Installing a Home Elevator

Most of us are at least somewhat familiar with elevators…we see and ride in them in high-rise office buildings, in hotels, and in other public places like airports and hospitals. I’ll bet that, even if secretly, you fondly remember playing in an elevator as a kid…pushing the buttons and going up, up, up…and then back down again…or maybe pushing all the buttons at once so the car stops on every floor (nah, nobody’s ever done that, right?). Come on, admit it…elevators are cool.

Elevators might be fun for kids but they are oh so utilitarian. They are very efficient because they can vertically transport multiple people, or a large volume of goods or cargo in a very efficient manner. They don’t take up much space relative to the overall footprint of a building and they are exceptionally convenient as compared to trudging up a flight of stairs with, say, an armload of groceries.

For many of the same reasons, installing an elevator in a residential home is becoming increasingly popular. These days, more and more home renovations are being undertaken for the sake of convenience. Some installations, though, are implemented as a matter of necessity…out of a need to attain a higher degree of accessibility and mobility within ones own home.

Installation of a home elevator can satisfy either or both of those potential considerations of convenience or necessity. More and more these days, single family homes are either being initially constructed with elevators or are being re-modeled to specifically include an elevator.

One good reason to install a home elevator is because you just want one…and that’s usually a pretty good reason for just about anything..within reason and limitations, of course. But, what of the most excellent reason…that of necessity? Let’ face it, we are all going to get older. That staircase in the home that used to suffice just fine for getting upstairs or down can, seemingly overnight, start looking allot more like work than just a means to an end. Carrying things up and down the stairs can not only become more difficult as we age…but can become dangerous as well.

Residential elevators, though, are not particularly cheap. A very low end system, with only one additional stop other than the ground floor and with minimal accessories can cost in the range of $12000 – $15000. A high end system with multiple stops, numerous accessories, and an upgraded architectural beauty and presence can cost $30,000 and up.

Particularly in the case of the re-modeling of an existing home, there are other considerations, too. Typically, there are structural modifications that must be designed and implemented that will require the services of both a licensed Professional Engineer and a licensed General Contractor…all in addition to the expense of the elevator system itself.

There are, generally, four different types of technology used to power residential elevators. They are:

Hydraulic Elevators – This is the old standby type that has been around for many years and that we are mostly familiar with. They operate smoothly, are quite mechanically quite reliable, and are time-proven. One potential drawback to this type of elevator is that it requires a separate equipment room to house the oil tank and associated components.This type of elevator is generally regarded as the best all-around choice when all factors are considered.

Pneumatic Elevators – Sometimes referred to as vacuum elevators, this type of elevator relies on air pressure to move the car. It does not generally require a separate machine room to house any equipment.They are, however, noisy…and they are usually somewhat limited in the loads that they can carry. This type of elevator is generally less expensive than the hydraulic type.

Overhead Drum Elevators – This type of elevator uses a suspended car with the equipment being mounted in the roof structure so that no equipment room is needed.

Counterweight Elevators – The counterweight type of elevator, also referred to as an electric elevator, is operated by counterweights that keep the elevator car suspended in a shaft. This type of residential elevator use hydraulics so there is no oil or associated tank needed. Since the elevator car is suspended from above, it is considered to be less safe in earthquake prone areas.

If you think that there might be a home elevator in your future, know that there are many different styles, types, options, and technologies available…and over a wide range of prices as well. But if you find yourself needing the convenience of an elevator, and bidding the use of the stairs a hearty goodbye, then you might find yourself asking…Going up? And with a just a little hint of a smile, too, I’ll bet.