Thinking about energy saving? Think elevators!

FM newsroom – facility operation, energy efficiency. Whether it’s a shopping mall, a hospital or an office complex energy efficiency means significant cost savings. But when considering building energy optimization, elevators and escalators are often overlooked. This is a pity, considering that they are not only energy saving tools, but can also be energy producing devices.


Multi-level buildings like office complexes, hotels, healthcare facilities and retail properties all rely on vertical transportation. Elevators and escalators can consume up to 15% of a building’s power. The energy conserved by retrofitting elevators and escalators with any of the numerous energy-saving mechanisms equals a reduction in operating costs and a building’s carbon footprint. Saving money and decreasing carbon emissions are good reasons to take a second look at vertical transportation – Barbra Murray contributor writer for Propmodo suggests.


(In)visible energy-saving methods

Some energy-saving features are obvious, others happen behind the scenes. A visible change for the better is the use of LED lighting instead of incandescent lights in elevator cabins. A hidden feature, still one of the most common methods of decreasing elevators’ and escalators’ energy consumption is the use of the standby mode. An elevator’s power can be automatically transitioned to reserve mode with intelligent control systems and occupancy sensors when low usage is detected. The standby mode can turn off features consuming electricity such as lights, music, video screens, and ventilation.


Mechanical enhancements

The elevator’s mechanical systems are undergoing enhancements to boost their efficiency. One key improvement involves the adoption of gearless drives to replace the traditional cable-based mechanisms with flexible bands. This change offers several advantages, such as saving space, reducing weight, and enabling smoother and more precise movements of the elevator cabin.


Murray points out that the elevators’ motors are also receiving upgrades. A novel technique involves integrating rare earth metals into the motor’s rotor. In an electric motor, a magnetic field is necessary for it to function. The magnetic field interacts with the electrical current passing through the motor, causing it to rotate and drive the elevator. By incorporating rare earth metals into the rotor, the motor can generate this required magnetic field with up to 35 % less energy. This improvement reduces the elevator’s overall power consumption, making it more sustainable and cost-effective.


Saving energy is not enough 

For elevators to really help cut energy bills and carbon emissions, they also need to generate electricity. The new generation of elevator tech incorporates regenerative drives, which produce energy when the elevators are being lowered, particularly when heavily loaded. That electricity is returned to a building’s power grid and used in other parts of the property. There is a range of options in regenerative drives, which can recover up to 30 % of an elevator’s total energy consumption.


Machine room-less (MRL) elevators are another means of conserving elevator energy. MRL elevators rely on higher efficiency, compact, gearless traction systems that can fit into the system’s hoistway. This means eliminating the need for an energy-consuming elevator machine room while freeing up leaseable space.


Maintenance as a means of savings

By consistently conducting maintenance of elevators and escalators, facility managers can quickly identify energy-draining problems. Predictive maintenance takes the process a step further. Using intelligent control systems to analyze performance and forecast the necessity for maintenance can help address potential maintenance needs before they actually become an issue.


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