Sunday, January 15, 2017

Poor elevator portfolio maintenance

We went to a building to do a takeoff on a elevator for modernization last week and at a College and saw some concerning items.  We as elevator contractors see great opportunity when going to a campus with many elevators.  We also see competitive pressures that drive us to be creative in bidding to get the maintenance agreement.   I found the following on this specific elevator.  The incumbent maintenance contractor has been at this campus for over 10 years.

Get this out of the machine room College!
No jumpers sign on the controllers.  This is a generally accepted good idea and a part of the elevator code. 
 Perhaps we didn't see the sign on the controller
 It has been many years since the head was wiped off
                               It has been many years since car top has been cleaned 

Good elevator maintenance practices will reduce shut downs, prolong equipment life, allow for easier future maintenance and increase the safety of the elevator equipment.  You will not make a immediate return by performing proper maintenance but in the long term there is a benefit for all parties.  

The problem with public bids is that usually the low price comes with the lowest level of service. So perhaps the building doesn't want to pay for a good maintenance program, perhaps the elevator contractor doesn't allow the time for the elevator mechanic to complete elevator maintenance, or perhaps the elevator mechanic is complacent and uses this group of buildings to pad time.  This idea is something the building owner, elevator contractor and elevator maintenance tech all need to have buy in for.  

If you have any questions or would like information from Colley Elevator you can go to, email or call 630-766-7230.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Elevator Fireman's service phase I & II and automatic recall

We had a question from a building owner who modernized their elevator equipment on how fireman’s service operation functioned. All new elevators modernized or new construction will have fireman’s service and automatic recall.  I had intended on doing a very thorough post but non elevator life got in the way and I will revise the posting when I get a few moments.  But this is a good start.

Phase I – Fireman’s recall phase I is a key switch located in the lobby of a building, it could be in the hall button fixture or mounted in the door frame.  This key switch when activated will call the elevator to the main floor[where the key switch is] and the doors will open.  This is meant to be used by emergency service personnel only.

Phase II – The phase II key switch is in the elevator and is for the emergency personnel to operate the elevator without any interruption. 

Automatic recall – Automatic recall is when a fire recall device(s)[most of the times they are smoke detectors but the City of Chicago allows[ed] sprinkler flow switches] go off, the elevator will go to the main landing or alternate landing depending on which device goes off.  If a device on the 3rd landing goes off[assuming it is not the main landing] the elevator will go to the main landing[most times the 1st floor or lobby] and the doors will open and not allow operation of the elevator.  If a device goes off on the main landing the elevator will go to an alternate floor and the doors would open and not allow operation.  The purpose of this feature is to send the elevator away from the fire floor for everyone’s safety.

Exercising requirements – The elevator code requires FEO[Fire Fighters Emergency Operation] to be “exercised” once each month and documented.  If your elevator company isn’t coming once a month the building must have someone trained in this exercise.  

Phase I Bypass/Reset/Old Chicago – There are a few different phase I switches. 

Bypass – When turned to bypass it will bypass the smoke detectors that are active.  This was removed in the 2000 code and replaced with Reset.

Reset – 2000 and after elevator code has Reset, this will reset the controller but not allow the elevator to run if there are active smokes.

Old Chicago – This was an On/Off switch only

Phase II changes

            Pre 2004 code – key switches accessible to anyone in the elevator car station

            2004 to current – Fireman’s service panel behind locked door

If you are curious about the operation of FEO call you elevator company have them explain it to you or have them come show you how it works.

Credit – for some images used

If you have any questions or would like information from Colley Elevator you can go to, email or call 630-766-7230.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Importance of elevator data tags

This seems like a fairly straight forward item, “it is important to have the correct data tags on elevator equipment”.  This is the 2nd experience I have had in the last few months where I have run into the incorrect information on devices which may have caused unnecessary issues with the elevator system.

Experience #1 - The most recent experience was at a school we are modernizing.  The elevator had been shut down for a long period of time.  I went to get the voltage off the disconnect and saw they had small wires so I assumed it was 480vac.  I needed the motor information as well, the power unit did not have a motor tag so I looked for a controller tag and found the tag below.

Well I got the information on the motor horse power but this didn’t make sense.  It is a 208 controller with 480VAC voltage. 

I looked in the starter cabinet and found the tag below.

Perhaps the transformer dropped the voltage down at the starter to the controller but the amps are labeled incorrectly.  What else is incorrect on the control system?  This reminded me of a project we did with the same package company which everything was mislabeled,  motor was wrong size, Oh yeah the floor to floor travel was wrong too.

