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How to Choose a Residential Elevator

A home elevator is particularly beneficial to those with limited mobility. With so many options available, most homeowners can find the lift that's right for them.

How to Choose a Residential Elevator

Elevators are becoming more common in high-end homes because they offer easy access to multiple floors. While it might seem that all elevators are the same, there are many things to consider when choosing one that is right for you.

Things to Consider

The cost of an elevator installation ranges from about $15,000 to $100,000. Most home elevators fall into the $20,000 to $25,000 range. The cost depends on several factors, including cab options such as chandeliers and the drive system. Other cost factors are the size of the cab, size of the elevator shaft and its location, and door type and placement.

Drive Systems

Home elevators are available with several types of drive systems. These include cable winding drum, hydraulic, chain-drive counterweight, gearless traction, inline gear drive and vacuum tube. Each drive system has its advantages and disadvantages. For example, a cable winding drum system is the least expensive to install but has a rough ride in comparison to other systems. The use of hydraulic systems is common in commercial as well as residential applications. They run smoothly and quietly but need more maintenance than other home elevators. All drive systems need maintenance at least once a year.

Elevator Cab Size

Residential elevator cabs are regulated by national code to 15 square feet in size. The smallest cab is 36-inches wide by 48-inches deep, large enough to accommodate a wheelchair. More spacious units in sizes ranging from 3-feet wide and 5-feet deep are available. The cab size you choose will depend on the size of your hoistway and your budget.

Interior and Exterior Shafts

The hoistway is the shaft which holds the elevator cab. For a standard cab, you need a hoistway of 52-inches wide to 56-inches deep. A shaft of five square feet is enough for the largest cabs. Elevator shaft installs are routine in a new build, but much more difficult in an existing home. Installation involves the relocation of pipes, installation of new ductwork and extensive carpentry. A less expensive option is to install an exterior shaft onto the end of the house where there are no space constraints.

Elevator Configuration

A residential elevator can serve up to five floors and travel a maximum of 50 feet. You need a pit that is 9-to-16-inches below the level of the bottom of the shaft or landing for overtravel. Elevator doors must remain open a minimum of 20 seconds. The least expensive and most common door layout is to have the doors on the same side so that passengers enter and exit the same way. For wheelchairs, it is easier to have doors on opposite sides, to avoid having to back in or out.

About the Author

Gary Sprague is a master plumber with more than 25 years of experience. His articles have appeared in many online and print publications.