The Ups and Downs of Elevator Maintenance
Preventative maintenance is essential for ensuring elevators operate efficiently throughout their life cycle, says Cory Hussey, COO and General Counsel for Stanley Elevator Company, Inc.
An elevator is a significant investment for any type of building. But the value you get in return depends on how well it is taken care of.
Commercial elevator maintenance plans are designed to optimize system value and minimize risk for building owners and facility managers. With the right maintenance plan in place, you can:
- Avoid costly, time-intensive repairs
- Make sure your passengers are safe
- Pass state inspections and stay up to code
Maintenance plans are essentially routine checkups for your elevators and are a proactive way of identifying potential problems before they have a chance to become serious.
What if You Don’t Have a Maintenance Plan?
Going without a maintenance plan can be a lot like never getting your car serviced; eventually an otherwise preventable problem could cause issues with the overall functionality of the system.
What might happen to your car if you never got an oil change or never had the engine checked? Without a maintenance plan for an elevator, a malfunctioning part can go unnoticed until something major happens.
The consequences of forgoing a maintenance contract can result in high repair costs down the line, as well as inconvenient delays and frustrated passengers.
Here’s an overview of typical elevator-related expenses without a service plan:
- Service calls: These can cost up to (if not more than) $300/hour. However, service calls can run even higher for emergency or after-hours calls.
- Code violations: In most states, commercial elevators are required to be inspected every year to ensure they are up to code. If they’re not up to code, you can face daily fines. In Massachusetts, there is a $100/day fine for each day an elevator is operating without applying for the annual inspection.
- Full modernization: Elevators that don’t receive routine service may need a total makeover, including a new motor, piston or other expensive parts. Modernization costs will depend on the size and type of system, but will likely run between $150,000 and $1,000,000.
The cost of service calls and code violations won’t include the price of replacement parts, which can run high. To give you an idea of what parts may cost, a new motor can be upwards of $5,000.
The Benefits of a Maintenance Plan
A maintenance plan for each of your elevators is really the best way to ensure your systems are fully reliable and that your passengers are safe. Plus, a lot of the high costs associated with service and repairs can be controlled with a regular maintenance plan.
By having systems checked on a monthly basis, technicians can identify and resolve small problems before they have the chance to develop into serious, costly issues. Most maintenance plans also include 24-hour emergency service and guaranteed monthly safety checks, so you can have peace of mind that all your systems are in good hands.
Compared to the potential costs associated with having to replace systems or upgrade certain parts, a maintenance plan is worth the investment. For elevators in small buildings, maintenance contracts typically cost between $3,500 and $5,000 a year. Systems in high-rise buildings usually run from $8,000 to $10,000 a year. The exact price of a yearly plan for your building will depend on the number of elevators and what types of systems they are.
Regularly maintained systems will have much longer lifespans than ones without service plans, often up to 20 years or more depending on the type of elevator, usage and other wear and tear factors. However, keep in mind that even systems that are highly cared for may need to have parts replaced during their lifetime. The following are a few of the most common issues every elevator eventually runs into:
- Worn chains/cables
- Ruptures in hydraulic systems
- Malfunctioning doors
- Electronic glitches in an automated system
If you’re concerned about the annual cost of maintenance, most elevator service companies offer plans that can fit into a variety of budgets. Just make sure you verify that the service company is familiar with the specific type of elevators you have. It’s also important that they have technicians and a local parts inventory close by for quick service whenever you need it.
More than anything, remember that elevators are complex systems that should only be maintained by professional, certified technicians.