It seems that lately we have been seeing requests to check out residential elevators that have been installed and not serviced for 20+ years. This is not to say these requests were because the lifts were inoperable but quite the contrary. These customers have been using that lift consistently over the years and eventually they start making a particular new noise or running differently. All of these units needed little to moderate repair after the initial service inspection.
What kind of residential elevators are these? Back in the 1980’s a man by the name of John Corbett began developing the “Roped Hydraulic” elevator system and what developed was the Cemco Lift company brand of elevator. Our company started installing this type of elevator in 1988. Previously we were installing only the winding drum type of elevator system. The birth of the roped hydraulic system introduced to the industry the first smooth riding (2 speed operation) unit. This system also gave us the ability to easily locate the equipment remotely from the elevator shaft.
As a testimonial, there are probably hundreds of thousands of these Cemco Lifts installed worldwide still running flawlessly today. In my 30 years of experience in the elevator industry, it is virtually unheard of to have an elevator operating flawlessly or a shutdown without maintenance service for more than a couple years. The majority of the older units are in need of expensive rework and are sometimes now being replaced with newer equipment.
The only modernization needed for these old Cemco Lifts are a controller replacement as the computers are now finally starting to fail after 30+ years. We have also witnessed the occasional need to rebuild the hydraulic valves, which is a small fix for such an expensive piece of equipment.
An example of this happened to me recently. I was scheduled to check a unit that had been shut down by the customer for about 3 years. When I arrived at the site, I immediately recognized the house. I repaired the non functioning phone line on a trouble call in the late 1990’s. Here it is 2014 and this elevator hasn’t been serviced, inspected, and was even unused for 3 years. I turned on the power and the unit started up like it had just been asleep for a few years. Of course, upon further examination, I determined the unit needed a through servicing and cleaned all the spider webs out. When I was done, the unit ran as good as the day it was first installed. No leaks or major issues whatsoever.
We still have our hands full these days with the other types of elevators needing more frequent attention as they have proven to last only a few years of neglect before they cease to operate.
What has this to do with the elevators today and the increasing modern technology? Of course manufacturers and sales representatives are going to tell you their state of the art equipment is going to give you years of reliable service. Well, time has proven that the correctly assembled roped hydraulic system can and will last several decades, even if it is severely neglected!!
Cemco Lift is not around anymore, but there are systems being built with the same specifications and quality of the original design of the past. No one can predict how long an elevator system will run reliably but as time has proven, the roped hydraulic system seems to outlast the rest, even with neglect. This is not to promote non-servicing of elevators. Every piece of mechanical equipment needs the occasional inspection, cleaning and lubrication. A lot of our customers have regular service contracts and this proves to be an “insurance policy” for the unit remaining to work flawlessly and consistently. I know from personal experience that when we do regular servicing of the roped hydraulic systems vs the winding drum or traction units, it is a difference of just going over there operation of the lift, cleaning the contacts, tightening lag bolts and ensuring it is working properly vs servicing and having parts fail during the service due to the added fatigue of the service being performed. Case in point, we have yet to ever re cable a roped hydraulic but are constantly replacing the wire ropes or shortening the traction cables!!
Whether you have an elevator in need of servicing or interested in a new installation, call Inclinator Co. of Ca. at (800)201-1212.