Experience #2 – I got a call from a electrical engineer about an elevator that had an elevator on single phase with a converter to simulate 3 phase.  This elevator had been shut down for a month after running for 11 years.  He told me about this system and something didn’t make sense.  If the elevator was running for 11 years with no issues I don’t know how the elevator system was the problem.   I went to the building and looked at the disconnect, metered the disconnect, and identified the label on the disconnect was wrong.  The elevator was correct, the converter was correct, the disconnect label was wrong.  Previous to everyone’s involvement the elevator service company installed a solid state starter on the elevator that is fed by single phase w/3 phase converter and it didn’t work.  The building hired an engineer who didn’t meter the disconnect and spent time trying to figure out why the elevator was ordered wrong.  The elevator had run 11 years prior.  Due to incorrect labeling it was out of service over a month, lots of speculation why, not sure if the elevator is running because I never heard from the engineer after I pointed this out to him.   In this case the right solution may have been to put the mechanical starter back on.  And/or get the electrician who installed the phase converter in the same room with the elevator company.  This should have taken a few days, not a month.  

Take away - Everyone makes mistakes, controller companies, electricians, elevator companies and even myself.  If you have a wrong label, correct it by getting the correct information where it needs to go.  While you may know the label is wrong, the next person may not.  DO NOT TRUST LABELS, DO NOT TRUST WHAT SOMEONE WROTE ON THE CONTROLLER, DO THE DILIGENCE TO DOUBLE CHECK.  MEASURE TWICE CUT ONE.

If you have any questions or would like information from Colley Elevator you can go to, email or call 630-766-7230.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Finishing touches – Chicago elevator maintenance

As an elevator contractor/mechanic it is difficult to get to all of our customers, fix their elevators, replace required parts, complete annual CAT 1 testing, complete annual fire testing and at times cleaning gets put on the back burner.  We have been trying to clean up some accounts that we have had for many years and some of the buildings we have as new customers.

Most of the cleaning we are completing the building owner will never see as it is in the hoistway.  Just a few elevators that had some build up of debris, dust, dirt, etc that we cleaned down the hoistway.  Not only does it look better, it removes fire hazard.  Too much dust will create a combustible environment due to particulate. 


We are trying to also get to the elevator traction machines and find the lost art of painting elevator machines.  The first picture is a elevator we modernized and painted the machine.  The 2nd group is a newer account we are taking the time to paint the machine and machine room floor. 



We are also trying to get to elevator machine rooms that could use a nice coat of paint on the floor.  We picked up a account with 16 elevators and spent some time cleaning the machine rooms and putting a coat of paint on the floor.


In the fast paced day to day of we still believe it is important to make the elevator environment clean, when it is clean it is easier to work on.

If you have any questions or would like information from Colley Elevator you can go to, email or call 630-766-7230.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Elevator warranty versus maintenance

We receive correspondences from customers from time to time indicating they have questions on bills because they have just modernized their elevator equipment and it should be under warranty.  One in particular was a building who replaced their door operator and power unit and believe that all the service calls for their elevator should be covered.  The building went so far as to cancel their maintenance agreement with the elevator maintenance provider they had been using previous to our involvement to save funds.  While the conversation of warranty vs maintenance does not occur very frequently, it does happen, and we have to explain the difference between warranty and maintenance each time.  Each project is a little different so circumstances are always unique to the building.

We always encourage buildings to make sure they have a watchful eye on their elevator equipment.  When we fully modernize an elevator electrically and mechanically we will complete maintenance visits for the first year in conjunction with the one year warranty.  The perceptual black hole occurs when buildings do a little of this one year and a little of that the next year until their elevator is fully modernized.


Warrantya written guarantee, issued to the purchaser of an article by its manufacturer, promising to repair or replace it if necessary within a specified period of time.

Preventative maintenance - Preventative maintenance (or preventive maintenance) is maintenance that is regularly performed on a piece of equipment to lessen the likelihood of it failing. Preventative maintenance is performed while the equipment is still working, so that it does not break down unexpectedly.

I go to many condominium meetings and I know buildings always have funding challenges. Most buildings have good intentions when they take action and may not be informed on the implications of their decisions.

Building owner thought process – We are spending a lot of money on changing the elevator equipment I believe the company’s warranty should cover our service calls.

Elevator Company thought process – The building only changed 30% of their equipment and the service call was for a component they choose to retain.

Take away – Talk to the elevator company about what is covered and what is not covered prior to entering into an agreement.  Talk about what happens. It is better to have the conversation before so everyone is on the same page. 

