to manually lower it. Every hydraulic elevator has an emergency lowering valve. By pressing and holding a button (in the machine room), the elevator will slowly lower to floor level.

The negative points include hydraulic odor, and cost. If the machine room is located next to common living space such as a kitchen or living room, you may smell the oil from time to time. This can be avoided by placing the machine room in a utility area, or using vegetable based oil. A two or three level hydraulic elevator is not much more cost than other types. As the vertical travel distance increases, the cost of a hydraulic elevator increases more than other types. If the vertical travel exceeds 32 ft, then a split piston is required, which adds significant cost.

Custom Elevators: the Next Step in Design

Home elevators have become an affordable product. Typically, the product with installation costs between $20,000 and $30,000 for standard types. But, for those with additional budget, and the desire for something custom, elevators can be designed to match any décor. Designing the elevator car allows it to blend in with the rest of your home – and appear as if it were added there originally. From the materials added to the style of the car, many factors are involved in designing a custom residential elevator.

Of course, with any type of elevator, finding the type best suited to your home needs to be done before any architectural planning. Some homes or building, because of location, may be better suited to a hydraulic lift. Others, not wanting the additional cost of a machine room, may find a winding drum or machine traction drive style fits better. Once this type has been decided and the best location found, the planning can begin.

Essentially, when a home elevator is designed, nothing is off limits, as long as the design meets code. Typically, the most common request is that the elevator blends in with the rest of the home. This includes often the same types of woods or metals used in the home, from the paneling to the trim. The car, really, becomes an extension of the rest of the house. Of course, this may become more elaborate. Often-requested custom elevators sometimes go for a classic or antique look with a birdcage-style car. For a futuristic look, panoramic elevators, made entirely of glass, are another common design for homes.

What is a Home Elevator?

Elevators adorn many buildings – homes and commercial both. As many are modifying their homes with an elevator for convenience, installing one isn’t as costly as it used to be. Adding a home elevator is usually less than $30,000 for the equipment to be purchased and installed.

The most common type of home elevator added is a hydraulic lift. This is considered the smoothest and quietest design. One key factor when adding this type, however, is that a machine room must be added to the home, too. This room is often in a basement or lowest level of a house.

Two other types, machine traction drive and winding drum, are common in many homes, as well. A winding drum operates from above and moves the car by cables. Machine traction drive elevators are considered a green design, as it uses less energy and no hydraulic oil is needed to operate the car. When installed, this model saves up to 50 percent more energy than other methods. Both of these types do not need a machine room to operate.

The last and most recent type of residential added to homes is a pneumatic lift. This design utilizes vacuum pressure to move the car between floors. Installation is quicker, as only the tube and car are needed – no passageway needs to be carved out of a home to add an elevator.

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