Saturday, October 19, 2019

What should not be in an elevator machine room

We get the opportunity to see all sorts of buildings with all sorts of great things and not so great things.   This is  a quick one about what should not be in an elevator machine room.  As a building owner, manager, condo board or someone else who can help us, please do!  The better our machine room environment, the better we can maintain and service your elevator.

Water – We don’t really care for water in the elevator machine room, mainly because we could get electrocuted with the high voltage that is connected to the elevator system.  This machine room is recessed under the building and has a tendency to get water in it every now and then when the water table rises.  The building was building in the mid 1960’s.

Sewage – Water is one thing but sewage, no thank you.  This sewage was in a machine room we are modernizing the elevators and their pipes backed up, yes, that is soiled toilet paper. That 2 x 4 was for a person  to stand on during a OT call right after this happened.

Oil buckets/drums – Yes, elevator hydraulic oil buckets are elevator supplies, when we start seeing more then 1 or 2 empty oil buckets in a machine room we start asking a lot of questions.  This machine room has 14 empty buckets and a 55 gallon drum..

Video monitoring equipment – Buildings are always in a space crunch and one common element that is being added to more and more buildings is video monitoring.  It often ends up in the elevator room.  It is within the elevator inspectors rights to tell you to move the video equipment.

Stuff – The elevator machine room is a great place to put “stuff”.  Please find a new spot to put your “stuff” we need to get to the elevator equipment.

What should be in an elevator machine room?  Only elevator equipment and elevator supplies.

If you have any questions or would like additional information feel free to contact me at or 630-766-7230 ext. 107.

Also check us out on Instagram @Colleyelevator see what we have been up to.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

When is it time to change your elevator’s dry hydraulic power unit?

We recently took over a group of buildings that had a lot of aging ESCO dry power units that had been passed over for replacement over the years.  The other elevator equipment had been modernized over the last 15 years; Controllers, fixtures, door operators.  The power units had been forgotten and patched with some new valves.  So when is it time to replace your power unit?  And, how important is your power unit?

What does my power unit do?  Your hydraulic power unit has a motor, pump, valve and hydraulic fluid in it.  The power unit pumps and regulates the oil floor to the piston which allows the car to level into the floor correctly.

When is it time to replace your power unit?  This is a great question.  Every building will be different.  Some building’s power units can last 50 years, some buildings last 10-15. The major wear point on a hydraulic power unit is the control valve. Maxton and EECO the two major valve manufacturers suggest replacing your valve every 10-15 years.  Here are a few variables that determine how long your power unit will last.

Usage – Busier buildings will most likely need a valve replacement sooner than a sleepy building. 

Machine room environment – a temperature controlled environment that keeps the oil cool will allow for a longer life of your control valve

Oil maintenance – If you keep your oil clean, have it filtered, or have it replaced your valve will work longer.

Valve maintenance – When required, have the valve seals been replace?

If you take a closer look at the picture above you will see two old ESCO power units, you will also see fans pointed at the controllers, you will also see a dirty machine room.  This elevator room is very warm/hot coupled with age and a less than ideal machine room environment equals poor longevity of valves.  

At some buildings power units are left as the last item to be modernized.  We always encourage buildings to replace their valves on a regular basis when there are signs of wear so we can have safe and reliable running elevators.  While the power unit is typically one of the more resilient components it is also a component that the building needs to listen to their elevator company on to make sure replacement and service items are addressed quickly.

What does a new submersible power unit look like?  The great thing about a new submersible power unit is that everything is in the tank so there are no more leaks to worry about.  A submersible power unit will work for 95% of all hydraulic elevators, be aware that depending on usage, travel, capacity you may need to look into retaining a dry unit.

[New pump motor and valve are in the black box, no more leaks]

[Nice new Maxton valve and air mufler]

If you have any questions or would like additional information feel free to contact me at or 630-766-7230 ext. 107.

Also check us out on Instagram @Colleyelevator see what we have been up to.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Smoke detectors, sprinklers, heat detectors and Shunt trips in elevator environment

We recently had code training and one of the items that I tend to get a lot of questions on by our field teams, electricians and fire companies are smoke detectors, sprinklers, heat detectors and shunt trips. 

