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.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Are elevator pit hydraulic shut off valves required?

From time to time we discuss modernization projects with potential customers and they indicate  Company XYZ said “this”.  I was approached after a scope review about an Intergalactic Company indicating all buildings must have a pit shut off valves installed.  I was not 100% on the answer.  I do remember going back and forth with a City of Chicago inspector about one we put in on an elevator cylinder replacement.  We typically install pit shut offs on all cylinder replacements and he was indicating it should not be there.

[Machine room shut off]
                                                   [Hydraulic elevator pit shut off]

Lets find out what the code says. A17.1 2013 Shutoff Valve.  A manually operated shut off valve shall be provided between the hydraulic machines and the hydraulic jack and shall be located outside the hoistway and adjacent to the hydraulic machine.

Where the hydraulic machine is located in the hoistway, the manually operated shutoff valve shall be permitted to be located inside the hoistway, provided that it is accessible from outside hoistway to elevator personnel only.

Ok, my interpretation is that one shut off needs to be located in the elevator machine room.  This is the minimum.  Now, we can install them in the elevator pit for maintenance reasons, but the pit cannot be the only means to isolate the hydraulic oil line.

So Intergalactic Company while your recommendation is good practice, it is not the code to install the shut off valve in the hoistway when you replace a controller.  But the sales person may have been confused because they are also installing MRL hydraulic elevators that would have a shut off in the hoistway[see paragraph 2].  The same sales person from the Empire also told the building owner they needed a pit ladder for the walk in pit.  Personally I would rather walk down the building stairs and walk through a pit door then climb down 14’ to the elevator pit.

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

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Elevator cylinder replacement due to electrolysis – Chicago, IL

Colley Elevator has always done a significant amount of elevator cylinder replacements but over the last few years with the recent City of Chicago mandate to remove all single bottom cylinders we have been doing more than usual.

We pull a lot of cylinders out of the ground and see the metal on the cylinder degraded and go “electrolysis”.  Well…. What exactly is this electrolysis?  What does it look like?

What is Electrolysis?  Electrolysis is the electrochemical process which causes gradual degradation (corrosion) of the underground steel hydraulic cylinder. Every time your elevator goes up your cylinder can be electrically charged. Damage cannot be detected through routine preventive maintenance until the underground hydraulic cylinder has been breached.

[These two pictures are from a cylinder that was recently removed.  The elevator was running fine and was only replaced due to the City of Chicago mandate. It appears this was very close to starting to leak]

Declining fluid level in the power unit oil reservoir is, most often, the first indicator that a cylinder has been breached. Regular, visual inspection of the fluid level should occur with the elevator at the bottom floor served and at the same hour of the day. Once a breach has been detected, the elevator must be removed from service until the cylinder is repaired or replaced.

How do I know if my cylinder is exposed or maybe suspect?  You don’t, they cylinder is underground.  You complete annual CAT 1 testing on the elevator system’s integrity.   Testing may accelerate cylinder failure if it’s already in a weakened condition. Remember, the day after a test reveals no leak, a leak can develop.

Don't forget water - Electrolysis is not the only potential danger to your cylinder, water will speed up the deterioration process.  Now we put PVC down to eliminate the cylinders exposure to water and other elements underground. But...

[When we finished - right elevator]

[Less than a year later - left elevator]

The pictures above are a project we completed less than a year ago.  Side by side elevators. Please keep water out of the elevator pit.

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

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Firefighters Emergency Operation - Existing Elevators - City of Chicago

On Thursday we had a presentation on the City of Chicago upcoming code changes at the Chicago Elevator Association meeting by the Chicago Elevator Code Chairman Joe Donnelly.  Since 2006 there have been some changes being made to Elevator Fireman’s Service.  Since 2006 it has been pushed back and back and back.  The document dated November 2nd, 2016 indicates that all elevators with Phase II operation must comply with the following as of 1/1/17.  So buildings have 60 days to get this one.  It is safe to say this will not be completed in 60 days.  AIC buildings will be cited initially because they need to get inspected once a year and there will be a lag time for the City of Chicago Inspectors to get to the remainder of the buildings. 

Only effects buildings with Phase II – If the elevator does not have phase II it does not apply.  This also means if there is no fireman’s service on the elevator it does not apply.

Onus may be on inspectors – While buildings hire contractors to inform them and complete the work the major burden may be on the inspectors to flag the buildings that need to have this completed.  There will be a document that needs to be signed off on for each building by an inspector.  To be safe, if you are a building owner go through this check list with your elevator maintenance contractor.

