Hydraulic elevators are arguably one of the most popular elevator types for residential use. These elevators are known for their longevity and ease of use, as well as their quietness and weight capacity.
In this article, we’ll look into these elevators - how they work, their uniqueness, and what makes them so great for home use.
What Is A Hydraulic Elevator?
Hydraulic elevators, also known as hydraulic lifts for homes, are one of the most prominent types of elevators for residential use. These elevators are powered by fluid-driven pistons located in a cylinder and hydraulic pumps, which drive the elevator's cab up and down. This is what makes up the basis of a hydraulic elevator system.
With a hydraulic elevator, the entire system is lifted under pressure from the hydraulic fluid, which is pumped into the cylinder. Hydraulic systems come with significant benefits, including longevity and quiet operation - thus making the elevator especially ideal for residential use.
How Do Hydraulic Elevators Work?
As explained earlier, hydraulic elevators operate using compression fluids contained in a cylinder. The fluid is pumped into the cylinder, raising and lowering the piston to move the elevator cab up or down.
When the elevator is promoted to move up, it lifts under the pressure of the fluid as it is pumped into the cylinder and moves the cab onto a higher floor. When you push the control button to move the elevator down, the controller opens a valve in the hydraulic tank, slowly releasing the pressure.
This operating module is great for several reasons. For one, hydraulic elevators work with gravitational pull, meaning they don’t use so much power. And, in the event of a power failure, there are also battery backups that ensure that these elevators remain functional.
Note that the fluid needed to power a hydraulic elevator needs to be oil-based. However, for the sake of environmental sustainability, options like biodegradable oil or vegetable oil also work quite well if water contamination is avoided, which can be difficult. You can learn about some of the common types of oil used in hydraulic elevators here.
What Are The Different Types Of Hydraulic Elevators?
Holed hydraulic lifts are a type of hydraulic lift which have elevator cars mounted on a piston that travels within a cylinder. The cylinders themselves are drilled into the ground, with the cars able to travel up to 60 feet.
Also known as direct-acting lifts, these elevators rise as fluid is pumped into the cylinder through a valve. When the fluid is returned to its reservoir, the elevator car descends.
Holeless hydraulic elevators don’t need drilled holes. They have pistons mounted inside the hoistway, which raise or lower the car on their own.
Since they don’t require the holes to be drilled, holeless hydraulic elevators are especially ideal for areas where drilling isn’t allowed. However, you should note that they typically don’t travel beyond 40 feet.
As its name suggests, a roped hydraulic elevator works with cables. Also known as indirect-acting lifts, these elevators operate without the need for an underground cylinder. Instead, they work with cables attached to pulleys, which cause the elevator cars to go up and down.
One end of the rope in this system is attached to the elevator car, while the other end is secured at the hoistway’s bottom. These elevators allow for up to 60 feet of travel. However, a roped hydraulic elevator will also require a governor as an additional safety measure since a rope is holding the elevator up.
Machine Room-Less (MRL) Hydraulic
The machine room-less hydraulic elevator has its entire lift mechanism located in the hoistway - as opposed to a separate machine room. The controller is kept in a locked cabinet on the wall close to the elevator.
As expected, machine room-less elevators are perfect for houses where space is a bit of a constraint.
Hydraulic Elevator Advantages
Hydraulic elevators are ideal for residential use for several reasons. Some of them include:
One of the primary benefits of hydraulic elevators is that they are comparatively more durable than traction elevators or other types. They are also easy to install and maintain, so their user and ownership experiences are generally much better than some alternatives.
Hydraulic elevators are also comparatively more flexible regarding space required for a home lift. This is especially true for machine-room-less elevators, which don’t need a separate room for system installation.
You would also be glad to know that hydraulic elevators are among the safest types of elevators. If the rope holding the elevator breaks, it still won’t fall faster than oil is able to escape the cylinder.
Hydraulic Elevator Disadvantages
As expected, everything with an advantage comes with demerits as well. Some of the areas where hydraulic elevators fall short include:
Hydraulic elevators operate thanks to the rising and falling of fluid in a cylinder. So, they are usually slower compared to other lift systems.
It is also important to note that the operation of a hydraulic elevator generally produces more heat than traction elevators and other types of lift systems.
Potential Concern For Pollution
In some cases, the hydraulic oil could leak out of the entire system, eventually contaminating the groundwater. So, it is especially important to ensure proper installation and maintenance to avoid these kinds of incidents.
Hydraulic Elevator Price
Generally, hydraulic elevators tend to cost between $50,000 and $60,000. We recommend that you get a price quote from your manufacturer and installer for more clarity.
However, the price of a hydraulic elevator will usually depend on several factors - including the following:
- The number of floors you’d like for it to travel
- The door type
- The finish style
- Installation codes for home lifts and requirements in your area
What Safety Features Do Hydraulic Elevators Have
Generally, hydraulic elevators are among the safest in the market. Some of their prominent safety features include flow control switches, braking systems, distance restrictions, and more.
How Long Does It Take To Install A Hydraulic Elevator?
Usually, it takes about two weeks to get a hydraulic elevator installed. However, this could also vary based on features and specifications.
How Frequently Should A Hydraulic Elevator Be Maintained?
Generally, the maintenance timeline for a hydraulic elevator varies. We, however, recommend having your elevator checked and maintained at least twice a year.
Traction Vs Hydraulic Elevator
Traction and hydraulic elevators are the two major elevator system variants available, however, while traction elevators raise and lower elevator cabs using ropes and a counterweight pulley system, hydraulic elevators work using the movement of hydraulic fluid. Which one is better really depends on your preferences and what you deem important in an elevator such as the increased safety of a hydraulic elevator or the increased speed of a traction elevator.
Holed Vs Holeless Hydraulic Elevator
Holed hydraulic elevators operate with the elevator cars mounted on a piston that moves within the cylinder. On the other hand, holeless hydraulic elevators operate with pistons mounted inside the hoistway. The main difference you want to consider when choosing between a holed or holeless hydraulic elevator is the increased travel distance that is possible with a holeless elevator.
How Many Floors Can A Hydraulic Elevator Travel?
In terms of distance traveled, roped hydraulic elevators are the most capable. These elevators travel up to 60 feet in distance - about five floors.
Hydraulic Elevator Specifications
Some important specifications of hydraulic elevators you need to keep in mind include:
- Floor capacity: Up to five floors
- Load capacity: Up to 1100 kg
- Wheelchair accessibility: Yes
- Maximum speed: 6 metres a minute
- Power requirements: 2 to 3 horsepower (HP)
This, however, differs from model to model. It is important to check with your provider and manufacturer regarding your desired specifications before purchasing any hydraulic elevator.