Category Archives: Building Owners

Limits to the MRL Hydro

By Russ Ward, PME Marketing & Tim House, PME Engineer

MRL hydraulic elevators are all the rage right now and for good reason. As the name implies, there is no additional machine room space needed, as it is built into the hoistway, so there is more square footage available for other things in the building, at least in theory. That point is debatable, as some will argue this claim! But with all the advantages of MRL hydro, there is a known limiting factor that should be recognized and accounted for at this time; hydraulic fluid viscosity.

The issue regarding viscosity is there could be significant fluid cooling problems with MRL hydros. Basically, as the elevator travels up and down, the oil heats up as it moves through the pipe due to friction, and when the hydraulic fluid or oil heats up, the life-blood of the system can fail. The oil just thins out when operated above required temperature levels, much like oil does when your car overheats and gets too thin, especially for a sustained period of time.

This breakdown, or altered viscosity, creates several real problems that can harm your elevator or negatively influence the way it operates. It can cause leaks in seals, the elevator can have difficulty leveling and even wear out major components faster than they should. In addition, the lifespan of the hydraulic fluid itself can be shortened, meaning it will need to be replaced more often, creating increased costs for operation.

The reason MRL hydraulic elevators can sometimes run with fluid at a higher temperature is due to several factors:

First, the main problem is that air flow is the primary way that the elevator hydraulic tank (normally in the machine room) is cooled down. The oil flows in when the elevator is not in use, especially if parked at a lower floor. As it sits there, the oil in the tank is cooled by the surrounding air and air flow. That is why there are significant rules and regulations regarding machine room temps and one of the reasons that objects must be kept clear of the tank.

Some MRL elevators, with the elevator tank in the wall of the hoistway, will have a grate covering the area where the tank is sitting so when the elevator goes swooshing up and down, the air flow created will cool the oil. But not all are designed that way and sometimes codes prohibit the open area.

The second issue is that the motor placement inside the tank can be problematic. Again, in a normal hydraulic elevator tank, you find a submersible motor, pump valves and pipes. The key object and one that generates significant heat is the submersible motor. In the standard configuration, it rests near the bottom fully covered in hydraulic fluid.

In some of the MRL models, to save room, the tank is not horizontal but vertical and, as a result, as the jack goes up and fluid leaves the tank, the motor can be exposed to air without the benefit of being fully submerged. This can cause additional heat in the system. As a result, some companies restrict the total travel distance in MRL hydros. To combat this, others have put the hydraulic tank in the floor of the pit, but that has its own set of difficulties. Air flow can be restricted, depending on where it is placed, and if the elevator breaks down with the car at the bottom of the pit, it may be hard to get to a potential problem area.

Another problem spot to be considered is that the limited space in the hoistway or pit can lead to cutting down the power unit. This can especially be trouble for units with a total rise beyond 20 feet or more. By trying to save space, the power unit can be too small, creating more work and more heat generation.

All of these issues are magnified when the total travel distance is increased and when the elevator is in high use for very lengthy periods of time. A good example of this is a hotel that has very specific high traffic periods, especially if the hotel is four or more stories. With all the ups and downs, the oil is constantly moving and staying too warm for operation; the precious life-blood (hydraulic fluid) never really gets to sit in the tank and cool down. Also, because the hydraulic fluid is going up so high (in a four stop elevator), most of the oil can be in the jacks, possibly exposing the motor; so, over a long period of time, motor failure or jack seals may be compromised.

Because of the above, until there is a proven track record regarding MRL hydraulic units use at peak periods, we recommend caution when buying an MRL hydro beyond 24′ of total travel. Make sure you ask your elevator representative very specific questions to ensure a long elevator life.

Businesses have always been lectured about the importance of being on the cutting edge of technology, and MRL hydraulic units for longer total travel distances with high levels of peak use are just that. Just be cautious and don’t find yourself on the bleeding edge instead of the cutting edge!


There is no such thing as a dumb question.

When you are producing a truly revolutionary product, there are often misunderstandings and communication gaps about how it works and why it is the absolute best product for the market. This is especially true when your invention was produced by thinking completely outside of the box and smashing the old-fashioned way of doing things so profoundly. Let’s face it; a lot of old-timers are more comfortable grasping buggy-whips than a new concept. So, they fight by filling people’s heads with objections and downright falsehoods. Also, there is a component of not wanting to change. Instead of looking for the best solution, copy and paste comes a lot easier and bad mouthing comes quicker than honest research, so myths are built.  

The result is we get a lot of questions from people that are interested in the best elevator available for low and mid-rise applications, but they have questions that are, well, questionable because they have been so mesmerized by big elevator and modular detractors. We do have other forums we use to dispel the myths of the elevator industry. For a sample of how we have torn holes in dated premises, you can check out our two blogs, Elevator Schmelevator and Easy Up.     

But for this blog post, we will cover some of the more common myths, disinformation and honest questions we have heard over the years.   

Does your elevator sway in normal use? 