For all the items listed below please consult AHJ for specific rules to the area you are working in and items the AHJ may have taken exception to national/local codes.

Smoke detectors 

Smoke detectors on ceilings must be at least 4 inches from the wall.

Smoke detector on walls must be between 4 inches and 12 inches from the ceiling.
Smoke detectors are required in machine rooms.

Smoke detectors are required at the top of the hoist way when either a sprinkler is present or the passenger cab is not a fire-rated design.

No smoke detectors shall be provided in the elevator pits per NFPA 72.

Smoke detector may also be provided to operate hoist way smoke evacuation equipment, but it cannot be connected to the elevator system.

Sprinklers - Sprinklers may be located in the following elevator equipment areas:
        Machine Room
        Top of Hoistway – Sprinklers are not required when the passenger elevator cab is a fire rated design.
        Pit – Sprinklers located within 24” of the pit floor do not require a heat sensor for shunt trip disconnects nor a smoke sensor.

[Sprinkler, heat & smoke]

Heat detectors - Heat detectors are required within 2 feet of each sprinkler head in elevator equipment areas and pit. Exception in pit when the sprinkler is within 24” of the pit floor.

Shunt Trip disconnect system

Shunt trip disconnect is required on any new or existing elevator where a sprinkler is located at the top of the hoistway or in the machine room. 

A properly located sprinkler in the pit only, will not cause shunt trip disconnect to be required.

Non-sprinklered elevators will not have a shunt trip disconnect system.

Operation of the shunt trip disconnect must cause disconnection of normal power and emergency/stand-by power.

Operation of the shunt trip disconnect must also cause disconnection of any internal auxiliary power operations, such as battery lowering devices on hydraulic elevators or anti-entrapment (TAP) devices on traction elevators if so equipped.  The shunt trip disconnect must have a set of contacts that signal the control system to prevent movement of the elevator.

Location of the shunt trip disconnect is not specified by code.  Shunt trip disconnect can be in a fire command center, elevator machine room, electrical room, or other location.  If in the machine room, it may be combined with the main disconnect.

Power to and operation of the shunt trip shall be independent of the elevator control and shall not be self-resetting.

[Shunt & disconnect seperate]

[Shunt/disconnect combination unit]

Reference - Joseph P. Donnelly, PE Elevator Education Program 2019

If you have any questions or would like additional information feel free to contact me at or 630-766-7230 ext. 107.

Also check us out on Instagram @Colleyelevator see what we have been up to.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Colley Elevators 7th Annual QEI continuing education training

Each year for the last 7 years Colley Elevator has been hosting inspectors from across the Chicago area as well as mechanics from Colley and other companies to attend QEI/Elevator code continuing education.

This year we again had Joe Donnelly – PE conduct the training. Joe D has had a pretty incredible career starting out by working for Westinghouse Elevator as a apprentice then field engineer moving to Lerch Bates to start his consulting career and now at Donnelly & Associates doing elevator consulting and training.  He has had experience working on the State of Illinois Board as the technical advisor and currently is the Chair of the City of Chicago code committee and helped bring the City from a 2001 code to 2016.

While the content is similar year to year [the code doesn’t change quickly] I always learn something different each session.  The group of inspectors and mechanics who come also bring their own experiences to the discussion which is always interesting.

This year we reviewed – City – State code update, 2010 & 2013 A17.1 major code update, 2016 A17.1 Part 2 code update, 2016 A17.1 Part 3 code update, A17.1 Part 6 code update, A17.1 part 8.6 code update, FEO service review, A17.3 code review, NEC code update, A117.1 class, A17.2 routine inspection review, A17.2 periodic test review, City of Chicago 2018 code A17.1, City of Chicago 2018 code A17.3

My notes – As I said, I’ve heard all of this before many times but it sinks in a little more each time and you always pick up a few items that you can use every day.