1.    A permit is required to complete any modification required by Section 18-30-320

2.    Work required to comply with Section 18-30-320 may be completed without updating other features of the existing elevator to a later code. [This means that you don’t necessarily have to put rope grippers on or change the entire control system]

3.    Automatic recall of the elevators is not required.

4.    When the Phase II switch is turned to the OFF position and the door open button is released, the doors will close and the elevator will revert to Phase I Operation and will return to the designated level.  This must occur with the doors fully open and may occur with the doors partially closed.

5.    The elevator shall have an illuminated visual signal in the car station for Firefighters’ Emergency Operation.  The illuminated visual signal is not required to depict a fire hat if that was not required at the time of original installation.

6.    The elevator shall have an audible signal in the car station for Firefighter’s Emergency service operation

7.    The elevator shall have a “Car Call Cancel” push button in the car station

8.    Elevators at the designated level not on Phase II Operation shall return to group operation when Phase I switch is turned OFF

9.    Elevators not at the designated level when the Phase I switch is turned OFF shall return to the designated level before they can return to group operation

10. Existing keying may remain.  FEO-K1 key switches are not required.

11. There is no requirement to provide an elevator control panel[lobby panel] or update an existing elevator control panel[lobby panel].

12. The illuminated visual signal must be separate from the “Car Call Cancel” pushbutton for all newly-permitted work, however a composite visual signal/pushbutton which was previously installed pursuant to a valid permit and is clearly labeled “car Call Cancel” may remain and satisfies Section 18-30-320.

Other mandates coming – Emergency bells on all elevators, machine room fire key boxes, MCP’s and maintenance records requirements.  This should be mid year 2017.

New code may be coming – A17.1 2016 may be the next code adopted shortly

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

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Elevator modernization with retaining door operator

The elevator door equipment is one of the more important parts that should be addressed during a modernization.  I was at a building that was modernized in 1993 that retained old Armor door equipment on one elevator and installed a MAC door operator on the other elevator.  It is our recommendation that the doors always be addressed during a modernization unless there is a good reason to retain them i.e. the door operator, car and hatch rollers, clutch release rollers, clutch, interlocks, etc had been changed recently.  If a building’s available funding runs out we can all put our heads together and get creative on how to get a building a door package. 

[This door operator put in for retirement 23 years ago]

Save money & inherit headaches – A building can cut their modernization cost by 20%-50% by retaining their door equipment.  But!  Most elevator shut downs are caused by doors not operating correctly.  So if a building spends a lot of money on a modernization and the door equipment is not addressed, they may be disappointed when their elevator still has issues.

The golden promise – I was at a hospital and a multinational company was doing a 3 car change over.  This was a busy bank of elevators. The doors sounded so bad on all of the elevators the only reason I knew they had been turned over after modernization was from the car station having the new fire service cabinet.   I talked to some people who knew about the project and they told me the building owner opted to keep the door work[door rollers, interlocks, etc] out of the elevator modernization because the sales person said the maintenance guy would change all of the door equipment on maintenance. These are two speed doors with 7 or 8 floors[remember 3 elevators].  The maintenance person has 40 hours a week for a hospital campus with 60+ elevators that are high usage.  This door work most likely will never get done unless the rollers get so bad it shuts the car down.

Intentional omission – At times the elevator contractors intentionally omit the door work to give an appealing price or to get a leg up on the competition. 

The elevator that was modernized in 1993 which we referred to above got a quote from their previous maintenance company to modernize the equipment.  “it was too expensive”, so they just took the door work out.  The building is 50 years old with 50 year hatch and car equipment[door locks, gate switches, rollers, clutch assemblies, etc].  During negotiations we gave them the price without the door work but indicated that this would be a poor idea and worked with them on making sure the door work could be done.  We worked with the building to educate them on why it was a good idea to do the door work.

We bid a project in Oak Park with Ron Will door equipment[Ron Will hasn’t been made in 30-40 years].  The incumbent maintenance company had a very good price on modernization.  They got the project to modernize their controller and power unit but keep the Ron Will equipment.  We educated the building owner but they still went with the low price.  We would not do the project with retaining the Ron Will equipment.

[Ron Will door operator from 1964 - to be retained - But a new controller... ]

And there are some companies that include everything on the proposal and give a great price but never do the door equipment.  The only problem is when a company does this on equipment they do not maintain.  The cat will be out of the bag quickly.

