You may be among the many homeowners who are considering the addition of an elevator for home use. Whether a retrofit to your existing residence or a part of new construction, you will be glad to know that you can select from a variety of options when personalizing your elevator for aesthetics and function. While both aspects are essential, the foundational component to initial planning is determining the functionality of your elevator. Because this is likely an unfamiliar venture, you may be wondering where to begin.
The practical function of a home elevator is not as complicated as you may think, and includes: Elevator Size, Drive System and Car Entry/Exit Configuration. Let’s take a brief look at each.
Home Elevator Size
To meet your specific needs, it is imperative that you have an idea of how large or small the elevator needs to be. When contemplating size, think about square footage and weight capacity and consider:
- Who will use the elevator?
If a wheelchair user or multiple passengers will access the elevator at one time, you want to be sure that the car can safely and comfortably accommodate everyone. Using standard 12” x 12” floor tiling can help you envision a comfortable square footage to meet your needs.
- How will the elevator be used?
Will the elevator be used primarily to transport you, friends and family? Will it be required to carry heavy or bulky items between floors? Will the elevator ever be used by someone with a walker or wheelchair? Consider the current intended and potential future use of the elevator during the planning stage.
How much space is available?
When considering how much installation space can be utilized for the elevator, new construction will likely provide the greatest flexibility. When retrofitting an existing home for an elevator, there are available options, such as drive system and gates/door choices, which can help to maximize available space.
Home Elevator Drive System
Selecting an elevator drive system is another functional choice that must be considered in the home elevator planning stage when looking at types of elevators. Cost of installation and maintenance, existing space or new space and personal preferences will play a role in this decision. Most elevator companies offer more than one elevator drive system. Let’s take a look at three popular choices.
- Winding Drum Drive
This tried-and-true drive system which utilizes heavy duty aircraft cables attached to a rotating drum, has been around for decades and provides passengers with smooth stops and an overall comfortable ride. Utilizing a separate machine room and additional hoistway space for installation, the Winding Drum Drive is an excellent choice for new construction or existing homes with the appropriate available space. As a code-compliant safety measure, some elevator manufacturers offer a self-closing, self-locking door for the drum motor. As an additional layer of protection, a Drum Guard may be added to fully enclose the motor.
- Hydraulic Drive
The Hydraulic Drive provides one of the smoothest, quietest rides available on the home elevator market. A separate machine room is required for installation of a Hydraulic Drive. For people who value extremely low sound levels during operation, hydraulic elevators are an outstanding choice.
Inline Gear Drive
When limited space is one of the primary considerations for the installation of a home elevator, an Inline Gear Drive is the clear choice. Unlike most elevator drives, the Inline Gear Drive does not require an additional machine room. This drive is also one of the most energy efficient available in the home elevator market.
Home Elevator Entry/Exit Configuration
Entry/exit configuration simply refers to the manner in which a passenger enters and exits the elevator. There are three typical entry/exit options available with residential elevators.
- Single Opening
With the single opening option, a passenger may only enter and exit the elevator through the same opening, in much the same manner as one would enter and exit a pantry or walk-in closet in the home.
- Straight-Through Opening
The straight-through opening is quite possibly the easiest manner in which to enter and exit an elevator. This configuration allows passengers to enter the elevator straight on, travel to the desired floor and leave the elevator by going straight through the exit, in a manner similar to going down a hallway. A straight-through opening is an excellent option for wheelchair users when home layout allows.
With the 90° opening, a passenger enters the elevator through the opening and travels to the floor of their choice. When they arrive at the appropriate landing, they will exit through an opening to the left or right, whichever is applicable to the specific layout of the home. With a 90° opening, the elevator car can be designed so that exit can be gained through an exit to the right, left or both.
Adding an elevator for home use is an exciting decision. While the planning stage is an exhilarating time, deciding upon the functionality of your elevator may seem a bit daunting. It doesn’t have to be. When you are ready to move forward, contact a local home elevator company. There you will find qualified professionals who can help to assess your specific situation and offer support and direction so that your elevator’s functionality is in perfect alignment with your individual needs.