Once reserved for the very wealthy, home elevators are becoming more common in all types of homes. Technology has improved and prices have gone down, putting residential elevators within reach of more homeowners.
In some cases, a residential elevator is installed as a matter of convenience. Busy families find it easier to lug things like groceries, strollers and sports equipment from one floor to the other. For other people, installing an elevator is a matter of style. Builders have reported a huge increase in interest from architects in recent years. Elevators with custom glass or wood panels are particularly popular.
Even more often, however, people choose to retrofit their homes with residential elevators as they age to make the home more accessible. Seniors can stay in their homes longer and more comfortably when it’s easy to get from one floor to another. Home elevators are also popular for retrofitting a home for wheelchair access. They’re more attractive and easier to use than wheelchair lifts.
There are three types of elevators that can be installed in the home:
- Hydraulic elevators have long been the most common type for residential and low-rise commercial building installations. These are the least expensive option, but they take up a lot of room in the home and require a separate machine room to house the operating equipment. They also lack some of the safety features of newer types to prevent free falls and unsafe speeds.
- Machine room-less elevators (MRLs), a type of traction elevator, were designed to replace hydraulic elevators, but they didn’t catch on as quickly as expected. These do not require a separate machine room because the motor is much smaller. The operating equipment usually sits on top of the elevator. MRLs cost more, but prices are coming down to compete with hydraulic elevators. These also use less energy and are considered more environmentally friendly.
- Pneumatic vacuum elevators are the most recent invention of the three. These are tube-like devices that slide up and down with air pressure. Think of the plastic tubes you use at the drive-through line at the bank - the concept is very similar. These are smaller than hydraulic or traction elevators, and they do not require building an elevator shaft or machine room. However, they are the most expensive and the tubes don’t always fit through standard door openings.
The price of a home elevator depends on many variables, including the type of elevator, whether it’s new construction or a retrofit, the size and weight limit, the difficulty of installation, your location and more.
Hydraulic home elevators start at about $20,000 to $25,000 installed, while MRLs start at about $30,000 installed. Larger elevators with custom design features can cost as much as $100,000. Pneumatic vacuum elevators start at about $50,000.
Keep in mind, too, that some municipalities require a permit for home elevators, which adds up to $1,000 to the total cost.
Home elevators, just like commercial elevators, should be inspected and maintained on a regular basis. Cities and counties have varying laws on how often residential elevators need to be inspected, so it’s important to check with local officials when you have the elevator installed to make sure you stay compliant. Even where strict local laws are not in place, having an annual inspection is a wise idea. In most cases, inspections cost about $200 to $500.
Some homeowners decide to purchase service contracts that cover the cost of annual inspections and basic maintenance, including cleaning and greasing all major parts. In most cases, you can get a discounted rate for signing a multi-year contract.
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