Education – When I talk to building owners I tell them the most important part of the project is to be as educated as they can so they can make a good decisions for the building.  The second most important item is to be comfortable with the company you choose. If you get 3 prices for a $100,000.00 project you will have 3 different proposals using different formats and different language.  We may not get all the projects but if you can spend time educating and helping a building if things don’t work out with the company they choose, you will get a call.

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

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Symptoms of Common Hydraulic Elevator Problems and Their Root Causes

Proactive maintenance emphasizes the routine detection and correction of root cause conditions that would otherwise lead to equipment failure. In the case of hydraulic systems, there are three easily detectable symptoms that give early warning of root cause conditions. These symptoms are abnormal noise, high fluid temperature and slow operation.

Abnormal Noise 
Abnormal noise in hydraulic systems is often caused by aeration or cavitation. Aeration occurs when air contaminates the hydraulic fluid. Air in the hydraulic fluid makes an alarming banging or knocking noise when it compresses and decompresses, as it circulates through the system. Other symptoms include foaming of the fluid and erratic actuator movement. Aeration accelerates degradation of the fluid and causes damage to system components through loss of lubrication, overheating and burning of seals.

Air usually enters the hydraulic system through the pump’s inlet. For this reason, it is important to make sure pump intake lines are in good condition and all clamps and fittings are tight. Flexible intake lines can become porous with age; therefore, replace old or suspect intake lines. If the fluid level in the reservoir is low, a vortex can develop, allowing air to enter the pump intake. Check the fluid level in the reservoir, and if low, fill to the correct level. In some systems, air can enter the pump through its shaft seal. Check the condition of the pump shaft seal and if it is leaking, replace it.

Cavitation occurs when the volume of fluid demanded by any part of a hydraulic circuit exceeds the volume of fluid being supplied. This causes the absolute pressure in that part of the circuit to fall below the vapor pressure of the hydraulic fluid. This results in the formation of vapor cavities within the fluid, which implode when compressed, causing a characteristic knocking noise.

The consequences of cavitation in a hydraulic system can be serious. Cavitation causes metal erosion, which damages hydraulic components and contaminates the fluid. In extreme cases, cavitation can cause mechanical failure of system components.

While cavitation can occur just about anywhere within a hydraulic circuit, it commonly occurs at the pump. A clogged inlet strainer or restricted intake line will cause the fluid in the intake line to vaporize. If the pump has an inlet strainer or filter, it is important for it not to become clogged. If a gate-type isolation valve is fitted to the intake line, it must be fully open. This type of isolation device is prone to vibrating closed. The intake line between the reservoir and pump should not be restricted. Flexible intake lines are prone to collapsing with age; therefore, replace old or suspect intake lines.

High Fluid Temperature 
Fluid temperatures above 180°F (82°C) can damage seals and accelerate degradation of the fluid. This means that the operation of any hydraulic system at temperatures above 180°F is detrimental and should be avoided. Fluid temperature is too high when viscosity falls below the optimum value for the system’s components. The temperature at which this occurs is dependent on the viscosity grade of the fluid in the system and can be well below 180°F.

High fluid temperature can be caused by anything that either reduces the system’s capacity to dissipate heat or increases its heat load. Hydraulic systems dissipate heat through the reservoir. Therefore, the reservoir fluid level should be monitored and maintained at the correct level. Check that there are no obstructions to airflow around the reservoir, such as a build up of dirt or debris.

It is important to inspect the heat exchanger and ensure that the core is not blocked. The ability of the heat exchanger to dissipate heat is dependent on the flow rate of both the hydraulic fluid and the cooling air or water circulating through the exchanger. Therefore, check the performance of all cooling circuit components and replace as necessary.
When fluid moves from an area of high pressure to an area of low pressure without performing useful work (pressure drop), heat is generated. This means that any component that has abnormal internal leakage will increase the heat load on the system. This could be anything from a cylinder that is leaking high-pressure fluid past its piston seal, to an incorrectly adjusted relief valve. Identify and change-out any heat-generating components.
Air generates heat when compressed. This means that aeration increases the heat load on the hydraulic system. As already explained, cavitation is the formation of vapor cavities within the fluid. These cavities generate heat when compressed. Like aeration, cavitation increases heat load. Therefore, inspect the system for possible causes of aeration and cavitation.

