Although elevators only account for around 5% of a building’s energy use, modernising or upgrading your lifts can give you an immediate return on your energy-efficiency investment.
Simply by replacing outdated hardware (many elevators are running long past their useful lives) and investing in some of the sophisticated software now on the market, building owners can make immediate and substantial energy savings.
When upgrading elevators, building owners should consider whether their lifts are hydraulic or traction. Hydraulic elevators have a piston inside a cylinder, which lifts the cab when an electric motor pumps in oil. This hoisting method uses a lot more energy than a traction system and is more expensive to maintain. Although new valve block technology could greatly improve your hydraulic elevator and give it a new lease on life.
A traction elevator on the other hand, travels up and down on a steel rope, which has a counterweight on the other end. Because the counterweight is sharing some of the load, by nature traction lifts are more energy-efficient than hydraulic hoists.
So simply by replacing one with the other (most new elevators now use traction lifts), you can reduce your operating costs substantially. Modern traction lifts also use a regenerative drive which captures the downward energy of the cab and transforms it into electrical power, which is then pumped back into the building’s energy grid.
Another advantage of modern traction elevators is they don’t require a machine room, as the motors and other equipment normally housed there have been redesigned to fit into the lift shaft. This creates more usable space, less heat and consumes less energy.
Other hardware improvements you could make include;
- Motors – replacing old obsolete DC motors with AC motors can produce energy savings of up to 50%. Although Liftronic has technology that can use existing DC machines.
- Lighting – replacing fluorescent tubes, incandescent and halogen lights with high-efficiency, low-heat LED lighting and replacing push buttons in cab panels, overhead fixtures and floor indicators.
- Doors – using door drive motors that can go into standby mode when not in use and then recover efficiently when needed.
- Starters – replacing old starters with new ones for greater energy efficiency while also protecting against poor quality power which can lead to brownouts.
- Landing systems – replacing old landing systems that use magnets or tape with new ones that stop the cab faster and don’t run the motor for as long.
- Lights & fans – these can be turned off if the lift is stationary and parked after a predetermined time.
One of the biggest improvements to elevators in the last few decades has been to their control systems, with modern elevators now boasting software that is able to implement all kinds of energy saving strategies;
- Standby mode – this option automatically powers down lighting and all non-essential operations if the elevator hasn’t been called on for a certain period of time. It immediately powers back up when someone pushes the button.
- Destination despatch control – groups elevator stop requests, creating fewer stops, minimising wait time.
- Data logging – provides tools that allow for traffic studies to be performed, using data such as usage frequency, floors travelled and peak vs idle periods to estimate energy consumption and create more efficient control strategies.
If you can’t justify the expense of data logging software, you could hire a third party to conduct an elevator audit. This is a cost-effective way to evaluate the age of the equipment and discover where energy-efficiency savings could be made.
So how much energy can you actually save with an upgrade? Here’s what you could expect with Liftronic Pty Ltd’sEco-Solutions;
- LED Lighting – reduce power consumption by up to 90% and increase lamp life by years by replacing low and mains voltage GU10 and M lamps with low cost, high output LEDs.
- Gearless machines – enjoy a 30% or more improvement in energy efficiency compared to geared machines in elevator applications.
- Motor control – considerable savings in energy costs (up to 50%) plus recovery of excess energy through regenerative drives.
- Door operators – up to 20% improved energy efficiency compared to existing systems.
Upgrading ageing elevators is a grudge purchase for any building owner, but something that is going to have to be done at some stage, so benefiting from the energy savings now rather than later would make sense.
If your elevators are not modernised (or at the very least kept maintained to minimum fire, safety and customer satisfaction standards) you could be facing a much larger bill further down the track.
It’s important to remember that these changes don’t have to be implemented simultaneously. To make them as affordable as possible, you can phase them in over time, as and when your maintenance budget allows.
Liftronic Pty Limited are experts in the installation, maintenance and refurbishment of vertical transport systems.