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Small But Just Right: Is a Pneumatic Elevator a Good Fit for Your Home?

pneumatic home elevatorWhen it comes to deciding on a home elevator, the buyer is presented with multiple options: hydraulic, winding drum, cable, or pneumatic, also known as vacuum. Out of these, pneumatic elevators tend to be the most economical, but even if you’re looking to save on costs, are they the right option for your home?

Limited Space

A pneumatic elevator is often a time and financial saver for a homeowner with limited mobility and less space. Compared to the other designs on the market, the self-contained vacuum option has its own hoistway and cab. As a result, separate structures don’t need to be constructed in the home, and installation consists of cutting holes through the floors.

At the same time, hydraulic and other forms often require that part of the hoistway be built into the side of the property. If this structurally isn’t possible, a pneumatic elevator proves to be an even greater asset.

Building Codes

Compared to their other residential and commercial counterparts, vacuum elevators are relatively new to the market. In fact, a 2005 Wall Street Journal piece details their emergence, particularly in smaller, single-family suburban homes.

The WSJ piece further mentions that pneumatic models were specifically developed for the residential market, and at the time, building codes had not caught up. Eight years later, however, building codes still restrict vacuum elevators, as a machine room may be required in certain instances. Before you decide on this design, research your local building codes for elevator-related restrictions.

Will a Wheelchair Fit?

As a general rule, all elevators must have at least 15 square feet inside. This, however, doesn’t account for the needs of wheelchair users, and while vacuum elevators meet the minimum requirements for homes, they might not fulfill ADA specifications. Should you be considering one for wheelchair accessibility, determine, first, how much interior space will be available, how much weight it can support, and, in the U.S., if it fulfills ADA requirements.


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