Hydraulic Home Elevator Guide

Are you looking for a quiet home elevator that provides a smooth ride? If so, a hydraulic elevator might be the right choice for you. Hydraulic home elevators rely on a design long used by the commercial and industrial elevator market for everything from dumbwaiters to freight lifts and are known for their reliability and easy maintenance.

How do hydraulic home elevators work?

Hydraulic elevators are powered by a piston encased in an airtight cylinder. An electric motor pumps hydraulic oil into the cylinder, which moves the piston and lifts the elevator car. To descend, a valve slowly releases the pressure built up inside the cylinder, and the piston moves down, taking the car with it. The results are very smooth and quiet car ascents and descents.

Hydraulic home elevators require a small machine room located next to the shaftway or hoistway to store the necessary hydraulic pumping equipment and controls. Some models include emergency battery-operated lowering in case of power interruptions.

When to choose a hydraulic home elevator

When should you choose a hydraulic elevator over other types of elevators? Homes with larger floor plans are more suitable for hydraulic elevators than smaller spaces, due to machine room requirements.

Hydraulic lifts have a reputation for dependability and low maintenance, so the amount of upkeep needed to keep your home elevator running smoothly is reduced. Hydraulic elevators can serve applications that may have larger weight capacities. If you or a family member use a wheelchair, a hydraulic elevator is an excellent choice. The quiet operation of hydraulic lifts should also be considered if you want an elevator that won’t disturb other people when it is in use.

Pros and cons of hydraulic elevators

Like any piece of equipment, a hydraulic elevator has its advantages and disadvantages, all of which must be carefully considered before purchase. The main pros of installing a hydraulic lift are:

  • Cars can be large enough to accommodate multiple passengers or wheelchairs.
  • Carrying capacity for a residential hydraulic lift can be 1,000 pounds or more.
  • Hydraulic machine rooms are separate from the lift hoistway, reducing operating noise.
  • If needed, hydraulic elevators can access up to five levels.

On the other side of the equation, hydraulic lifts do have a few drawbacks:

  • Installation of a hoistway and machine room reduces living room or storage space, making installation in smaller rooms challenging.
  • Due to the use of hydraulic oil, there is the possibility of leaks.
  • The hydraulic pump will run at times when the elevator is not running to re-level.
  • A hydraulic elevator needs to be exercised weekly, so it is not ideal for vacation homes.

What size profile is appropriate for a residential hydraulic elevator?

The amount of space a hydraulic elevator requires depends on several factors. The car and surrounding shaftway typically take up twenty square feet, or four feet by five feet. The machine room will be four feet by four feet to meet the minimum working space specified by the National Electric Code.
This is a significant amount of floor space. Some people place machine rooms in storage areas to minimize the impact on living space, while others install the machine room in their garage.

Comparing hydraulic lifts to other home elevators

Hydraulic elevators are not your only option. Depending on your needs and your home’s size, another type of residential elevator may be a better choice. Take your time when comparing elevators: a home lift is a significant investment, and you want to be sure of your final decision.

Hydraulic Elevators  vs. MRL Lifts

If space is a concern, a machine roomless elevator (MRL), or inline gear drive, may be a better choice than a hydraulic lift, as the shaftway serves as the machine space and in some instances, the control space as well. The inline gear drive elevator utilizes a counterweight system which is used to offset the majority of the static weight of the empty elevator car providing a more energy efficient system.

That said, hydraulic elevators compare well to MRL systems. A hydraulic lift can cost up to 20% less than the cost of an MRL elevator and provides a much greater lifting force.

Winding Drum vs Hydraulic Elevators

The difference between winding drum and hydraulic elevators is how the two systems move the car. While hydraulic lifts rely on a piston, a winding drum elevator uses a gear box that acts as a winch, changing direction by the drum winding the elevator up or down depending on the direction of travel.

When comparing winding drum vs hydraulic elevators, hydraulic systems generally cost less to install and require less expensive maintenance. Hydraulics are also better suited for heavy loads, such as electric wheelchairs.

Hydraulic home elevators have a long history of reliability, power, and smooth, quiet rides, making them one of the most popular residential elevators on the market. To find out if a hydraulic home lift is right for you, or if a different system better fits your needs, contact a Symmetry Elevator dealer today.

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