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SERVICES – Installation – Residential Elevators

A residential elevator is a small elevator intended for use in a single family dwelling to transport the residents from one floor to another. They are not permitted to be installed in public buildings in New Jersey or New York. They may only be installed in multi-family dwellings if they only serve a single dwelling.


Residential elevators are limited by the National Elevator Safety Code (ANSI A17.1) to a maximum platform area of 15 sq/ft., 50 feet of travel, a speed of 30 feet per minute and five landings. It is possible to exceed this limitation using a variation but a legitimate demonstrable need must exist.

The Process

We install residential elevators manufactured by Inclinator and other manufacturers. While there are more popular sizes, each car is constructed individually. Design happens in one of two ways. First, in a "build-to-suit" application, the desired car size is determined in advance and you or your contractor constructs a hoistway to our specified size. The second option is much more common in existing homes. With this option, Bob Shipley will meet you at your site and together you will make a decision about the viability and placement of a residential elevator. After the placement is decided upon, measurements will be taken and within a short time (typically one business day) we will notify you of the elevator car size that fits into the space.

The construction process allows us to match new elevators to existing conditions, making retrofitting a new elevator to an existing home as easy as any construction project can be.

Drive Systems

There are three popular types of drive systems that the vast majority of residential elevators fall into: winding drum, roped hydraulic and chain drive.

Winding drum is the oldest of the three predominant drive systems. A motor is connected to a reducer and a steel drum with machined grooves for the cable is attached to the output SHAFT of the reducer. The elevator cab is attached to the drum by two cables and to go up cable is wound onto the drum and to go down cable is paid out. In recent years, advances in motor control technology has resulted in the application of variable voltage variable frequency motor control and battery lowering to this tried and true drive system. This drive system allows the machinery to be placed either in an overhead position, i.e. in an attic, or adjacent to the hoistway at any landing.

Most residential elevators installed by RMR are winding drum elevators (See diagram). 

A roped hydraulic residential elevator is the newest of the drive systems. The elevator cab is suspended by two ropes that extend from the elevator cab over a sheave (or pulley) mounted on top of a hydraulic cylinder and then attached to a dead end hitch in the elevator pit. In this configuration, the elevator travels two inches for every inch the piston travels. The piston is driven by a hydraulic power unit which consists of a motor, a pump, a control valve and an oil reservoir connected to the cylinder by a pipe and sometimes with a flexible high pressure hose. The hydraulic power unit is typically located adjacent to the hoistway at the bottom landing served by the elevator.

In the past, hydraulic elevators became very popular due to their advantage of a battery lowering feature. This allowed them to lower their occupants to the safety of the next lower landing in the event of a power outage. Today, ALL of our residential elevators have the battery lowering feature. This makes the possibility of a hydraulic oil leak an unnecessary risk.

The chain drive residential elevator is similar in nature to the winding drum machine as both use a motor coupled to a reducer. The difference is that instead of having a drum attached to the output shaft of the reducer, two sprockets are used to drive a large roller chain that is connected to the elevator car on one side and a counterweight on the other. The chain drive machinery is usually mounted in an overhead application; sometimes in a Machine Room Less configuration.

Machine Room Less Residential Elevators

Machine room less elevators (MRL’s) are simply elevators that do not have a dedicated machine room; the machine is typically in the hoistway (overhead for drum, chain drive and traction elevators and immediately adjacent at the lower landing for hydraulic elevators) with a control space recessed into a closet or hallway wall in the vicinity of the elevator hoistway.

MRL’s are very popular with architects and some customers because they like the concept of not “wasting” space on a dedicated elevator machine room.

As a service oriented elevator service company, RMR does not recommend MRL’s except in certain very limited circumstances.  Our opinion is that the difficulty presented by trying to service a machine where the control system and driving machine are separated from each other is not worth the very limited increase in floor space. Furthermore, if a motor or driving machine fails on a MRL, the repair and replacement process is dramatically more complicated and, as such, the maintenance and repair costs are sure to be more.

Nevertheless, if the customer wishes, RMR can provide a MRL in either a hydraulic or chain drive configuration.

Diagram for Roped Hydro.

Diagram for MRL.