Our Guide to How Elevators Work
You probably ride elevators close to every day without ever considering how they work to get you to your destination. However, if your building has an elevator, you need to understand the basics of how your elevator equipment operates. Having a general understanding of how elevators work can better equip you for operating and maintaining a safe and reliable elevator so that all visitors to your building can enjoy a comfortable ride.
There are two main types of elevators—hydraulic and roped elevators—both of which will be explained here. Keep reading!
General Information to Know
Before we get into each kind of elevator’s specifics, there are a few general things to understand about how elevators work.
First of all, how do elevators know what to do?
In all elevator types, a computer tells the elevator where the car is, where passengers want to go, and where each floor is.
How do elevators know how many passengers to pick up before heading to riders’ destinations?
Elevators have load sensors that tell the elevator how much weight is on board. When the elevator has reached its weight capacity, it will continue straight to passengers’ destinations without first answering new elevator calls. If an elevator is overloaded at a stop, its doors will remain open until the weight is removed and it is safe to resume operation.
How do elevators know not to close their doors on boarding passengers?
Elevators are equipped with motion sensors to keep elevator doors from closing on passengers.
Hydraulic elevators rely on hydraulic properties to run. These elevators contain a cylinder, a piston, a fluid reservoir (also called a tank), a rotary pump, a valve, and some type of hydraulic fluid. Most hydraulic elevators use oil as their hydraulic fluid.
Once instructed to go up, the elevator’s pump sends hydraulic fluid into the cylinder and closes a valve. The closing valve then pressurizes the fluid and pushes the piston upwards. This action propels the elevator up until it reaches its destination. Once the elevator has reached the floor it is traveling towards, the pump shuts off, and the elevator stops moving.
To descend, the elevator’s valve opens and releases hydraulic fluid into the reservoir as the elevator moves down towards its destination.
Roped elevators rely on balancing weight to run. These elevators have steel ropes, a sheave that hoists the ropes, an electric motor, a counterweight, guide rails, and a gear train.
The way roped elevators work is by balancing the elevator’s weight and its passengers with the counterweight. The electric motor moves the elevator up and down as instructed.
Both hydraulic and roped elevators rely on a few safety systems in case of malfunction. The steel ropes of a roped elevator act as their first line of defense, as a single steel rope can hold the elevator car’s weight.
Built-in braking systems work to grab onto the rail in case the elevator begins moving too quickly. Electromagnetic brakes stop the elevator in the event of a power outage.
The bottom of the elevator shaft is equipped with a shock-absorber system (usually a piston mounted in an oil-filled cylinder) to cushion the elevator car’s landing in case other safety systems fail.
Understanding how elevators work is essential to maintaining a safe and reliable elevator in your building. To work with a team of highly skilled and dedicated elevator technicians, contact Champion Elevator today!