State of Illinois mandate
Fire service witnessing – We discussed the potential issue with coordination and staffing
            Braille – Recent ADA mandate in our elevator world

Chicago code modifications
           Pit sprinklers
Car top stations – pendant station – may be a future solution to inspection station placement
           Access switches – 12” away from door jamb – Big change to some designs
           Emergency exits with 14” x 14” space next to – Never paid much attention to this
Hoistway – 55-95 Degrees – Hoistway “safe environment for elevator equipment” temperature controlled – Always important
           Freight elevator – Push to stop switches
In/car stop switch during phase I stops the car – Change now that we have keyed stop switches
            Fire alarms needed in hoistways when these are in HW – applicable to MRLs
                        Motor control
                        Drive machine
                        Control space
Phone jacks in fixtures are only required when FD use communication center @ building – This is not a very popular item because our fire fighters use walkie talkies
           Expiration of batteries visible to batteries – No one does this but should
Smoke detectors – Limitations where the need to go on wall – Fire companies need to follow the code
           Sprinkler requirement – I always get tripped up here
Toe Guard – 60 to 75 degrees – I always forget this dimension

Isolation transformers – ML to controller to Iso to controller – not disconnect to Iso to controller – if wired this way – need additional disconnect
High voltage to low voltage – UL label – coming in controller
Fire alarm announciator is king for where lobby panel – chiefed by life safety company & AHJ – Life safety companies need to talk to AHJ before we start so we are both on the same page.

Take away – Our professional lives go so quickly day by day and we “know everything” but I think sometimes taking time to go through some additional training on things you know goes a long way.  We also picked up a lot of good information from one another.

Chicago Elevator Association – Oak Brook, IL – Club House – 10/3/19 – speaker – Kone Spares

If you have any questions or would like additional information feel free to contact me at or 630-766-7230 ext. 107.

Also check us out on Instagram @Colleyelevator see what we have been up to.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Elevator cylinder replacement – Cylinder hole clause – Water

We do a lot of cylinder work at Colley Elevator and each project is a bit different from the next.  This is what some quick thinking, quick response and a total team effort looks like when something goes wrong on a cylinder replacement.

We got the car hung, piston out, cylinder out and had a 14” casing, some water but nothing unusual for cylinder replacement.  We needed to get around 41’ of clear hole, our cylinder was going to be 39’ 5” in the ground, then you need to add the PVC and we get around 40’+, lets shoot for 41’.

[Looks like a regular cylinder hole to me]

We had the debris removal truck come by and we got a call from the project team that the debris removal truck was already filled up an hour into it and they were ½ way down and there is a jet stream of water what looks like a fire hose spraying water at about 15’-20’.  One of our top notch project engineers jumped in his car to go work with the team.  We all assessed the situation, talked to our shop, got a 12” casing with no bottom and integral couplings[saves space with no lips] ordered.  Our top notch shop brought out 50’ of PVC within an hour, we barely got it fit in the hole and it went 30’, dropped the debris removal hose down again and put another 15’ of PVC on top as the PVC sank, 20 minutes later we had a clear 42’ hole.  Got on the horn and ordered a cylinder bag from Laird Plastics and it was here the next day.

[The pond in front of the building most likely was donating the water to our hole]

We were able to stop the water stream at the 15’-20’ from coming in our hole by creating a new barrier that allowed us to clear the sand, mud and rock out of the hole.  Once the water reached natural table level it stopped coming in the hole and the problem was solved.

[12" PVC fit like a glove]

Take away - This was a 100% team effort and one for the books.  We all have different experiences dealing with projects so the more heads you get involved the more ideas come up and the existing ideas get improved and this crisis was averted.  If everyone wasn’t moving as quick as we did this would have been a job for a well driller which means a significant expense and extra down time.  The elevator inspection is set for next week. Bravo to all involved. 

Chicago Elevator Association – Oak Brook, IL – Club House – 10/3/19 – speaker – Kone Spares

If you have any questions or would like additional information feel free to contact me at or 630-766-7230 ext. 107.

Also check us out on Instagram @Colleyelevator see what we have been up to.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

2019 Ellies winner – Best Contractor of the North – Elevator World Magazine

Colley Elevator is proud to announce it has won the 2019 Ellies Award for Best Elevator Contractor of the North. Presented by Elevator World magazine, the preeminent elevator industry trade publication.  This is Colley Elevator’s first Ellie in its 111 year existence.

