Saturday, February 28, 2015

Elevator Contractors of America [ECA]

The ECA is a group of independent elevator companies from around the country who go together with similar bargaining interests. The organization has been in existence since 2002.  Colley Elevator has been a member of the Elevator Contractors of America since 2007.   While we are a small to mid-size independent contractor we have the resources of a large contractor with being involved in the ECA.  There are approximately 60 companies represented by the ECA from Maine to California.

Every year we have a spring conference to go over what is occurring in the industry and get together with the national IUEC Union representation.  I have found this to be an incredible resource for independent contractors.  Not only do we get to interact with similar companies from around the country, we also get to find out what is going on, on the labor side. 

The stand out points that I came out of the meeting with is the emphasis on job site safety, non-union competition and the NEIEP training program available.

Job site safety – Our industry commands a good wage and one of the reasons is because of the significant risks that field mechanics and apprentices experience.  We need to always be conscience of our surroundings and cannot be complacent.  Job site accidents will always happen, it is up to everyone involved in the trade[from office to the field] to minimize any risks and eliminate preventable accidents.  

Nonunion competition – As a union shop we have a specific interest in union work.  Time after time we find that nonunion companies do not provide as quality of a product as union companies.  There are exceptions to this rule but more often than not an IUEC Elevator Constructor will provide a better end product than a nonunion elevator technician.  If you are in an area and cannot find a union elevator contractor please get in touch and I can point you in a good direction. 

NEIEP Training – One of the reasons why the IUEC Elevator Constructor will provide a better product is from our NEIEP[National Elevator Industry Education Program].  I was blown away by the Gold Standard that NEIEP is providing new apprentices going through the program.  While there are other programs out there for continuing education and training, this truly is by far the best I have seen.  Since I have been a part of the ECA and attending meetings, NEIEP has grown its training to be incredible.  From hands on labs to online courses the offerings are items that as an employer we find extremely desirable.

If anyone is interested in the ECA you can go to  I have found this resource to be incredibly valuable.

I would like to thank everyone at the ECA who is involved in putting this event on each year as well as the IUEC representation that was at the conference. 

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

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Chicago area winter weather and your hydraulic elevator

The last few days have been extremely cold in the Chicago area which has caused the elevators we maintain to have issues if the machine rooms are not properly heated.  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, February 15, 2015

Elevator “Full maintenance contracts”

I recently went to a building where the building management was upset with their current elevator contractor.  The reason the building was upset with the current contractor was that they had a “gold” package that was supposed to cover all of the elevator equipment.

The elevator equipment was the following

            Control system – Replaced in 1993
            Power unit – 50 +/- years old – Valve replaced 2010 - Newer motor
            Door operating equipment – 50 +/- years old
            Cylinder – Replaced 5 years ago

When I went to the building I had the impression that everything on the elevator was working well for the age of the equipment.   I walked into the machine room and found that the power unit was leaking from many different places including the oil level site glass.  Everything else on the elevator worked as an elevator that age should be expected to operate.  There was a drain by the elevator equipment so the oil was running into the sewer system instead of creating a mess in the machine room.  

I spoke to the property manager and told her about her leaky power unit that should be replaced and she asked if that was included in her “gold” package from her previous company.  I told her no, this equipment is well past is life expectancy and they should have to pay to have it replaced.  She said “ok”, send over pricing.  I later received an email about some door issues that are occurring, which we did not see during our site visit, and if the building went with another vendor they did not want to get bills for repairing the door operator[50 years old].  With the understanding that everyone likes to get the better end of a deal, I don't know too many contractors that would rebuild or replace a 50 year old door operator cam box apart of a maintenance agreement.

Background of “Full Maintenance” contracts – The elevator business was one of the first trades to offer maintenance agreements that would cover parts and material.   The intention was that there are many moving parts to the elevator system that could be replaced and the elevator would be back in normal operating condition.   In our industry elevator companies offer many different agreements but by far the most popular is “Full Maintenance” which covers call backs and parts.   It is a type of insurance for building owners to insulate themselves from expenses elevator work.