“No. Are you crazy?” springs to mind. We think this myth comes from the fact that when engineering for earthquake-prone areas, every building (which a hoistway is often classified as) has to allow for some shaking. Our units can be completely self-supporting, so for earthquakes areas, there have to be allowances just like for any other self-supporting structure. But rest assured during normal use, our elevators that are self-supporting do not shake and if they reach a certain height for travel, they are attached to the building. There is a whole lot of engineering that has gone into the hoistways and elevators we produce. They are manufactured with steel, not spaghetti noodles, and safe in every respect.    

Can your elevator be made without a pit?

This myth’s origin is easy to track down. For some, the term “modular” has the connotation to be for home, not commercial, construction, and depending on the brand of vertical conveyance, the pit depth can vary for in-home units. To contribute to the fable, our elevators have gone into some homes, but they are all commercial quality with a standard pit as required by law. So, if you have a little walking around money and want a home elevator just like you find in a commercial setting, give us a call. We will gladly produce you the fastest installing elevator, but you will need a standard four foot pit.   

How can elevator construction be safer with modular? 

You have to have the right tone for this question for it  to make sense; incredulity and disbelief is the right way to read this. You know, like you have been doing something one way your entire life and you know there is no better way. Go ahead try it again. I see you are still struggling. Try stressing and dragging out the word  “safer” and actually use air quotes with your fingers  as you speak. There – now you get the tone. Now let me run the short list of why elevator construction and the work-site is safer with modular. No lifting rails, no building an elevator car one piece at a time inside the hoistway, no open doors to fall through, no scaffolding to erect, no CMU blocks to stack, no rails for counter-weights to install, no jacks to pick up and many, many more. If worker safety were really the concern of some people, all elevators for low and mid-rise would be modular. They are that safe!            

Why is factory-built better? 

Ahh, finally an honest question. We never roll our eyes when we hear this question because it really is the main reason to get a modular elevator instead of the old way of doing things. First, understand that the big elevator companies don’t really have an elevator factory. They have a parts facilities where they gather up what they need from other companies, produce a few things themselves and then box it all up and send them to a work-site. Think of it this way. Imagine buying a car and instead of a new Ford in your driveway, the Ford dealership drops off pallets of parts to make a car and then a mercurial  technician stops by at their whim and puts the car together. You wouldn’t call it a manufactured car at all and quality would be suspect. That’s the old way of doing elevators. The right way is in a factory setting where quality is easier to manage, where consistency can be maintained, inspections take place, where the inspector can literally walk the hoistway and check rails for being level and plumb. Factory built is better.       

Do you use cheaper parts? 

Nope; another myth. It’s time to reveal a dirty little secret of the elevator industry. Ready? There are only a few companies that make each component of an elevator. From door openers to jacks, motors to sheaves, component companies are limited, and some of the big name brand companies make little more than nameplates. So all elevator parts pretty much come from the same manufacturers.  Believe it or not, we have a part or two from a major elevator company in our elevators because in that specific case, they make a good quality part. The bottom line is that when you buy modular, there is no sacrifice in quality when it comes to the parts we use. Also, all parts always meet required codes.     

A big elevator company said we needed a traction elevator for speed even though its less than ten feet of travel. Why are you recommending hydraulic?

Now we are getting to a personal bug-a-boo of mine. I hate it when people deceive to sell up. We all know what “selling up” is since McDonald’s started asking “Would you like fries with that?” The difference between McDonald’s and big elevator companies is that McDonald’s asks; they don’t act like a french fry expert and then tell people they must have golden strips of fried potato goodness due the burger code or you can only swallow your hamburger if you eat a handful of fries first. More than one person has contacted us to check if a two stop elevator with 10 feet of travel had to be traction because of speed. Really? In 10 feet, if the elevator hit its maximum speed, you would be peeling yourself off the floor. So why the up sell? Maintenance contracts. Traction elevators pull in a lot more cash each and every month. It is the same with proprietary parts. Elevators have them so elevator companies can bleed you dry in maintenance costs. Speaking of proprietary parts…   

Why are you against proprietary parts? 

After publishing several articles on this subject in our blogs, we got several questions about proprietary vs. non-proprietary. I got a little misty knowing that 3000+ blog visitors each month are actual humans and not bots just crawling our page. In any case, all proprietary parts do is turn the elevator owner into a hostage. The big elevator companies hold the tools and codes for repairs and will not release them. This ties the hands of the owner for the life of the unit. No matter what you do, you cannot get out of the deal and the elevator company can raise your maintenance costs at will and do maintenance and repair when they want. Unfortunately, not enough architects, GCs and building owners have learned about this game, so they will continue to be an unwilling partner or saddle end users with huge bills they can’t get out of. We never have and never will use proprietary parts. Proprietary parts are evil.        

 Are modular elevators approved by the government? 

Our elevators meet or exceed every jurisdictional requirement for every governmental entity across the United States or Canada. From the Alaska Ice Road to Brooklyn, NY – Los Angeles, CA to Prince Edward Island, we have met codes for both the hoistway and elevators. To accomplish this, we have certified welders on staff to meet that need and we welcome outside inspectors to our factory when required.  To top that off, we are also a big hit with the government itself. When you ride an elevator in many US bases and installations (we can’t say which ones), you will be in a Phoenix Modular Elevator including a fair number of VA Medical Centers. Yes, we are very much approved or can be approved in any jurisdiction.      

