There are a number of inventions that have had a massive impact on how many people live, and elevators are a great example. Elevators have revolutionized movement and transportation within structures for everyone, from those with movement concerns to average people who simply benefit from their convenience, and many people naturally wonder how these incredibly beneficial products actually work.

At A+ Elevators & Lifts, we’re proud to offer an unmatched selection of commercial and residential elevators, dumbwaiters and similar lift products for all your potential needs. We’re also happy to detail the working components of any of our products, whether you need this information for safety, building codes or even simple curiosity. Here’s a simple rundown of the anatomy of an elevator, including all the important components that make these products what they are.

Elevator Cab

The elevator component that’s most familiar to many people is the cab, where passengers board and disembark. The size of the cab is determined by its intended purpose – for instance, a residential elevator will be much smaller than one meant for commercial use – but all cabs feature similar basic components.

There’s a control panel inside the cab to operate the elevator, as well as an emergency stop button that can be used to bring the cab to a halt if necessary. The interior of the cab is also outfitted with flooring, walls and a ceiling, and cabs can be further customized with different materials, finishes and colors to better match the décor of their surroundings.

Many cabs will also contain basic accessories like handrails, mirrors, and phones or intercoms that can be used in the event of an emergency.

Doors or Gates

Most elevator feature at least two sets of doors – the car door, that travels up and down with the elevator cab, open to allow passengers to board.  And ad hoistway door (sometimes referred to as ‘landing’ or ‘hallway’ door).  The car door is typically automatic, although some models may feature manual doors as well.  The hoistway door remains locked when the elevator is not present, however can be unlocked and opened manually by maintenance and rescue personnel.

The car door is sometimes referred to as a ‘gate.”  This keeps the passengers safely inside the cab as it ascends and descends in the hoistway.

Both doors and gates for elevators are found in a wide variety of styles, materials, and colors to better match their surroundings, and they can be customized to fit the specific needs of any application. A common gate style for many residential elevators, for instance, is the tambour or accordion gate, which can be opened out of the way when not in use.

Among many important concepts within the door and gate setup, the space allowed between the door and the gate while the elevator is operating is very important. There should generally be no more than four inches of space between the two, as this is considered the industry standard for safety.

Drive Systems

Naturally, the cab we already went over needs to be able to move up and down the elevator shaft (more on this below) to get people to their desired location. This is done using a drive system, which refers to a set of machinery that will move the cab up and down based on its commands. Generally speaking, there are a few options out there for drive systems today:

  • Traction: Often used for smaller residential elevators, this system uses a steel cable or chain that’s wrapped around sheave or sprocket to move the cab. The sheave or sprocket is connected to an electric motor, which is used to rotate it and in turn move the cab up or down. The actual motor is usually in the top of the elevator shaft or in a separate adjacent machine room.  Residential elevators can usually travel up to 50 feet of vertical rise, and commercial elevators can go much further.
  • Hydraulic: Another common drive system, this one uses a piston to move the cab. The piston is located in a cylinder, which is filled with hydraulic fluid. The fluid is pressurized by an electric pump, which in turn drives the piston and moves the cab.  Hydraulic models usually have their pumps located in a machine room.
  • Machine Room-less (MRL): As you may have guessed, this indicates that this system doesn’t require a dedicated machine room. MRL elevators are becoming increasingly popular in both residential and commercial applications, as they offer many of the same benefits as traditional traction models but without the need for an extra room.

Elevator Shaft

Finally, the elevator shaft is the area that holds both the cab and cable system during operations. There are a few important components in most or all elevator shafts:

  • Pit: The pit is the area just under the lowest level of the structure, offering a space where the cab can rest when it’s at the lowest level of the building. The pit must be deep enough to accommodate the cab when it’s fully extended, and it also needs to have a water-tight seal to prevent flooding.
  • Overhead: On the flip side of this, the overhead is the area just above the highest level of the structure. Again, it provides a space for the cab to rest when it’s on the top floor, and it needs to be tall enough to accommodate the cab when it’s fully extended.
  • Rail wall: This is a vital area that holds the guide rails (the track structure in which the elevator cab moves vertically on), ensuring the cab stays stable and secure at all times.

For more on the important components of any elevator, or to learn about our affordable home and commercial elevators and related products, speak to the pros at A+ Elevators & Lifts today.