[One of the best examples I have of what would not be covered in a Full Maintenance contract]

Complacency - Over time a 20 year old elevator becomes a 40 year old elevator that needs replacement.  Many times the building ownership stay with the same elevator maintenance vendor for this time and have the same expectations of their equipment without taking in consideration that their equipment is beyond its expected operating life time.  This creates the opportunity for both parties to discuss the elevator equipment and modernization.  At times elevator companies do not bring up equipment longevity to ownership so they can plan for it or the ownership doesn't want to hear about the significant expenses. Also many Condo Boards turn over every few years so one Board may acknowledge this but put it off and the next Condo Board knows nothing about it[Elevator Companies should reintroduce information to the Board].

[Full maintenance contract for $110.00 a month - elevator shut down for 2 months, look for the tooth brush in the picture]

Recommendation to building owners – Discuss your elevator’s equipment with your maintenance provider.

1.    Age of the equipment
2.    When they should replace it
3.    How much will it cost to replace it
4.    Other items that go along with the modernization process that aren’t apart of the elevator modernization proposals.
a.    Fireman’s recall detectors
b.    Electrical work
c.    Machine room work

We try to let our maintenance customers know where their elevators are at in their elevator’s life so they can have the information to prepare for these significant expenses down the line.   If building owners know that expenses are coming down the line they are more likely to be better prepared for it[budgeting for fiscal years, request funding their funding structures, raising assessments, etc]

If there are elevator companies who are offering you a “Full Maintenance” contract for $130.00 a month and your elevator equipment is 30+ years old the likely hood of coverage is very slim.  Have a discussion with your maintenance provider about the equipment before you start getting bills or information indicating.
1.    Obsolete equipment – Not covered
2.    Broken equipment – Not covered
3.    Parts not available – shut down for 3 weeks

[This building owner had a full maintenance contract at $130.00 a month, this is what the contractor gave them for a repair - Colley ended up replacing all of their elevator equipment after their elevator had been shut down for 6 months] 

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

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Elevator pit ladder variance requests – State of Illinois

We have been fielding a lot of questions for buildings wondering if their pit ladders are “grandfathered” or can get a variance.  Please see the following information below on the process.

Variance process – This is standard between the elevator inspection firms that are in the State of Illinois

1.    Elevator Company submits a variance request on a local level[AHJ] – i.e. building in Forest Park’s information goes to Forest Park Building Department.
2.    Forest Park most likely will defer to their elevator inspection firm.
3.    Elevator inspection firm will make their recommendation to the Village
4.    Village will send ruling to elevator company
5.    If AHJ[Forest Park] decides they will allow a variance it needs to be sent to the State of Illinois Fire Marshal Elevator Division

Fees – Another question is will there be fees attached to the variance process.  The answer is “I don’t know but I would image yes”.  How much? That depends on how much the AHJ and elevator inspection firm will charge.

What does not qualify for a variance – We are not an elevator inspection firm but I will list the items that will not qualify for variances after speaking to the inspection firms.

1.    Reasonable costs associated with the installation or modification of a pit ladder.  Just because it will cost money doesn't mean you can get a variance. The new requirement is to ensure there is a safe entrance and exit means for elevator personal.

What will qualify for a variance - We are not an elevator inspection firm but I will list the items that may qualify for variances after speaking to the inspection firms.

1.    Hydraulic lines in the way of the ladder being compliant
2.    Elevator rails in the way of the ladder being compliant
3.    Building structure elements being in the way of the ladder being compliant

The pit ladder process will be very frustrating for many building owners as it is for the elevator contractors and inspectors.  If you believe a price to install or modify a pit ladder is too high get a 2nd price from an independent elevator contractor.  We will come to your building; take measurements, pictures and discuss with you options you will have.  Everyone involved in this process is learning[contractors, inspectors and building owners] so we ask for your patience.

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