Elevator Power Units: Everything You Need to Know

Elevator Power Units: Everything You Need to Know

Are you thinking of repairing or replacing your hydraulic elevator power unit?  This guide will help you review options, cost, and best next steps.

Elevator problems seem to strike at the worst times, leading to stress and inconvenience for occupants, visitors, and building owners.  If your unit is hydraulic based, then a defective elevator power unit might be to blame. 

As a building owner or manager, it is ultimately your responsibility to be aware of your elevator service provider’s adherence to the maintenance control program (MCP) and the requirements in your existing elevator maintenance contract before you invest in an upgrade. 

Additionally, you should be aware of the benefits of upgrading your elevator’s power unit and the reasons why you may not want to pay for such a costly upgrade immediately. 

Below is a look at the critical components of an elevator power unit and the primary factors to consider when resolving problems related to this vital elevator component.

What is an elevator power unit and what are its key elements? 

An elevator power unit is an integral component found on all types of hydraulic elevators. A power unit serves two critical purposes: it pushes the piston (elevator jack) up and also enables oil to return to the elevator’s tank as a car travels down. The typical elevator power unit module consists of the following five components:

  1. Tank: Elevator tanks typically feature 12-gauge steel construction and a means for checking the oil level
  2. Pump: Most pumps are either belted, and foot mounted or submersible and connected directly to the motor
  3. Motor: The motor within a power unit could be either AC or DC-powered, and most feature a built-in thermal detector
  4. Control Valve: The control valve operates electrically and has an opening and closing mechanism that lifts and lowers the elevator car
  5. Silencer: Also known as a hydraulic muffler, the silencer is included to suppress noise  

What are the top benefits of upgrading your elevator power unit?

Upgrading your elevator’s power unit may seem like an excellent option – especially if your facility budget is unlimited or you have a generous elevator service contract. After all, the allure of a smooth, quiet elevator that will be less expensive to maintain is difficult to resist. Upgrading your elevator power unit offers a host of benefits, including the following:

1. Improved ride quality 
A smoother, more pleasant ride is one of the top benefits of introducing an upgraded power unit. An upgrade will often result in decreased vibration and jerk that both tend to be more pronounced at higher car speeds.

2. Quieter operation
The latest cutting-edge power units feature anti-vibration mounts and increasingly sophisticated silencers that combine to provide a more smooth riding experience for users.

3. A longer warranty
Today’s superbly manufactured power units are often available with extended warranties. Some feature warranties that are valid for three years or longer depending upon your purchase agreement and special requests.

4. Cost savings
Motor upgrades typically bolster efficiency. Depending upon the type of power unit you select, the motor run time may be reduced by up to 30%. This results in significant cost savings and also helps conserve power and resources.

5. A more compact design
Current power units feature a more compact design. The key components are centrally located, enabling technicians to install the unit faster and with greater ease. A more compact design also facilitates the diagnosis of problems as well as the repair process.

6. Shorter downtime if components fail
Because today’s upgraded power units feature a smaller footprint and centralized components, repair specialists can diagnose and repair problems with a power unit more quickly. 

What to consider before upgrading your power unit? 

The benefits of upgrading your elevator’s power unit are undeniable.  However, there are some key factors that you should consider before you take the plunge and move forward with an upgraded. Here are the top four things to keep in mind before you proceed:

1. Adherence to your elevator’s maintenance control program (MCP)
Building owners and managers bear the ultimate responsibility for understanding your elevator’s maintenance control program (MCP). If you employ a service provider to maintain your elevator, that provider must also be aware of your elevator’s specific MCP and fully comply with the program. Failure to demonstrate compliance could contribute to problems with your power unit.

2. Your existing elevator maintenance contract
Before authorizing an order for a power unit upgrade, take a few minutes to review your elevator maintenance contract thoroughly. You may find that a power unit upgrade is included in your existing contract. You may also find that your service provider bears responsibility for paying the cost of the upgrade, especially if your provider neglected to perform preventive maintenance as promised in your contract.  

3. Variance in price among suppliers
There are many power unit suppliers that your elevator maintenance company can contact to procure a power unit. Restricting your search to a single provider could mean that you are missing out on cost savings that a competing company may offer. You can avoid this pitfall by making sure that your maintenance company requested pricing from at least three suppliers.   A few suppliers to consider are Bucher Hydraulics, MEI, and Canton Elevator.

4. Plans to modernize your elevator
If you are planning to renovate your building and modernize your elevator, you may wish to postpone a full power unit upgrade until the modernization.  You may also want to consider sourcing a high quality refurbished model or exchange to save on costs while ensuring that your elevator operates safely until your full modernization occurs. 

What should you do if you need an elevator power unit? 

As outlined above, there are more complexities to elevator power units than meet the eye. If your maintenance company suggests that you need a new elevator power unit, the best step to take is to seek the expertise of a trusted elevator consultant. An experienced elevator specialist will review your presenting problems and work with you to identify the safest, most cost-effective option for your facility.

We invite you to contact us at ElevatorLab to discover why we are the nation’s most dependable elevator consulting firm. Our team will analyze your elevator maintenance problems alongside your maintenance contract to determine whether an upgrade is the best course of action for your facility.  We look forward to serving as your trusted resource for all of your elevator maintenance challenges.   

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