Sunday, October 29, 2017

Elevator modernization - Utilizing higher voltage

Once in a while we see a building upgrade their power from 208/230 to 480 and they install a transformer in the elevator room to knock the power down.  During a modernization is the perfect time to order 480vac equipment and get rid of the transformer.

Benefits of higher voltage – The benefit is that is uses lower amperage, what you pay for on your power bill is the amperage usage.  You can use smaller more efficient motors and smaller motor starters.  See the table below


In our case the building went to 480vac during a reconstruction project and left the elevator to be modernized at a later date.

We will be modernizing the elevator with 480VAC equipment and this will allow us to remove the transformer, put the hydraulic unit on the back wall and have lots of space for our elevator controller and power freight controller which currently are stacked on top of each other making it interesting to work on.  

[get your ladder or stool to work on the freight controller or perhaps it is that i'm short I cannot reach it]

The key here is communication and planning with the building owner.  We have a great building owner who is working with us through this project. 

Also - Chicago Elevator Association meeting this Thursday, November 2nd at The Clubhouse - Oak Brook, IL 6:30pm.  

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

Sunday, October 22, 2017

The “Green” elevator installation/modernization/replacement

I get phone calls on regular basis from builders/future owners of buildings asking why our new elevators are more expensive then one of the intergalactic OEM’s.  One of the main reasons I give is that we are supplying you with a 30-40 year elevator and the OEMs are not, they are giving you a 15-20 year elevator.  This article published by Elevator World has some great information on the sales pitch of a “green” elevator.  I believe the intent of this article was to promote hydraulic elevators, what I took out of this is the longevity and environmental impact of all elevator systems dependent on how robust the elevators are built.

The issue with the “green” elevator is that it lasts 15-20 years and while it does have an energy savings during its life time in service to the building, it does not over the full manufacturing to disposal period.  The data attached is indicating that by far the environmental impact that is felt is during manufacturing and disposal.  There is 10x more environmental impact during manufacturing then during the usage of the lifetime of the elevator.   

 Source - Graph is from Elevator World Article, see below for link.

Lets do quick math – assume that a Minnesota Elevator, Canton or Hollister Whitney’s elevator may last 30-40 years and the Intergalactic OEM will be a 15-20 year.  These are general assumptions for this analysis.

MEI/Canton/HWEC – perhaps the manufacturing impact would be more based on the equipment being heavier duty - this is a quick example of how the numbers would work.  This includes 1 manufacturing impact and 2 operational impacts because we are going with a 15-20 year assumed life, this equipment may get 2 “life times” out of it.  You would also assume that the operational impact would be more because the equipment is typically heavier duty and more robust.  



Overall environmental impact

Intergalactic OEM – This includes 2 manufacturing impacts because life of these elevators are assumed to be 15-20 years.  This also includes 2 disposal impacts because 2 sets of equipment will need to be disposed of during 30-40 years.




Overall environmental impact

Full disclosure I do not believe that these numbers are perfect for my analysis but you can see that when the life cycle of a less robust installation is chosen, the benefits of a “green” elevator is so small compared to the impact that comes with manufacturing and disposal.  Again, this information is not perfect because any elevator may need a new controller, motor, etc during its life based on usage, environment and installation.  We also do not know the exact life of the new OEM elevators at this point because they are new and have not been around for 15-20 years yet.

Take away – When making decisions on the elevator system you are going to install, and if you are really concerned with environmental impact, take a look at the longevity of the elevator’s life.  Are you buying a 15-20 year elevator or a 30-40 year elevator.  Just something that opened my eyes a bit.  Read the Elevator World article for more information.

Reference - Elevator World -

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

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Elevator cylinder removal – It won’t come out

We do quite a few cylinder replacements and each one of them is a bit different.  I always tell building owners that 80% of cylinder projects go well, 10% have some additional challenges[additional costs], and 10% go sideways and require a well driller.  This is the challenge before you even get a chance to see if you get a bad hole.