If you have any questions or would like information from Colley Elevator you can go to, email or call 630-766-7230.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Hydraulic elevator maintenance - cold temperatures

We have been having a warm winter until the last few days which have been more of a typical Chicago winter.  This is a reminder to building owners to keep your machine rooms warm to avoid any head aches from cold weather.  This is a repost from last year when we had extreme cold temperatures for a prolonged period of time.

 We have been visiting the same customers in the morning the last few days that indicate their elevator “does not work”.  When we get to the building we discovered the elevator room is ice cold and the hydraulic oil needs to be heated up.  We typically have the same conversations with building ownership about keeping their machine rooms warm.

The temperatures that hydraulic elevators fluid should be is 

Operating temperature  - 80 to 150 degrees Fahrenheit 
Operating temperature  - 100 to 130 degrees Fahrenheit 

Source - Maxton Valve[] - Maxton valve is one of the largest valve suppliers in North America.

Oil composition when it gets cold – When hydraulic elevator fluid gets cold it becomes thicker or has a higher viscosity.  

Viscosity definition - The viscosity of a fluid is a measure of its resistance to gradual deformation by shear stressor tensile stress. For liquids, it corresponds to the informal concept of "thickness". For example, honey has a much higher viscosity than water.

How does this translate to your elevator – In our Chicago area environment we use a certain hydraulic fluid that offers more flexibility between hot and cold environment because of our seasons in the Chicago area.  Due to significant swings in temperature in our environment when it is very cold the oil gets thicker and the valve and elevator system will not operate correctly causing a potential issue with leveling or entrapment.  The reverse occurs when it gets very hot and the oil gets very hot.  Both scenarios cause safety issues for the elevator riders.  If we always had cold or warm temperatures we could use a different hydraulic fluid that would be more appropriate for a hot or cold environment.  But! We live in Chicago.

What not to do – As a building owner it is very important to have your elevator running.  Some building owners take it upon themselves to improvise to get their elevators running on cold days with space heaters.  While the installation of space heaters is a short term solution, it isn't a safe long term solution as you will see space heaters in non-occupied machinery spaces that can malfunction causing smoke and fire hazard.  The space heaters also can overload your electrical circuits causing your breakers to trip.  The electricity costs to run multiple heaters in one year would probably be significantly more than the installation of a elevator tank heater.

[Space heater on the valve]
[Space heaters on the valve and oil tank]
                                              [Space heater in the elevator pit]

Recommended solution – Install a tank heater to be turned on during the winter months.  This is a safe alternative to what you see above.


Hydraulic tank heater[can cost $500.00 to $1,000.00] - The heating element goes into the hydraulic tank and will maintain an constant temperature.  There will need to be a 110vac outlet available adjacent to the elevator machine to plug into.

Take away - If your elevator machine room is 30 degrees on cold days, your elevator will not work properly.  If you cannot safely heat the elevator machine area to an appropriate temperature contact your elevator maintenance company to give you a price on a tank heater.

If you have an questions or would like information from Colley Elevator you can go to, email or call 630-766-7230.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Elevator machine rooms – Remove non elevator material

Every once in a while I get pictures from the maintenance mechanics because they can’t get into elevator machine rooms or there are write ups.  This post is a reminder to building owners to keep their machine rooms clear so we can do our jobs.  It is winter so our machine rooms become good places for shovels, salt, snow blowers, gas, etc.  All buildings have a better place to store non elevator related items then the elevator machine room.  If my suggestion is not enough, you will be written up by the Fire Department or the Elevator inspector for not having the correct electrical clearances and access to equipment Fire Departments or Elevator Personnel will need access to. 

  [This building has a big mechanical area with no separation between the elevator mechanical equipment and the boilers, they will need to provide a clear path to get to the elevator equipment]. 

   [There is an elevator machine behind all of the junk in the way]. 

                       [This non elevator equipment is orderly but still needs to be moved]. 

Take away - Move your stuff before there is an issue getting to the equipment or you get a violation written against the building. It is not the elevator persons job to climb over building material to get to the elevator to complete the testing, address a shut down or remove an entrapped person from the elevator.  The elevator person may huff and puff about the building items but the Fire Department may get a bit more worked up if they find things in their way.

Other items 

Formula Systems Holiday Party - Tuesday, December 6th
Chicago Elevator Association Holiday Party - Wednesday, December 7th - Dana Hotel - Chicago, IL

If you have any questions or would like information from Colley Elevator you can go to, email or call 630-766-7230.