The invention and adaptation of vertical transportation – otherwise known as the elevator – in the 1850s changed the face of architecture, space design, and apartment living forever. Unfortunately, like any mechanical system, every so often elevators must undergo a major repair, refurbishment or replacement. If you live on the first, second, third, or even the fourth floor, that’s an inconvenience, but perhaps not a life-changing event. If you live on the 20th floor, or live with a disability...well that’s a different story.
Elevator Components and Their Maintenance
According to the pros, it’s not the entire system or even the elevator cab that will necessarily need replacement or refurbishment. “You replace the components,” says Jacquelyn Duggan, an account executive with Gumley Haft Property Management in New York City. You might have to replace the cables, the control board, or upgrade other mechanisms, she explains.
“Any modification to an existing system is characterized as a modernization, which can be partial or full. A job is considered new construction when new rails are added to an existing job, or it is installed from the ground up,” explains John Miller, Director of Operations for the Liberty Elevator Corporation in Paterson, New Jersey. He added that hydraulic elevators typically last between 25 to 30 years. Traction applications, he noted, have controllers that last 25 to 30 years as well, although the machinery may last even longer. The lifespan of elevator ropes are typically 10 to 15 years.
“If you’re adding an elevator to an existing building, this would be considered new construction, otherwise you can replace all elements of an elevator, besides the rails, and it would be considered a full modernization,” says Miller.
Elevators are composed of lots of moving parts. According to the website elevatorsource.com, the component parts of an elevator include the electrical switchgear; wiring; controller/dispatcher; cab interior; machinery; shaft doors and shaftway; hoist rails; cables; hydraulic pistons; call stations; and operating panels. These components have useful lives ranging from 15 years for an elevator cab interior to 50-plus years for elevator switchgear. Most of the components have useful lives of between 20 and 25 years.