Okay, you got me. Why doesn’t everyone insist on modular? 

Ya got me, too. Everyone should. To find out pricing on a current project, just click the button below. 

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Are All Elevator Companies Equally Bad?

Are all elevator companies equally bad? This is a question posed in a forum on in the Design and Architectural Style section. For too many of the commentators in the blog, the answer is an unfortunate yes. Each respondent complained about the state of the elevator industry when it comes to repairs, but none really had the right explanation. It is true there is a bit of a shortage of elevator techs, but that is not the core issue regarding poor repairs. In other words, a technician properly trained can easily tackle most elevator problems, but what if there was something built into how we buy elevators in the first place that totally did away with any incentive to get the job done right? Find out the secret elevator companies want to keep hidden.

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Definition and Benefits of Modular

Pleasant PrairieWhen it comes to blogging, usually you use stories or anecdotes to get your point across. It tends to stick better with the reader if they can identify with the examples given.  People tend to engage and respond more favorably if they can feel a connection. But, sometimes you have to just state the facts and tell people point by point what you are trying to say.  That is the case with this blog post. No fluff, no mother-in-law stories, no tragic tales of elevator builds gone wrong or funny anecdotes;  just the truth about modular building and why it is the fastest-growing and best way to build any project. Get the straight story on modular here!! 
If you would like to find out more about modular building or have an elevator project you would like a quote for, click the button below.

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Hurricanes Toughest Building Codes


When it comes to devastating storms in the United States, no place is more often the target of hurricanes than the Sunshine State – Florida. According to National Hurricane Center data, from just 1995 to 2017 the number of hurricanes, tropical storms and tropical depressions that have passed through some portion of Florida equals a stunning total of 42. The next closest state on the list is North Carolina with 27 and finishing third is Texas with 22.

The Florida hurricanes since 1995 includes Opal – 1995, Charley – 2004, Ivan – 2004, Jeanne – 2004, Dennis – 2005, Wilma – 2017 and now Michael a category 4 storm beating up the panhandle.

Find out what these tougher codes mean to you. 

If you would like more info or have a project in mind in an area prone to hurricanes click below.

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Respect the Code – Elevator Code Bible

Code BookI bristle at calling any book, “The Bible”. Not necessarily for the notion that something is authoritative and has the last word in matters of the law, but because it can reduce the Bible to a bunch of codes and rules which is not the case. But when it comes to elevators, there is an actual bible (grandma I hope you noticed the small “b”). That bible is the American Society of Mechanical Engineers – Codes and Standards A17 and CSA B44 for our Canadian friends.

The primary purpose for this code is clearly stated by Norman B. Martin, a proponent of the ASME Codes and Standards and highly respected Chief Elevator Inspector for the state of Ohio. He said the following… Find out what he said and the importance here.

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Quality Craftsman – Modular Building

Working woodOne of the knocks that seems to never go away when discussing modular construction is that a modular building is always cookie cutter, the same boring products cut out of the same boring mold. In some people’s thinking, because there is consistency in manufacturing, quality craftsmanship seems to be elusive or nonexistent.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

As a matter of fact, the opposite is true. Let’s start with the fact that if a building is manufactured, not built one block or stick at a time, overall quality is higher and construction is faster. There are no weather delays nor delays due to one trade waiting on another. With modular, a four-story hotel can be ready to open six months after the foundation is poured. A similar stick-built can take a year to 16 months or longer. Efficiency is bumped up and costly mistakes are reduced with modular construction. There is less waste due to planned manufacturing.

Find out about our quality here!!! 

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Work Force Crunch Making Modular More Attractive

Don’t Suffer Buyer’s Remorse

Empty WalletRecently, we got an all-too-familiar email when following up on an apartment complex bid we had put together on an elevator project. We had been asked to provide a bid for a new project, and about a year had passed since the project had been awarded.  We were not the vertical transportation solution chosen. However, this type of email exchange is something that has become very common for us as the prospective customer checks their wallet at the end of the project and finds out it is empty.

In answering our question about how the project was going, the customer responded, “As you know, the contractor went with a conventional unit, which on the surface is cheaper.  However, if all the costs were included, I’m sure we picked the wrong one. Anyway, I like what you are doing and will look forward to working with you in the near future.”

Find out how to count the whole costs here! 

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Elevator Ignorance Cost Big Time

benjamin-franklin-portrait“We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid.” ~ Benjamin Franklin

Recently we received an inquiry from a prospective client regarding our suggested use of a hydraulic unit in a four story project with approximately forty-five feet of travel.

The client was very impressed with our eight week lead time and one week install that could simply not be matched by any stick built alternative. However, they were being sold hardcore on the notion that hydraulic elevators were too out-dated and more costly regarding electricity used over time and the initial wiring. To answer their questions and suspicions, they went to an electrical contractor for basic answers and got some really bad info.  Fortunately, they reached out to us before making a decision. Without casting aspersions, the electrician was obviously out of his depth and showed the ignorance that good ol’ Ben Franklin was warning about.

Click here for facts you can’t ignore! 

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