Sunday, March 18, 2018

Chicago elevator maintenance – Good looking work

Last week I went to many building’s but two building’s stuck out in my mind.  You usually remember the really bad ones but in this case there was two good ones.

Building #1 – This is a building we maintain and I was meeting the new owner of the building.  The new owner was late so I poked around to look at what we had under the hood.  Everything looked great.  I always love seeing this on our jobs.  Colley put this elevator in 1986.

[Clean car top]

[Pit is pretty good] 

[32 year old power unit still looks good for its age]

[Controller is clean and well maintained]

Building #2 – I met a building owner in the wee hours of the morning to kick the tires on his elevator.  He had been told by Otis that his door scan is obsolete and it would cost $4,500.00 to replace so he got concerned about his other equipment when the sales person started pushing other modernization.  I took a look around and everything was clean, well maintained and running well.  This is a case of the elevator maintenance person doing a great job but the office personnel trying to sell sell sell.  Otis put this elevator in 1993.

[Clean car top]

[Pit is pretty good] 

[Power unit looks good] 

[Controller is well maintained] 

Take away - Both of these job are testimonials to good maintenance technicians that are doing right by the building.  Cleaning is one of the first parts to getting and keeping a elevator running well. 

As always feel free to contact us at, email or call 630-766-7230.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Hydraulic elevator cylinder replacement – What we found underground

We began working with a building for maintenance about a year ago and last week they called to say the fire department was out at the building due to smoke.  This was a sleepy hydraulic elevator installed by Otis in 1992.  The service person arrived at the building to find the hydraulic tank was empty.  The next day I went out to the building with the service tech and we isolated the leakage to be underground.

This is a picture of the cylinder when we began working at the building - Nice and dry.

This is a picture of the cylinder when we went through cylinder leakage discovery - Part of the 40 gallons of hydraulic fluid that didn't make it into the sump

This is a picture of what we found underground when pulling the cylinder out

[Field alteration to PVC upon installation - Not recommended]

[No bottom to PVC - was it cut off or is it still in the hole?]

[A bit bigger than a pin hole leak, notice the material around the hole. This was inline with the cut made in the PVC]

Observation – In the 21 years of working in the elevator industry I have heard of companies filling up PVC with water to get it down a cylinder hole or that did not put bottoms on PVC.  The company who installed this cylinder put a cut in the side of the PVC to get it to go down.  The company who installed this cylinder also may have cut the bottom off or the bottom is at the bottom of the hole, we do not know.  The deterioration of the cylinder from the exposure to the water is significant.  This could have been far worse if a larger piece of the cylinder had broken free instead of the pinhole.  I also have never seen a cylinder installed 3 times in less than 30 years, 1992 to 2018.

Newer technology – This hole has a significant amount of water in it that will fill the hole back up after the debris removal company comes to remove the debris from the hole.  A solution to work around the water is to install a cylinder bag.  This is a newer solution from Laird Plastics.  The cylinder bag is not buoyant like rigid PVC, it will displace the water when going down without the buoyancy.

Take a look -

Take away – In a niche industry such as elevators it is difficult to know who will be competent and do work in accordance to good work practices and the elevator safety code.  Make sure the elevator contractor you hire will do their job safely and correctly. This situation could have manifested itself much worse than a large bill to replace the elevator’s cylinder.

As always feel free to contact us at, email or call 630-766-7230.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Elevator Modernization – Downers Grove Park District – Downers Grove, IL

Elevator Modernization – Downers Grove Park District – Downers Grove, IL

We recently had the opportunity to partner with the Downers Grove Park District to work on replacing their 45 + year old elevator.  The existing elevator was a 1970’s vintage ESCO elevator that was having reliability issues servicing this busy building.  The building hosts a plethora of activities for babies, toddlers and seniors.  In the mornings this is busy with strollers and walkers to wagons and canes.  Time line was tight.  Here is how it came out.

Existing equipment

Controller – ESCO relay logic
Door operator – GAL MOD
Power unit – ESCO with EECO UV5A valve 
Fixtures – Dover

New equipment

Controller – MCE Motion 2000
Door operator – GAL MOVFR w/GAL hatch and car equipment
Power unit – MEI w/Maxton UC4 valve
Fixtures – Innovation
Car and hatch doors – MEI car doors
Car interior – Cabworks
Roller guides - Elsco
Fire recall - Chicago Metro Fire

Cab interior

[Old elevator interior]

[Old ceiling & lighting]

[New elevator interior]

[New elevator interior]

[New elevator ceiling & lighting]

Elevator interior - We partnered with Cabworks to give the building a new interior.  A lot of times this is the only item a building notices, cab interiors.  The interior came out great.  Colley installed new MEI stainless steel #3 car doors and Cabworks did the rest. 

Machine room 

[Old machine room]

[New machine room]

Machine room - We where able to utilize the back of the elevator machine room that used to be a coal shoot.  It since has been bricked in.  Now there are no electrical clearance issues and you have a ton of space in the new machine room.  

Elevator controller

[Old ESCO Elevator Controller]

[New MCE 2000 Hydraulic elevator controller]

Elevator control system - You can see the difference 45 years of elevator controller technology.  The ESCO relay logic versus the Motion Control Engineering[MCE] solid state control system.

Elevator car fixtures

 [Old ESCO car station]

[New Innovation car station]

Elevator car station - We removed the old car station and installed a new Innovation car station.  The look is complemented by the new cladding by Cabworks. This is a unique cab where the car station is on the side wall as this is front and rear openings.  Typically the car station would be on the door return but the returns where both too shallow to fit the car station box.

