Sometimes when we look at an application for an accessibility lift, there simply isn’t enough space. In other instances we have the ideal space but the desired location will not allow for the hoistway and corresponding load bearing wall. I recently ran into this situation for one of our clients. No matter where we looked we couldn’t find both space and have the design be aesthetically pleasing. After exploring all the traditional elevator and lift systems I remembered seeing a “no hoistway” lift at the national elevator show in Boston last September. I had ridden in their working display model and recalled the smooth ride, and how compact, and appealing it looked. This design abled us to place the lift exactly where the client wanted, without being an eyesore in their living room. The system works by dropping a piece of the floor in place when the lift travels to the lower level. There are pressure sensitive plates on both the top and bottom of the lift to ensure that no one is in danger when the device is in use. The major benefit for this client was when the device was not being used he could send it to the basement and maintain the sight lines through his living room.
This article is not referring to passenger elevators and is intended to discuss the advantages of MRL Elevators in a residential or commercial accessibility lift setting. A machine room-less elevator or an MRL Elevator is a device that typically houses the drive mechanism at the top of the hoistway. By doing this the need for a machine room is eliminated, as the entire device is contained within the elevator footprint.
Units that require a machine room( like most hydraulic drives) will also require the electrical and hydraulic hoses to run through a wall from the machine room to the elevator hoistway. In cases where the machine room is not adjacent to the elevator, a remote machine room will be required. This can be costly and create logistical problems with the running of hydraulic hose through the floor, ceiling or in the walls. It also poses several maintenance concerns; What if a hose ran through a ceiling for instance and it starts to leak? Will it be possible to do a scheduled hose replacement? What type of ongoing costs should you expect in this application? This is a definite advantage of an MRL, having the entire elevator in one contained space.
The second advantage is quite simple; with an MRL elevator, you do not have to allocate the additional space to house the drive mechanism. Depending on the drive system and whether the installation is residential or commercial (B-355), a machine room could require anywhere from 12 to 20 square feet. This is space that could be used for storage, a larger elevator car, or a revenue opportunity (like a couple of extra tables in a restaurant).
Finally look at all the costs associated with constructing that machine room. If you think about it, its equivalent to the cost of half the elevator hoistway (2 stop). On top of the basic room construction, you will need to provide lighting, possible drains, sump pumps or oil separators, additional sprinkler/smoke detectors, and an additional door (fire rated in a public application). These costs can add up quickly, and should be considered when calculating the overall cost of the elevator.
To recap MRL Elevator units will:
- Save you money when it comes to maintenance
- Require less space
- Reduce the initial cost of construction
When choosing a porch lift supplier it is important to do a detailed comparison to ensure that the specifications of each product and company match.
Areas where discrepancies can occur include:
- Standard platform size – You should note that not all manufactures make a standard platform the will accommodate a larger wheelchair or scooter. This is sometimes a costly upgrade so it needs to be discussed up front.
- Finish – Some lifts are painted while others come with a durable powder coated finish. Remember to ask about the costs associated with powder coating your lift.
- Capacity – 750lbs seems to be the industry standard but there are still some 550lb capacity lifts on the market
- Cold weather operation – Some porch lifts require the addition of an outdoor package. If your lift is exposed to the elements make sure it has this provision or a feature like a “Zero load start” to ensure your lift operates in cold temperatures
- Safety features – Ask about the safety record of the lift. Does it have a fall arrest system, platform kick plate, and easy to access manual lowering device?
- Where you buy – This is hard to quantify at the time of purchase, but it must be considered when making your decision. An indication of the type of company you are dealing with may be given by the sales person. Did they return your call promptly? Did they offer to come out and meet with you, or did they just send a quote? Were they prepared with brochures, and was the quote they provided comprehensive? How many people do they employ, and do they have the resources to service your porch lift if needed?