We are doing a project at a logistics center and while I was there I heard our compressor from the street[located at the 1st level, 2nd landing in the open air garage].  I have to say I do get excited when I hear the compressor ripping and mud spraying everywhere. When I got down to the elevator pit[B level, 1st landing] I saw the jet pipe stuck down 32’ +/- down the hole trying to break the suction/concrete. The pit channel/head/buffer combination did not help any.  It reminded me that each hole is a bit different and presents its own challenging.

This typically is the first big challenge of the project.  I will highlight two methods that we use when we have a cylinder that won’t move just from tugging on it.

1st method is using an air compressor to move the earth below and break the cylinder free from suction.  Be aware that your line will get very hot and you need to place the compressor in the correct place[not inside]

2nd method is using jacks.  This method is a bit more intensive and could be required when some kind soul dumped a bag of concrete down the cylinder hole after installation.  Perhaps the concrete was put down there to stop water from coming in the hole. 

Cylinder replacement is a difficult job that takes a lot of heavy lifting and good technique. Adding the requirement of trying to get a stuck cylinder out of the ground adds to the challenge of being an elevator person.  At times we are doing 4 or 5 cylinder replacements a month so we get a chance to see all sorts of oddities, each one is different.

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

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Traction elevator modernization – Chicago, IL

I always like before and after pictures of elevator modernizations that we complete.  This particular building was built 90+ years ago as a 8 story walk up.  In 1987 an independent installed a 250 FPM traction elevator in the middle of a stairwell with a blind counterweight hoist way.  The existing controller was having issues and the original manufacturer of the controller was not supporting it any longer.  We replaced the controller, door operator & related equipment, fixtures & motor.



This particular building was challenging for a number of reasons; rope gripper placement, architectural tube steel used for rail support, electrical clearance issues, governor location, 90+ year old brick, room being used to store non elevator material, etc.  Maybe it is because when I started at Colley we didn't do too much traction work but every time I see a machine painted I get stoked. 

Equipment we used - Smartrise Engineering, Reuland Motor, Innovation Industries, GAL MOVFR, MAC door equipment, Hollister Whitney rope gripper.

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

Sunday, October 1, 2017

NAEC – 2017 elevator convention – Atlantic City

We had a convention scheduled for Orlando, FL.  A hurricane called Irma came and 12 days later nothing short of a miracle occurred and we had a convention in Atlantic City, NJ.  For those who do not know a convention takes about 2 years to schedule so making these changes in such a short amount of time was amazing.  Hats off to the NAEC staff and exhibitors for doing the heavy lifting to make this occur.

[Show floor]

Once a year North America convenes to the NAEC convention where almost 200 exhibitors show their products and services.  Due to the dramatic move there was 143 in Atlantic City who came.  This is a great time to see product and services but also get some education.

There where round tables featuring information on employment law, best practices, insurance costs, mobile technology, A18.1 code update, safety compliance templates & new hiring orientation.

[NFPA update by Lee Rigby]

There where speakers on maximizing rope life, retaining DC machines, control of hazardous energy, roller guides, fire code changes, risk & liability in phone monitoring, inclined platform lifts and vertical platform lifts, confined space, mechanics guide to safety inspections, elevator drives and competing in the proprietary market.  Some of which qualified for CEUs.

[Reception prior to dinner dance]

There where some receptions, a great dinner dance, a chance for the next generation of elevator people to get together for lunch and finally the dregs party which was at Bass Pro shop[which was surprisingly great].

It was a long week, but all and all it was an incredible convention and I appreciate everyone’s hard work[NAEC staff] that put it on as well as the exhibitors who participated.  I learned a lot from the scheduled events and got a chance to talk to suppliers and contractors all over the country about what is occurring in their areas.  I always take away a lot from this event.  

 [I did have one free night open]

Next year’s event will be in Atlantic City.  Go to for more information.  

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