Elevator hall stations

[Old 1st floor hall station & P/I]

[New 1st floor hall station & P/I]

Hall stations - This was a unique set up.  The hall stations where lower than ADA initially so we had to compensate for the buttons being lower with the hall station plate.  Each floor had a hall position indicator.  So instead of plating them we put a new P/I and hall lanterns to fit in the old boxes.

Elevator door operators

[Old GAL MOD door operators]

[New GAL MOVFR door operators]

Door operators - The specification called for all new door operators, new door tracks, car and hatch equipment.  All new GAL equipment was installed. 

Hydraulic power unit

[Old ESCO power unit with a newer EECO UV5 valve]

[New MEI power unit with a Maxton UC4 valve]

Power unit - This was a typical power unit replacement except the specification called for this 50 foot per minute car to go 100 feet per minute.  The request was not possible as the power supplying the power unit was only able to support a 75FPM car.  So they got a little larger motor, little faster elevator.  If a 100FPM power would have been installed the breaker would have continually tripped due to amp draw issues.  This is something everyone should know but we don't always pay attention, always check your ampacity and power feed prior to sizing your power unit.  

Project overview - This was a fun project to work on from the design side with the fixture challenges and car speed change.  It was also a challenging one for the team that was doing the installation due to the remote machine room, wire count and all the devices outside and inside the hoistway[front and rear, hall lanterns, P/I's, etc.] 

The project was a public bid and the Park District saved a considerable amount of money from the other two bidders bids.

As always feel free to contact us at, email or call 630-766-7230.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

CAI HOA Conference – Rosemont, IL

We attend a few conventions each year where we set up a booth and talk to property managers, board members and property owners.  I am used to going to the elevator conventions where I am walking around so it is always interesting to be on the other side of the fence.   The HOA convention took place on 2/23 & 2/24. This is a place where anyone who deals with HOA’s can go and see about paving, concrete work, CPAs, attorney’s, roofers, etc and get information and/or meet the people they talk on the phone with.

The CAI HOA 36th Annual conference at the Donald J Stephens Convention Center – Rosemont, IL was great!   We got to see a lot of familiar faces and met some new faces too. The feedback you here from your existing customers is great as well as feedback from people who use other companies.

These are always good to go to and experience.  I would say there where over 1,500 people at the show[including booth workers]. We have two more coming in April and June.

For more information -

*Tom Sybert from CJ Anderson is everywhere I met another Sybert relative during the show.  Small world!

As always feel free to contact us at, email or call 630-766-7230.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Rockstar Energy – Elevator World – Craig Zomchek profile

Once upon a time I wrote for and had been interviewed in many music publications in my past life.  I've read Elevator World for years so this was a pretty cool thing to participate in.  Thank you to Kaija for working with me on the profile.  My last professional magazine piece was on the back page of Maxim Magazine in 2007[If you are curious ask me about it].  

As always feel free to contact us at, email or call 630-766-7230.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Elevator maintenance – building owner cooperation/exterminator

I was at a building with two elevators that we will be doing work on.  I met the incumbent elevator company’s maintenance tech out there and he told me to look out for the roaches.  I looked in the one pit and car top and it they where clean as a whistle.  I wasn't sure what the guy was talking about.  When I went to do the engineering take off on the other car it was a roach party!  Anyone ever see the TV show Joe’s Apartment?

I spend a lot of time talking about the three pillars when it comes to elevator maintenance.  Companies, mechanics and building owners.  In this case the building owner needs to step up their responsibility.  

[Hard to tell unless you look close]

At first glance I was confused why the one car top and pit was cleaned and this one was not.  Then I saw a few of our six-legged friends, then some more, then some more. I don’t have an issue with roaches so I ended up cleaning the pit out of the roaches because it is just easier if I do it.  Yes, I know about roach eggs.  I have no expectations of anyone who I work with to feel the same way.  A roach problem is a building problem.  Meaning the building should kill them, then remove them.  The elevator professional can open the pit door for the person cleaning the dead roaches. Warning, this takes several visits to get roaches to a manageable state.  The building appears to be doing the exterminating but not the cleaning.

[At least they left a broom]

Company & mechanic – It is our responsibility to tell the building to evict the current elevator pit six legged residents and clean the pit.  

Building owner – You provide the exterminator and cleaning crew to remove the dead bugs.  We will open the pit door for you.

A few roaches is unpleasant and creepy but acceptable but more than a few, you need professional exterminator help.  

As always feel free to contact us at, email or call 630-766-7230.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Elevator worker fatalities - Texas & New York

In the last month there have been two elevator worker fatalities.  One is too many.  

1/11/18 – EL Paso Texas a young husband and father was killed on the top of the 9th floor leaving a wife and 2 year old behind.  It is speculated that the death was caused by an electrocution.  The elevator worker worked at Abell Elevator who is a non signatory company from Kentucky.  There is a gofundme page for donations to his family. While we are on different sides of the labor fence I did donate because no family should have to go through this.

1/23/18 – Manhattan, New York– It appears that the person working in the hoistway was not tied off and fell down the elevator shaft. The elevator worker worked at U-Tek Elevator, Inc who is a non signatory company.

As an industry we must continue to move to a zero-injury expectation.  These two incidents are reminders that we must work safe everyday so we can come home.  Our craft is a skilled and dangerous one, be aware of your surroundings at all times.  One accident is too many.

Elevator worker – Do tasks safely, have a process, make sure everyone is on the same page for the process.  If a situation is unsafe have your supervisor explain how to complete the task safely or request an alternate safe process.  Do not get complacent. 

Building owner – This is a reminder know who you are hiring and be aware of work place safety.  You are an important part of the safety equation. 

Elevator contractor – Give your employees the tools & processes to work safe.

As always feel free to contact us at, email or call 630-766-7230.