Understand the different elevator technologies used in the home. Traditional hydraulic elevators use pistons and cables to transport the passenger car, while newer pnuemautic or vacuum elevators rely on air pressure changes. Simple lifts are also available, which rely on mechanical motors to transport passengers up and down short distances.
Determine the distance the elevator will need to travel. According to the Daytona Elevator Company, vacuum elevators can only travel up to four stories. Hydraulic elevators, which are used in the world's tallest buildings, can travel a much greater distance. Small platform lifts can usually travel no more than 8 feet.
Evaluate the weight capacity of each model. According to Daytona Elevator, the average vacuum elevator can carry no more than 450 pounds. Hydraulic elevators can transport heavier loads safely. Consider the weight of passengers, freight and items such as wheelchairs or other mobility devices when determining total load.
Review size limitations. One of the biggest drawbacks to vacuum elevators is their small size. According to the Wall Street Journal, these units are not large enough to accommodate a wheelchair, though some larger models are being tested. While they carry a small load, they also take up relatively little space in the home. Hydraulic elevators are much larger, both inside and out, and are the best choice for buyers who rely on a wheelchair.
Check the installation requirements for each model. Hydraulic elevator installation requires a pit for pistons and other equipment. Installation of these units typically leads to extensive demolition and remodeling in the home. Pneumatic elevators require only a level floor surface for installation. No excavation is required, and very little remodeling is needed.
Compare costs. According to the Wall Street Journal, pneumatic elevators cost between $20,000 and $28,000 on average, while hydraulic units can range from $15,000 to $100,000. Keep your budget in mind when comparing different units, and try to obtain pricing from multiple contractors so you can compare different options.
Think about maintenance. Pneumatic elevators rely on air pressure changes and have fewer mechanical parts than hydraulic systems. Fewer parts usually means a reduced risk for malfunction, though vacuum elevators do require new liners every few years. Consider maintenance requirements and the availability of service plans when choosing your new elevator.
Consider appearance. An elevator is a fairly large addition to your home, so it's important that it fits in with your existing decor. You can conceal some units behind walls, while others may be mounted out in the open. Consider how the finished elevator will appear, both inside and out, when making your selection.