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You might not realize it when you’re riding in one, but there are actually a few different types of elevators that you regularly see in commercial and residential settings. 

Different elevators suit different buildings and needs better. For example, some elevators are quicker and less expensive to install and tend to be installed in homes. On the other hand, when there is more space to accommodate a bigger elevator, a different vertical lift system is often used in high-rise buildings when more floors of a building need to be covered. 

Whether you’re thinking of adding an elevator to your home or business or you’re just curious about the common forms of vertical transportation, keep reading if you’ve been wondering, “What are the different types of elevators?” 

What are the different types of elevators?

Today we’ll be discussing three common types of passenger elevators you’ll tend to see in residential and commercial settings. We’ll also explain when each elevator is the best choice for certain buildings and needs, as well as their basic operating mechanisms. 

You can also learn a lot about elevators in this post, where we discuss FAQs about elevators. 

Hydraulic elevator

These elevators are powered by a piston that moves inside a cylinder. An electric motor pumps the hydraulic oil into the cylinder which moves the piston. Then, the piston lifts the elevator cab smoothly and effectively. Electrical valves control the release of the oil for an equally smooth descent.

In many cases, hydraulic elevators are less expensive and faster to install.  Homeowners appreciate that there’s less downtime or disruption to their daily life during the installation process. They may also be able to transport heavier loads, although they aren’t normally an option for a high-rise building which tends to be deciding factor in the type of elevator you choose. 

Hydraulic elevators can be holed or holeless. Holed hydraulic elevators used hydraulic cylinders that are placed inside of a drilled hole and allow for up to 60’ of travel.

Holeless hydraulic elevators don’t require a drilled hole. They’re ideal for existing buildings or when drilling would be too difficult, expensive, or impractical. They shouldn’t be installed if more than 40’ of travel is required, so they’re used in low to mid-rise buildings rather than high-rises. 

At Rise Above Elevator, we’re proud to offer the smoothest hydraulic and residential elevator in the business! Our residential hydraulic elevators are 2 to 1 roped hydro-systems with structurally engineered slings to carry your cab seamlessly. Learn more about our hydraulic elevators here. 

Traction Elevator

Traction elevators are raised and lowered by steel ropes or belts on a pulley system. Traction elevator use counterweight that offsets the weight of the elevator car and its passengers. The motor doesn’t have to move as much weight as other types of elevators which means traction elevators tend to be much more energy-efficient than hydraulic systems. 

Traction elevators could be geared or gearless. In a geared traction elevator, a gearbox is attached to the motor. It drives the wheel and moves the ropes. These machines can reach up to 500 ft. per minute and are they are slightly less energy-efficient than gearless elevators. 

On the other hand, gearless traction elevators use a sheave that’s attached directly to the end of the motor. They can reach speeds up to 2,000 ft./min.

Machine Roomless “MRL” Elevator

Another common type of elevator is known as a machine roomless or MRL elevator. Rather than requiring a separate machine room, these elevators tend to take up less room because they don’t require that additional space. 

Almost all machine roomless elevators are gearless traction elevators, and they use a motor that’s installed using a permanent magnet which “sticks” to the motor permanently. They work with a Variable Voltage Variable Frequency (VVVF) drive

However, there are some examples of hydraulic machine roomless elevators, too. Like traction machine roomless elevators, they don’t require a separate room to house the hydraulic machinery. The pump and the rest of the machinery are installed on the elevator pit instead. The controller is located on a wall near the elevator that’s usually found on the bottom floor.

There are several advantages to installing an MRL elevator, including faster installation time and lower space requirements. However, they do tend to have higher energy consumption than other elevators because they use power even when they’re not in use. They may also be more expensive to service than some other elevators. 

Our MRL home lift is a winding drum overhead motor fully engineered lift. This lift uses two ⅜  of an inch top grade cables to raise and lower the elevator. You can learn more about it here. 

Elevator overrun height and other considerations

When you’re choosing the right elevator for your home or business, there are a lot of things to keep in mind, including the elevator overrun height and other size requirements.

Like we mentioned, machine roomless elevators tend to take up less space than the kind that needs a separate room. But hydraulic elevators, even if they have a machine room, will tend to take up less space than a traction elevator. This is true even if it’s machine roomless! 

In many homes where space is limited, a hydraulic elevator is the way to go. Hydraulic elevators usually service buildings that only need a few floors of travel, which is another reason they’re commonly used in a residential setting.

Traction elevators are better suited to high-rise buildings. They are often more expensive to install, but their reduced energy consumption may help offset the additional installation costs. 

If you’re planning to add an elevator to your home, be sure to consider these 5 points first. 

Other types of elevators

We know that hydraulic, traction, and machine roomless elevators are the three most common types. But there are several other kinds of elevators that might be right in certain situations. 

One of the most modern types of elevators is known as a pneumatic vacuum elevator. 

Commonly found in homes, these space-saving elevators are operated with air power, and they can be installed in very small spaces. They’re also an energy-efficient and incredibly safe option. They operate with a cylinder that includes modular sections to fit effortlessly into each other. The top of the tube is designed with steel material to ensure tight closure, and the  elevator car moves inside of the cylinder. 

Another unique type of elevator is a stage elevator that’s used to transport performers, often from below the stage to level with the stage. Aircraft elevators are used on aircraft carriers to move vehicles and other goods from the internal hangars to the flight deck. Similarly, vehicle elevators move cars up and down within parking garages and other buildings. 

Other types of elevators we’re pleased to offer at RAE are dumbwaiters and wheelchair lifts or stair chair lifts. 

Dumbwaiters are used to transport small loads of things like food or laundry from one floor to the next, and aren’t meant to transport people. They’re commonly found in homes, hotels, restaurants, and on cruise ships.

Wheelchair and stair chair lifts aren’t meant to cover a great distance of several floors, but they can safely transport someone within a few floors. A wheelchair lift transports not only the passenger but also their wheelchair from one floor to the next, and a stair chair lift includes a chair the passenger sits in rather than moving a wheelchair. 

Any of the elevators we’ve covered could be the right option for your home or business. We’re here to help you every step of the way, from deciding on the type of elevator to installation, service, and maintenance. If you’re ready to get started, give us a call today so we can help!