Recent elevator safety incidents in Chicago and elsewhere have building owners (and tenants) looking at their own elevators and wondering if it’s time for an upgrade. While events like these should bring property owner’s attention to the safety of their lifts, there are many reasons to modernize elevators that don’t make headlines including reduced maintenance costs, occupant satisfaction and energy efficiency.
According to a 2015 report by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), there are about 900,000 elevators in the U.S., any of which should be modernized every 20-25 years, meaning that there should be 50,000 upgrades every year. However, the same study found that less than 25,000 elevators are modernized annually, indicating that there is a substantial number of elevators that both need improvements and could benefit from modern technology.
Although building owners typically view elevator modernization as a way to increase tenant safety and satisfaction, elevator modernization can also yield a good return on investment through energy and utility savings. In 2017, Elevator World Inc. reported that U.S. elevators consume 5 billion kWh of electricity every year, costing about $500 million. However, various reports have found that current options for modernization can reduce an elevator’s energy consumption by 40%.
Elevator modernization choices range from partial modernization to full replacement for building owners looking to increase safety and to reduce maintenance costs. Along this spectrum, elevator equipment companies, such as Schindler Elevators provide options geared towards maximizing energy efficiency along with code compliance and performance.
“From regenerative drives that reclaim energy to new drives that simply produce less heat, which saves energy and reduces the need for cooling we see typical retrofit projects save a minimum of 35% on their energy expenses,” stated Bryan Budnik, Director of Customer Excellence & Repair at Schindler Elevator Corporation.
- Efficient Controllers
- Efficient Wiring
- Conversion to AC or Magnetic Motors
- Upgraded Hydraulic Power Unit
- Traction Upgrades
- Regenerative Drive
- Destination Dispatch
- Speed Control
Savings can be significant depending on the size and occupancy type of the building. Some elevators see hundreds of trips every week or every day.
“As a critical part of building safety, operation, and overall comfort, every trip represents a need for superior safety and an opportunity for energy savings,” continued Budnik.
It is these very energy savings that eliminate one of the key barriers to entry for undertaking such a project - capital constraints. Because elevator modernization saves energy, such retrofits qualify for 100% financing through many state and municipal C-PACE financing programs.
C-PACE is a method of providing 100% long-term, fixed-rate financing for energy efficiency and renewable energy upgrades to buildings through a voluntary property tax assessment. The funding is provided by private capital providers, such as Counterpointe Sustainable Real Estate, which lends in each of 16-plus states that have active PACE programs (more than a dozen more have programs in formation).
Below are case studies in which Counterpointe provided PACE financing for the building’s elevator improvements:
Situation: While repositioning itself under a new hospitality brand flag, the property owners sought to bring elevators into code compliance while staying within budget for the renovations and upgrades.
Solution: The owner elected full replacement of the existing elevator with an Otis Elevonic R-Series, which includes higher efficiency controls and wiring, conversion to AC power, and a regenerative drive to recapture mechanical energy. Reserving capital for other upgrades required for the repositioning, the owner elected to also use PACE’s 100% financing to upgrade HVAC, lighting, and building controls along with the elevator modernization. Elevator energy use was projected to decrease by almost 50% from 98.4 mW annually to 49.2 mW.
Situation: A nursing home vulnerable to hurricane damage sought to upgrade their poorly performing elevators while also upgrading the building’s roofing and windows. Hoping to minimize impact on the capital improvement budget, the owners turned to CounterpointeSRE for PACE for financing.
Solution: The elevator was modernized by ThyssenKrupp with more efficient controls, wiring, hydraulic power unit as well as a larger cab for greater transport capacity. Optimizing performance and increasing transport capacity, the elevator modernization was expected to save only a modest amount of energy annually, yet being able to utilize PACE financing for the elevator modernization reduced future operating expenses and allowed the property owner to conserve capital for other aspects of the build.
If you are a building owner, contractor, or elevator servicer, consider utilizing the energy efficiencies yielded from elevator modernization to qualify for low-cost, long-term capital through today’s PACE programs. To check availability for your project or region, please complete the form below.