23rd February 2015
Over the past few decades elevator technology, like vehicle technology, has undergone a revolutionary transformation. Modern elevators consume less energy, are able to respond to customers far more quickly, are much faster than before and just look more attractive. Their maintenance needs are lower, and they do not break down as often as before.
All of this means that there is a huge potential for building owners and businesses to reduce their energy costs. However, the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) has identified a huge problem: few people seem to be aware of energy-efficient elevators. The reason is that energy savings are still not a great marketing point.
In its January 2015 report, the ACEEE said that elevators account for between 2% and 5% of the energy consumption of a building. At peak times in a retail business or office this could reach 50% of the building’s power use. A modern 14-storey elevator can use 90 kilowatts of electricity.
Assuming a figure of 5% elevator energy use, the ACEEE estimated that, nationwide, U.S. elevators use five times as much energy as the whole of Washington D.C. With a certain amount of knowledge dissemination, businesses and building owners could be able to reduce their elevator energy use by between 40% and 75%.
Room for Improvement
There are several factors that offer room for improvement. The elevator’s performance can be improved by using new components, controls and systems. Foremost among these are machine roomless designs, where the elevator machine room is removed to save space. Energy can be saved by miniaturising the traction machine and developing gearless traction. Such a design enables better control and lower heat dissipation from the lifting mechanism.
Further energy savings can be made by using LED lighting, which provides a more comfortable environment as well as saving energy. These types of improved controls, features and illuminations can marry with the building’s design to create a feeling of improved quality.
Another issue is that wherever the elevator is installed, it does spend much more time idle than on the move. But an elevator on standby still consumes energy. The secret here is to cut back on standby energy use.
Although the building’s owner is the ultimate customer for a new elevator design, other parties will affect an owner’s choices. These are engineers, architects, manufacturers and consultants of all kinds, with each hoping to promote their own ideas and products.
Energy-efficiency alone is not a powerful enough concept to overcome other aesthetic issues that may result in higher energy consumption. The answer here is to use ‘energy-efficient’ is a symbol of quality, says the ACEEE. This would come within a complete package of design, controls, improved performance, comfort and quietness.
This does not have to be the biggest label in a building’s design but can be the start to promoting a more efficient way of running a business that over time will become associated with quality. Such an approach could be the beginning of a new rating system similar to the Department of Energy’s ENERGY STAR labelling. A rating method enables manufacturers to include a credible energy-saving package with their product as an addition to their marketing plans. The building’s owner has everything to gain as a result.