What Happens During a Power Outage?

Today residential elevator technologies give homeowners the assurance that they will get stuck in the cab during a power outage, but it was not always that way. Before battery backups and mandatory installation of telephones in home elevators (per construction code), if the electricity had an outage, traditional hydraulic or traction elevators stopped where they were immediately and suddenly. But even then, electromagnetic brakes prevented “free fall” that many homeowners are concerned about.

Since the early 1900s, elevators have been designed for rider safety. And for the last couple of decades, vacuum elevators have offered built-in design for lowering gently without battery backup. Safe descent is literally part of how a PVE works.

Vacuum Elevators During a Power Outage

In pneumatic vacuum elevators (PVE), the vacuum pump only uses electricity to go up. When PVEs are operating normally with electric service, you enter the cab and select a stop to go to a higher floor. This causes the vacuum pump to engage to begin slowly reducing the air pressure in the chamber above the cab. The now-higher pressure below the cab pushes the cab upwards. While the electrical vacuum pump is operating to create low pressure above the car, it will rise.

While electricity is required to go up, going down is achieved by the mechanical (not electrical) valve designed to slowly release air into the chamber above the cab. Allowing air into the vacuum above the cab raises the air pressure slowly allowing gravity to gently lower you to the bottom floor where the door will open. Its design makes free fall impossible. And again, in case any of these innately designed safety features fail, by code, you have a phone to call for help. Plus, PVEs do have a battery backup for the interior lights and fan. Note if the PVE is not in use at the time of a power outage, the car will just stay where it is.

By design, vacuum elevators have a big advantage over traditional elevators in a power outages, though all home elevators property installed to code are safe.

licensed home elevator technician in uniform

After the Power Comes Back On

If your elevator does not resume operation following a power failure, do not attempt to use it until a licensed elevator technician has inspected it and made any repairs. Though fuses and breakers protect the more expensive components, a power outage may involve power drops and surges that manage to damage delicate components.

A licensed elevator maintenance technician can test components and review information in the logs of the elevator’s software to ensure your elevator continues to operate smoothly.

Have More Questions?

Our local Certified Aging-in-Place (CAPS) specialists welcome your call to ask all your questions. And look forward to an invitation to your home to complete a site survey and give you an understanding of the best residential mobility solutions for your specific situation.

Read more about what happens during your appointment for an in-home elevator consultation and site survey.