In addition to damaging seals and reducing the service life of the hydraulic fluid, high fluid temperature can cause damage to system components through inadequate lubrication as a result of excessive thinning of the oil film (low viscosity). To prevent damage caused by high fluid temperature, a fluid temperature alarm should be installed in the system and all high temperature indications investigated and rectified immediately.

Slow Operation 
A reduction in machine performance is often the first indication that there is something wrong with a hydraulic system. This usually manifests itself in longer cycle times or slow operation. It is important to remember that in a hydraulic system, flow determines actuator speed and response. Therefore, a loss of speed indicates a loss of flow.
Flow can escape from a hydraulic circuit through external or internal leakage. External leakage such as a burst hose is usually obvious and therefore easy to find. Internal leakage can occur in the pump, valves or actuators, and unless you are gifted with X-ray vision, is more difficult to isolate.

As previously noted, where there is internal leakage there is a pressure drop, and where there is a pressure drop heat is generated. This makes an infrared thermometer a useful tool for identifying components with abnormal internal leakage. However, temperature measurement is not always conclusive in isolating internal leakage and in these cases the use of a hydraulic flow-tester will be required.

The influence of internal leakage on heat load means that slow operation and high fluid temperature often appear together. This can be a vicious circle. When fluid temperature increases, viscosity decreases. When viscosity decreases, internal leakage increases. When internal leakage increases, heat load increases, resulting in a further increase in fluid temperature and so the cycle continues.

Proactively monitoring noise, fluid temperature and cycle times is an effective way to detect conditions that can lead to costly component failures and unscheduled downtime of hydraulic equipment. In most cases, informed observation is all that is required.

Credit -

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

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Chicago elevator modernization - legacy of decisions

In the Chicago area we have elevator equipment that stays in buildings a long time.  When a building chooses to do a elevator modernization some buildings make the decision solely on price, some make it on brand name, some look at body of work, some look at relationships.  Whatever way you make your decision on who to use for a modernization remember this elevator is depended on and can go great or not so great.  This is blog is for the lasting effects of the choice of elevator contractor to install or modernize your equipment and what happens afterwards.

Negative legacy - Over the last few months we have seen a glut of buildings that have elevator equipment that was replaced in the last 10-15 years but was installed so poorly it needs to be addressed again.  For many of these buildings they have a significant pill to swallow and a large scope of work to do which will be expensive.

[Elevator #1 - This modernization was most likely done quickly and at a appealing price]

[This is elevator #2 at the same building]

Elevator maintenance – The buildings that inherit a bad modernization from the general contractor can hire a different company to work with them to address the outstanding issues.  We ran into a building that did this but I believe they should have chosen a different company.  In either case the elevator maintenance company should be maintaining the equipment so it stays a good runner or make the replacement/maintenance recommendations to make it as good as it can be.

[This should be addressed]

[This is a big item that will cost the building owner a few dollars to replace, the building didn't know about this]

What do I do if my elevator is a mess? – Call reliable elevator contractors and have them put together a list of what you should do.  In most cases you can get some more time out of the elevators but you may have to invest in pre maintenance to resolve some of the lingering issues.  This takes time on the building owners side as well as the contractors side, choose someone you trust and get a time line for what needs to be done.  If you are so far down the rabbit hole with existing issues you may need to find one elevator company you trust to get to the bottom of all your issues.  This will cost money.  Interview the elevator company, get references, make sure you are comfortable with them complete the work you need to do.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, if you have significant elevator issues they will not be resolved in a day.  If the elevator install was so bad it is causing you too many headaches[this is all relative to the building’s tolerance for a broken elevator], you may have to replace the elevator system again.

Positive legacy – Legacies are not all bad; we do a church in Western Springs, IL where we the elevator had a cylinder leak and they had always wanted to extend the elevator up another floor.  They had a price from a nonunion company which was lower, we worked with them on the price coming down to where we could and we completed the project.  New cylinder, new controller, fixtures, door operator & door frame, etc. Twice a year this building has a rummage sale and the elevator is used almost 18 hours a day for 2 weeks.  Since our installation in 2008 we have had less than 14 events that brought us to the building besides maintenance 6 are CAT 1 testing, 1 battery replacement, 3 phone issues[phone line dead], 1 fire service light replacement, one blown fuse[power issue], and one shutdown which we could not recreate, and the last was for State of Illinois mandate work.  I only know about the rummage sale use of this elevator because my parents started attending this church.  I am proud we have such a good runner and am reminded every 6 months when I drop off donations for the rummage sale.

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