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!

Labor Crunch – Modular Solution

The labor market is getting tighter and tighter, especially with a 3.9% unemployment rate, and actual jobs are now more plentiful than those seeking them, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Bureau is an arm of the United States Department of Labor and they track and report all things labor in the US. According to the official statistics, simply put, we have more job openings than people to fill them. This labor crunch is clearly evidenced by the most recent numbers of people filing for unemployment. It is the lowest rate since 1969 and many say it is due to employers holding on to employees because they fear not being able to find replacements. This trend is also demonstrated in a recent phone call we received at Phoenix Modular Elevator.

The phone call was from a manager of a regional elevator company that has new installations as a large part of their book of business. For the first time ever, he called us to get details on our modular solution that he had seen at a recent trade show. But strangely, it was not due to our fast installations (less than a week with standard hydraulic models), nor was it due to the price, which is usually very competitive. It was due to the fact that he was having significant difficulties in filling elevator technician positions with qualified employees in his company. That was leading to the unusual problem of people wanting elevators, the company wanting to provide them, but having no way to get them installed in any reasonable time.

As the manager started looking for solutions, he remembered us and modular quickly became the best way to provide elevators to a customer base that needed them.

But his questions were not all about installing more elevators faster. He dug deep during our conversation about quality and safety. He was not going to install anything that was substandard or less safe than what he could provide through traditional, old-fashioned elevator installation. To his surprise, he found that our high-quality commercial elevators have parts that are from solid, tried and true elevator supply companies and are always non-proprietary. This means that his crews could trust our product and get them up and running with little problem because everything from door openers (that come pre-installed) to controllers were from companies they were familiar with and liked to work with.

He also loved the fact that a modular machine room was available that comes largely finished with a tank, pump and motor already installed and ready to go once power is available. It seemed too good to be true, so he began to question safety.

Over the years, he had seen plenty of good elevator technicians forced to leave the business due to injuries usually associated with lugging around heavy rails and being forced into tight working conditions in very cramped elevator hoistways. Anyone in the elevator business can tell you it is not very kind to the back, and Tylenol is often gobbled up more often than M&M’s. He was extremely relieved to find a company that cares enough about elevator technicians to do most of the heavy lifting for them. No more rails to be installed in a vertical shaft and the car is assembled separately from the hoistway and inserted with all the wiring before it is shipped.

With all of these huge benefits, not only was he instantly sold, but he wanted to start selling them himself. We were able to provide the perfect solution to the problem of lack of qualified labor, and he found a quality solution that was not only faster to install, but safer for his employees.

If you want to become a qualified installer of Phoenix Modular Elevators, just go to this website and answer a few questions. We want to help you make elevators easy! If you have a project in mind, click the button below.

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Adding on to the Phoenix Modular Elevator Legacy

The calendar has lost its final page and now it is 2019. As is the nature of humanity, we cannot resist the temptation to look back at 2018 and take a peak at the near future for Phoenix Modular Elevator; it was an undeniable success. Demand was way up and production continued to steadily climb. One trend that we identified was the growing market demand for taller modular elevators. As familiarity and acceptance continues to grow among architects, developers and builders, we continue to grow across the continent. The result is that hoistways that were once considered out of reach for us are now the largest requests we receive. We are certainly a far cry from where we were when we started some 20 years ago in an old shoe factory.

In that old factory, when Phoenix Modular Elevator first opened its doors, it was the best two and three stop elevator solution available to bring a building up to code for the Americans with Disabilities Act. The elevators were easily manufactured and swung into place faster than any conventional elevator could be, making the upgrade in accessibility easy and fast. Hence our slogan, “We make elevators easy!” But soon, it was discovered that new traditional construction, modular construction and large retrofit projects were a great fit as well. As a result, ever increasing floor travels became a larger part of the business.

Soon it was four to seven story buildings that were in our wheelhouse. Sure, we still produced lots of commercial-quality two-story models faster and safer than conventional elevators, but the mid-rise elevators we produced kept getting taller and taller. And that was when we knew a new home with more breathing room would be needed. In 2017, planing and construction began and by 2018, the factory was complete. We moved into  the brand new manufacturing center, still centrally located for all of North America in Mt. Vernon, Illinois. Turns out, when you ship elevators from the Alaska Ice Road to Prince Edward Island, Florida to California and all points in between, being on two major interstate highways is a good idea.  

