Increasing elevator efficiency

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Elevator energy use accounts for three to seven per cent of a building’s total energy consumption. However, there is the potential for energy savings by improving elevator efficiency through new technologies.

Chris Smith of Schindler Elevator Corporation explains how increasing an elevator’s sustainability cannot only lead to energy savings, but can also improve its performance.

What technology upgrades can increase an elevator’s sustainability?

The drive systems are usually one of the largest sources of energy waste in elevators. Older drives like motor generator sets are continuously running, which can be very inefficient and contribute to wasted energy. They generate a lot of heat, requiring additional energy from building systems such as HVAC to cool the equipment. This can contribute to hidden energy costs. One of the best ways to combat this is to install highly efficient regenerative drives.

New technologies are far more efficient than their predecessors were. Some regenerate energy back into the building’s grid, providing up to 40 per cent energy savings over older systems. Newer systems can also load people more efficiently with less elevator stops, which maximize the productivity of the entire system. These destination dispatch systems can be installed with relatively little impact to building tenants.

Finally, upgrades like converting an older geared machine to a newer gearless one offers significantly better ride quality and performance, as well as about 15 per cent in efficiency gains. These new types of technology can be paired together to increase the efficiency of an older system by up to 60 per cent.

Why should building owners consider putting in more sustainable elevators?

Though many building owners and facility managers see sustainability as the right thing to do for the environment, there is also a strong business case for it. Inefficient elevators can lead to more serious problems over time. Inefficient elevators may require additional maintenance to keep them running safely and smoothly, adding to a building’s operational costs.

Operational inefficiencies in an existing elevator system can lead to reliability issues and contribute to higher shutdown rates. Increased wait times can also be a factor. Older elevator technology has benchmark wait times at around 40 seconds, while models that are more efficient boast standard wait times closer to 20 seconds. These operational problems can negatively affect tenant satisfaction and lease retention rates. When considering the gains in efficiency and performance, the cost savings and the positive impact on tenant satisfaction, making the switch to sustainable elevator technology is logical.

Overall, sustainable elevator technologies have positive impacts on elevator performance. Components such as regenerative drives and destination dispatch systems affect both performance and reliability. These innovations allow modern elevators to make smoother, faster rides that also use less energy per trip.

What technologies have the biggest impact on energy savings?

A number of factors, including the traffic of an elevator system, the type of system in place and the local kilowatt per hour costs all contribute to the cost of running an elevator.

A building owner’s first step should be to look at the two biggest culprits of potential inefficiency: drive systems and geared machines. If a building is currently running on a geared machine or an older drive system, upgrading to regenerative, high efficiency drives and gearless machines will have a huge impact on the energy efficiency of the elevator system.

Destination dispatch systems are increasing in popularity, because while they have a significant impact on energy savings, they also derive business value for building owners and tenants with access control features and personalized elevator service.

Chris Smith is the director of marketing and communications at Schindler Elevator Corporation

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