How Do Elevators Work?

Elevators have dramatically changed how people live. Thanks to elevators, it’s now possible for buildings to tower above the ground, consisting of dozens or more stories. Elevators have also revolutionized home living. Thanks to elevators, people with limited mobility can remain in multi-story homes. Elevators also make it easy for people to transport bulky or heavy objects from one floor to the next.

So, how do residential elevators work? Understanding what the different parts of an elevator are and how they fit together will give you a better idea of how these machines can take you from one floor to the next.

Anatomy of an Elevator

The simplest way to describe an elevator is as a box that travels up and down a vertical shaft. How the box travels up and down is determined by the drive system. Take a closer look at the parts of an elevator to see how they work together:

Elevator Cabs

The elevator cab is the part of an elevator that many people are most familiar with. It’s the car that you ride in to get from one floor to the next. Elevator cabs are available in a variety of sizes and finishes. Some of the features most cabs have in common include:

  • Operating panel
  • Handrails
  • Ceiling lights

Depending on the style of the cab, it might have painted or wood-paneled walls. Some cabs have laminate flooring or can be created with a floor that matches the flooring in the rest of the house.

Elevator Doors and Gates

So, how do elevator doors work? Elevator gates and doors do more than open and close — they play an essential role when it comes to safety. The gate and door keep people from falling out of the cab while it travels. They also keep people from falling into the shaft when the elevator is on a different floor.

Home elevators often have either one or two entrances, depending on the design of the elevator and the layout of the home. Each entrance needs its own door, which opens on the landing, and its own gate, which is part of the cab.

Elevator gates are available in a variety of styles. One popular style for home elevators is an accordion gate, which folds up and collapses to one side to let people on and off the elevator. Home elevators might have a scissor, or collapsible gate, installed instead.

The door to an elevator is on the landing and should stay closed when the elevator is not on the floor. Often, a landing door looks like other doors in your home. The key difference between a landing door and a door to a closet or bedroom is that you’ll find an elevator cab rather than a bedroom or closet when you open the door. For safety reasons, a landing door should be locked when the elevator is on a different floor or is in transit.

Safety measures also limit the space between the elevator gate and the landing door. To prevent a small child or pet from becoming stuck between the gate and the door, there should be no more than 4 inches between the two. If a 4-inch round object, such as a ball, is placed in the space between the gate and the door, the door will not be able to close, and the elevator won’t run.

Elevator Drive Systems

The drive system is the machinery that moves the elevator cab from one floor to the next. Inclinator offers three drive system options:

  1. Cable drum: The cable drum drive system is ideal for compact spaces, as it uses a patented monorail to guide the cab up and down. The drive system itself is located in a separate machine room. A cable drum system is compatible with all of our cab styles and is able to travel up to 50 feet.
  2. Hydraulic: The hydraulic drive system also features a monorail and requires a separate machine room. A notable benefit of our hydraulic drive system is that it uses much less fluid than other home elevator brands.
  3. MRL Overhead Cable Drum: The MRL overhead cable drum drive system uses two guide rails to draw the cab up and down. It requires less height between floors than other drive systems, making it an ideal choice for split-level houses. “MRL” stands for “machine room-less.”

Elevator Shaft

The elevator shaft is the part of the home that houses the elevator cab and rail. Typically, a home elevator shaft will contain the following:

  • The pit: The pit is the area just underneath the lowest level of the home. It provides space for the bottom of the cab when the elevator is on the bottom floor of the house. The depth of the pit can vary based on the type of drive system and cab installed.
  • The rail wall: The rail wall holds the monorail or guide rails. It keeps the cab of the elevator stable and secure.
  • Overhead: The overhead area is the space at the top of the shaft on the uppermost floor. Just as the pit provides room for the bottom of the cab when the elevator is on the lowest level, the overhead space provides room for the top of the cab when the elevator is on the top story.

Residential Elevators vs. Commercial Elevators

If you’re considering adding an elevator to your home, you’ll want to install a residential elevator, not a commercial model. There are some notable differences between how residential elevators work and how commercial models do. There is also a difference in size.

For example, commercial elevators need to be specific sizes to meet ADA Standards and safety code requirements. The same rules don’t apply to residential elevators. In fact, residential elevators tend to be much smaller than commercial ones.

Are Elevators Safe?

Elevators have come a long way in terms of safety over the years. Today’s home elevators are designed and built to follow safety standards set forth in section 5.3 of the National Safety Code for Elevators (ASME ANSI A17.1/CSA B44-2016). The safety standards create weight limits, speed limits and distance limits. They also detail how much space can be between landings and doors and doors and gates to minimize the risk of accidental injury.

All of Inclinator’s elevators are designed and built to follow the code. Our elevators have numerous safety features that ensure they meet or exceed the most up-to-date safety codes.

Learn More About How Home Elevators Work Today

An elevator can help you stay in your home for longer and can make life more convenient. If you’re interested in learning more about your options, search for an Inclinator dealer near you today. You can also contact us with any questions you have about residential elevators and the installation process.


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