Designed to celebrate companies that, “Go above and beyond for their customers, employees, communities, and the industry as a whole,” The Ellies Awards have become the go-to source to see the elite companies of the elevator industry. Colley Elevator topping the field is a great honor and we would like to thank everyone that participated in the voting! 

Colley Elevator’s victory comes after a month and a half voting campaign, where members of the elevator industry could pledge their support for the company of their choice. Over 34,000 total votes were cast for this year’s Ellies awards, nearly tripling last year’s tally.

This is a tremendous achievement being recognized by Elevator World.    Thank you Elevator World.

Upcoming noteworthy elevator events

NAEC convention – Grand Rapids Michigan 9/16/19 – 9/19/19
Chicago Elevator Association – Oak Brook, IL – Club House – 10/3/19 – speaker – Kone Spares

If you have any questions or would like additional information feel free to contact me at or 630-766-7230 ext. 107.

Also check us out on Instagram @Colleyelevator see what we have been up to.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Hydraulic elevator modernization – Homewood, IL - Dover Elevator

We recently where awarded a project with a construction firm to complete an institutions hydraulic elevator modernization through a GC.  Colley Elevator did not have the lowest price for the project on the initial bid, but, the GC and design group felt Colley was the best fit for the project and the attention it would require.

Existing elevator & project scope – The existing elevator was a Dover relay logic from the 1970.  The building wanted to move the machine room from the basement to the 3rd floor so it would have a formal temperature-controlled machine room.  The specifications where written but a consultant and an architect was administering the project.   The building would get a new controller, power unit, pipe line, door operator & equipment, fixtures, hatch & car doors and new interior.

New equipment providers

Controllers – Smartrise Engineering
Power units – MEI
Door operators – GAL
Fixtures – Innovation Industries
Hatch & car door – Columbia Elevator
Cab interior – Summit Cabs

Machine room – The existing machine room was in a boiler/mechanical area in the basement of the building.  The room was extremely hot as it shared it with the boilers.  The new machine room would be located on the 3rd floor in building’s maintenance shop.

[Old machine room location]

[New machine room location]

Hydraulic elevator controller – The original Dover relay logic control system would be replaced with a non-proprietary Smartrise Engineering elevator controller.

[Old Dover controller - panel 1 of 2]

[Old Dover controller - panel 2 of 2]

[New Smartrise Controller - only one panel]

Hydraulic elevator power unit – The elevator had a newer hydraulic power unit but it was decided on the design side to replace all major mechanical and electrical components.  We replaced a MEI tank with Maxton UC 4 valve from 2015 with a new MEI tank with Maxton UC4 valve.  We also utilized the Maxton shut off valves & isolation couplings for this project.

[New MEI power unit with Maxton UC4 valve]

[Maxton shut off & Iso coupling]

Door operators – The cars had all Dover equipment on them.  We replaced the Dover door operators with GAL MOVFRs and replaced all the Dover hatch equipment.

[Old Dover door equipment] 

[New GAL MOVFR operator]

Elevator fixtures – All of the Dover hall and car push buttons where replaced with Innovation Industries fixtures.

[Old Dover fixtures]

[New Innovation car station]

[Old 1st floor hall station]

[New first floor hall station with position indicator above door]

Elevator car & hatch doors – The old car and hatch doors where replaced with new Columbia Elevator doors to give it a fresh look.

Elevator cab interior – The elevator’s cab interior was updated with a package from Summit Elevator Interiors.

[Old cab interior]

[New cab interior]

Work by others – There was a fairly extensive scope of work by others on this project that included new machine room, electrical, shunt, fire alarms, cab floor, hoistway protection[during the project]

We are happy the project turned out well, the building owner was great to work with, the design team was great to work with and the general contractor was great to work with.  Elevator has been running smooth with no shut downs and faculty and parents do not have to worry about the reliability any more.

If you have any questions or would like additional information feel free to contact me at or 630-766-7230 ext. 107.

Also check us out on Instagram @Colleyelevator see what we have been up to.