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Elevator Glossary of Terms

Elevator Terminology

By June 2, 2021August 12th, 2022Uncategorized

Are you confused by elevator terminology as you explore home elevators? We understand it can be challenging. Below are terms frequently used when talking about residential elevators and their features. If you have a question or don’t see the word you are looking for here, please call us at (512) 831-2703 or use this form to send us your inquiry.

Alarm button: a button inside the elevator car that activates the alarm bell that can be heard outside the elevator. If remotely monitored, the button also activates a voice connection so the car occupant can speak with the monitoring service.

Alarm delay time: the amount of time that a home elevator’s alarm button must be pressed before activating the alarm. This is useful in case the button is accidentally pressed.

Automatic car light: also called emergency car lighting, battery-powered light(s), usually LED, inside the elevator car that turn on automatically when the elevator is in use and turns off using a timer.

Automatic gate opener: also called automatic gate operator, is the electro-mechanical device that automatically opens and closes the car gate.

Brake: an electro-mechanical device that prevents the elevator from moving when the elevator car has stopped or when the elevator has no power.

Call station: Also called remote station or hall station, the button on each landing that people push to “call” the elevator to a landing.

Car: Also called cab, is the portion of the elevator in which people ride.

Car gate: Gate is basically the door of the elevator car and travels with the elevator. Some elevators can have gates or door openings on 1, 2 or 3 sides.

Car gate lock: a safety device that electrically prevents the operation of the elevator unless the car door is locked in the closed position and mechanically prevents mechanically the opening of an elevator car door from the car side unless the elevator car is in the door zone and is stopped.

Car guide rail: A metal track that guides travel of an elevator in its hoistway.

Car operating panel (COP): is the control panel inside the elevator that includes the buttons and switches for giving passengers a way to issue calls and commands to the elevator.

Controller: The controller houses the electrical control circuits for the elevator.

Drive system: The mechanism that powers the direction and speed of the elevator car and its passengers. Types of drive systems used in home elevators include:

  • Pneumatic Vacuum Elevator (PVE): Turbines operating as exhaust fans extract air from the top of the cylinder creating a vacuum that makes the sealed elevator car to rise. For descent, the intake of air is controlled causing the elevator car to smoothly move downwards due to gravity. No cables, chains, or hydraulic jacks are utilized to raise or lower the car. PVE is the greenest, most energy efficient elevator on the market. It’s also the most reliable requiring minimal maintenance.
  • Chain drive: a geared chain-driven machine which uses weights to counter balance the weight of the elevator car making it very efficient
  • Hydraulic: Also called hydro, utilizes a hydraulic jack or plunger beneath the platform and wire cables to raise and lower the car.
  • Winding drum: Also called cable drum, a geared-drive machine on which suspension cables are fastened and wind on a rotating drum.

Emergency battery lowering (EBL): An emergency power source for use during power outages that lowers the elevator to a landing and energizes the interlock allowing the occupant(s) to exit the car.

Handrail: Bars attached to the sides of the interior of the elevator car to provide riders something to grab onto for balance and support, if needed.

Hoistway: Also called a shaft, is the conduit that passes through the floors and holds the car. Note: Traditional chain-driven traction elevators, hydraulic elevators, and winding drum elevators require shafts and most often pits, but pneumatic vacuum elevators do not require a shaft or pit.

Home elevator: A home (or residential) elevator is, by building codes, designed for the needs of private residences such as single homes, townhomes, and condominiums serving one family.

Homing device: a mechanism that sends the elevator to a predetermined landing when not in use.

Interlock: A vital safety mechanism that reduces the risk of someone falling into the shaft.

Landing: the point at each floor where the elevator will open.

Landing door: also called hoistway door, door opening from the room to the hoistway at a landing.

Machine room (MR): A small room usually constructed near the elevator hoistway (located at any level) to accommodate the drive system and electrical control box. Note: Not all traditional elevators require a machine room and PVE does not require one.

Machine room-less (MRL): the drive system of MRL elevators is completely inside the hoistway thus eliminating the machine room.

Overhead: Clearance needed to accommodate the components on top of the elevator car. It is measured from the top landing’s finished floor to the lowest obstruction at the top of the hoistway.

Pit: The pit is at the lowest landing to provide clearance for the support components that are beneath the elevator car allowing the elevator floor to level with the lowest landing floor. In most cases, the pit is created by penetrating the top of the home’s foundation. Not all elevators and installation sites require a pit. Vacuum elevators never require a pit.

Nudging: when an elevator system has automatic door operation, if the elevator door remains open longer than a pre-set time, it will give an audible and/or visual signal and reduce the speed and torque of the closing elevator doors.

Running clearance: The space between entrance sill and elevator car sill (usually 1 ¼”).

Sill: a flat metal fitting with grooves in which the door guide rides at the landing floor in the entrance or elevator car door.

Traveling cable: also called multi-conductor wiring harness, used to get power and car functions from the controller to the car as it rises from bottom floor to the top floor. This will provide power communicate to the controller as well as provide safety circuit connections back to the controller.

Weight capacity: also called rated load, the total amount of weight that the elevator is designed to carry.


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pve 37 vacuum elevator installed in stairwell of a a traditional style home
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