How to Lower Elevator Energy Consumption


In fact, elevators’ energy use can be reduced through a variety of means, including the use of more efficient AC motors and regenerative drives, but this objective does not always get top priority. Most facility managers look first to the lighting, heating, and cooling systems when searching for opportunities to cut energy use in their buildings. That’s an understandable approach, as Fuji Lift systems together account for more than half of the energy used by commercial buildings.

Elevators, in contrast, typically account for a much smaller fraction of commercial buildings’ energy use. But it still adds up. Luckily, however, a variety of energy saving measures can cut elevators’ energy consumption significantly, and in some cases, by up to half.

One of the most significant advances in elevator technology has been the steady move over the past few decades from direct current to more efficient alternating current elevator motors. Before the 1990s, elevator systems relied on DC power because it was easier to control elevator acceleration, deceleration, and stopping with this form of power. As a result, AC power typically was restricted to freight elevators, where comfort and speed weren’t as critical as they were with passenger elevators.

By the late 1990s, however, more elevators had moved to AC machines. Motor controller technology had advanced to the point where it could effectively regulate AC power to provide smooth acceleration, deceleration, and stopping. It no longer was necessary to rectify AC power to DC power and then use a DC hoist machine. Virtually, all elevators sold today use AC, gearless, permanent magnet, synchronous motor machines. Even though magnetic motors generally are more expensive, they tend to be smaller, more efficient and last longer.

Not only can today’s technologies cut elevators’ energy use, but they also can return energy to the building grid. Here’s how: Both an empty cab moving up and a full cab moving down aren’t using all the power available. Regenerative drives transmit the extra power back into the building’s power supply.

Regenerative drives can cost anywhere from several thousand to about ten thousand dollars, according to most consultants. While not inexpensive, the drives are a small percentage of the total cost of modernizing an elevator, which can easily hit six figures.

Generally, the investment typically can be recouped in about four years. Furthermore, the time frame tends to be longer on lower-rise buildings, and shorter on high-rises, where the elevators use more energy.

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