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Originally published in Interiors & Sources

05/31/2013

Take Elevator Efficiency to the Next Level

Affordable energy savings for any budget

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Small-Scale Solutions
If your budget won’t allow a full-scale modernization, don’t worry – there are several incremental changes that will help increase efficiency without incurring large expenses.

3 Easy Upgrades

  1. Lighting and Buttons
    Like the rest of your building, lighting is a great place to shave off electricity consumption. Consider replacing your existing fluorescent tube lamps, incandescents, or halogens with LEDs or other high-efficiency, low-heat lighting for a quick payback. LED push buttons are also available.

  2. Starter Replacement
    Expect to save $300-500 per year on this upgrade, the cost of which starts around $2,500, says Andy Kohl, president of The Elevator Consultants. The greatest savings with a new starter are from its protection against poor quality power that can lead to brownouts.

  3. Controllers
    If you’re already looking at a larger-scale project, check to see if code allows controllers with standby mode where the elevator will either shut off or reduce lighting and HVAC in the elevator while it’s unoccupied.
Lighting is a great place to start, Nemeth says. For roughly $2,000-3,000, you can replace the older lighting system in one elevator with a more energy-efficient version.

“The majority of older elevator cabs have T12 fluorescent lights that may have been upgraded to T8s, and a lot of them have halogen downlights that consume a lot of energy and give off heat,” Nemeth says. “Many retrofits can be done with a small controller drive that mounts on the top of the cab. It’s almost plug-and-play to switch out the fluorescents with more modern LED lights.”

Replacing the starter could cost as little as $2,500 and offers other benefits in addition to roughly $300-500 in energy savings per year, Kohl adds.

“If you have an across-the-line starter and install one of the new starters today, it dramatically changes the elevator’s energy consumption,” Kohl says. “You can pick up some energy efficiency with a new starter, but you also save on brownouts. If you ever have a brownout, a newer starter keeps your controller from getting fried.”

Consider pairing the starter with a new landing system for additional savings, Kohl recommends.

“Landing systems typically utilize magnets or tape. The elevator starts to slow down as it gets to the landing and starts to level,” Kohl says. “With a more sophisticated landing system, you can slow down and stop a lot faster, which means less draw and less runtime on the motor.”

The landing system will cost about $4,000-5,000 if you’re not installing it during a modernization; if you wrap it into a large modernization project, the new landing system typically represents just a few hundred dollars in extra costs.

That modernization might be necessary if you’re looking to carve out steeper energy savings, but also comes with a much larger investment.

Phase In Larger Improvements
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to take on these large projects all at once, Lippman stresses – you can implement them in phases to make them more affordable.

“The costs of an elevator modernization can range from a few thousand dollars to the multimillion dollar range, depending on the scope,” Lippman notes. “A wide variety of factors, including the number of elevators, traffic requirements, and the amount of floors, fixtures, and architectural elements are all relevant when determining the cost.”

“If you’re purely looking at energy efficiency vs. ride quality, there are different levels of modernizations or retrofits. One investment is to look at the elevator machine itself – the motor, the gearbox, and so on,” Nemeth adds. “Many of these older pieces of equipment were state-of-the-art back in the ‘60s and ‘70s, and we have many options to modernize those. The simplest one would be replacing the DC motor with an AC motor and changing out the drive mechanisms for it – you can see anywhere from 30 to 50% savings by just changing out the motors in your drive systems.”


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