The new digs allowed for a less crowded factory floor to easily accommodate those larger hoistways; because in our world, when we say taller and taller, we really mean longer and longer, as our elevators are built horizontally. Any shaft that is over 50+ feet will mean multiple, stackable towers as our process entails building the hoistways with all the elevator components already inside. These stackable hoistways are a point of pride for us because they are always level, square and plumb to perfection due to our process and high-skilled laborers. So, when we have multi-piece elevator hoistways, the pieces are produced all lined up and connected so they are perfect every time. This meant more floor space was needed, especially when you get to four or more towers for one project.

Ultimately, due to the ever-increasing requests for seven to 22 floor elevators, we had to expand again. Fortunately, we planned for the future with a site and factory that was easily increased in size and our success permitted us to double our factory floor with an addition that will be ready by March 1, 2019. We are continuing to build and to grow but not just physically. Our capacity has also increased with additional professional staff in engineering, sales and logistics. This allows for more volume with the same customer service. We can continue to help you choose the best elevator for your application, produce drawings quickly and make sure it is shipped on time as requested.  Phoenix Modular Elevator experienced a fantastic 2018 and we are positioned to expand even more for a prosperous 2019.  

Retro Fit Testimonial

View the testimonial here!


When considering an elevator for a retro fit project the best place to start is at www.phoenixmodularelevator.com. We have heard the stories time and time again about the elevator project slowing construction and running up costs, but they don’t have to. In the video a superintendent of a school receiving a modular solution talks about all the ways that modular helped out in a retro fit project. It also shows how the elevator was installed and why it was so crucial that the school get a much needed upgrade.

The testimonial reveals the value that modular has, the acceptance it received from architects and how easy it was for the school to have an elevator installed. This video is a must see if your building needs an elevator!!!!

Are All Elevator Companies Equally Bad?

Are all elevator companies equally bad? This is a question posed in a forum on UrbanToronto.ca 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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Christmas Comes Earlier for PME

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Every year it seems that the Holidays and Christmas season creeps up earlier and earlier on the calendar. What used to push into November is now full bloom in mid-October. Christmas songs start making their way into the muzak mix in stores and there is more red and green decorations than florid fall flowers.  Keep in mind that I have generally been resistant to even picking up wrapping paper and Seasons Greetings cards in October and November. As a matter of fact, until recently the bulk of my Yuletide shopping was done exclusively on Christmas Eve! But this year I am admittedly part of the problem. That is because at Phoenix Modular Elevator we decided to try something different for holiday goodies that make their way to our customers every year. Find out what we tried that has everyone a little hungry.

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Elevator Construction Unsafe

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No one wants to see yellow warning tape going up at job site, so here at Phoenix Modular Elevator, we talk a lot about construction site safety, especially regarding elevators. In other words, safety is a big motivator for us, not just when the elevator is up and running, but from the time the elevator hoistway or shaft is being constructed to the final installation of the elevator itself.

Why? Because we know there is a better way. Modular elevators are simply a safer alternative that need to be embraced by everyone in the building industry so injuries and yellow warning tape can be avoided. If we have said it once, we have said it a thousand times; if you care about worker safety, build with modular. Find out how modular makes elevator construction safer. 

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

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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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Off-Site Construction Expo – Perfect

OSCE2018In almost any industry,  there are a plethora of trade shows. So when you finally find one that is a great fit, you like to let others know about it. The Off-Site Construction Expo (OSCE) has been one of the best, and this opinion is not from a novice. At Phoenix Modular Elevator (PME), we attend lots of trade shows because we fit into many different categories, including the construction industry, elevator industry, modular building industry, etc. The list goes on and on because we can, and have, attended many shows for specific sub-groups such as hotel owners or building managers to name just a few. All have their pluses and minuses. Click here to find out why we think OSCE is one of the best! 

If you missed us at the conference but would like a cost estimate click the link below.

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