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Pneumatic Vs Traction Elevators for Homes

traction versus pneumatic vacuum elevators comparison

Residential Pneumatic Vacuum Elevators (PVE) and traction elevators are both great solutions for getting from one level of your home to another safely and effectively. Which you choose depends on your home’s architecture, space availability, budget, and how you plan to use it.

Each elevator type has advantages and disadvantages. The information below summarizes the differences and trade-offs between pneumatic elevators and traction elevators to help you more clearly understand these elevator types. This information will assist you in preparing to discuss your elevator installation with your local elevator contractor.

Traction Elevators

Traction type elevators in residential applications operate using counterweights attached by chains. The chains are driven by a gearbox attached to the motor which are at the top of your elevator shaft.

This may sound noisy, but with today’s technology, it is almost as quiet as the maintenance-oriented hydraulic elevators. Chain-driven traction elevators and their use of counterweights increase mechanical efficiency. With proper maintenance, chain-driven traction elevators can last decades.

Home Elevator of Houston recommends chain driven over steel ropes, which are known to stretch and require replacement. Traction elevators have no oil in their systems where hydraulic drive systems are known for developing leaks over time.

savaria eclipse traction elevator cab interior in custom oak paneling

Traction Elevator Benefits

Top benefits of chain-driven traction elevator include:

  • The cab accommodates a wheelchair and multiple passengers.
  • They have a residential capacity of 1,000 pounds.
  • A compact chain-drive system makes it compatible with 8′ ceilings and can have up to 6 stops (50′ vertically).
  • The Savaria Eclipse traction elevator is modular in design making it a quick, less expensive installation than hydraulic elevators.
  • They offer a smoother ride than other types of elevators.
  • The machine room-less MRL home elevator design leaves more room for living in your home.
  • Energy-efficient and less maintenance required than hydraulic elevators as traction elevators do not use oil.
  • Entry and exit openings can be flexibly configured for front, side, and rear to accommodate the existing layout of your home. Hideaway gate systems maximize the entry width and cab’s interior space.
  • The cab, doors, and interior are 100% customizable. Visit the Savaria configurator to see the many options and to design your own home elevator.

Traction Elevator Disadvantages

Disadvantages of traction elevators include:

  • Installation of a traction elevators require a pit. This is a recess in the foundation of at least 8″.
  • A traction elevator requires construction of an elevator shaft which typically takes up 25 square feet per floor, taking up living space.
  • They require regular maintenance by a professional elevator service technician, whereas a pneumatic vacuum elevator require no maintenance.

Pneumatic Vacuum Elevators (PVE)

Vacuum elevators are the latest innovation in home elevators. They use air pressure rather gear-driven chains.

The pneumatic lift uses a powerful pump to produce low-pressure, high-pressure environments above the cab inside the tube (shaft). When you select a stop above you, the vacuum pump reduces the air pressure in the chamber above the cab. The now higher pressure below the cab pushes the cab upwards. As long as the pressure above the car becomes lower than the pressure below the car, the car continues to rise.

As the car approaches its destination, the vacuum pump equalizes the pressure above and below the car, when equal, the elevator car stops. And when you set the elevator to travel to a lower floor, the air is flushed back into the elevator and gravity brings you down.

a white trimmed pve37 installed in a conroe texas home

Vacuum Elevator Benefits

Benefits of pneumatic vacuum elevators include:

  • Vacuum elevators are an economic option as power is hardly used for descents,
  • Their vacuum pumps are super-efficient, and less frequent, offering lower-cost maintenance.
  • PVE installation requires little construction requiring no shaft or machine room so it is less expensive.
  • Installation is less disruptive with a quick 2-day installation.
  • The PVE is self-contained with all the mechanics located on top of the elevator.
  • They take up little space, making it ideal for older homes that are typically smaller.
  • The pneumatic elevator fits easily in a home, without structural needs to the foundation or home layout.
  • The largest PVE model has only a footprint of 52″ diameter.
  • They are a perfect solution for homes that were not designed with an elevator in mind.
  • If a power failure occurs while in use, the cab descends to the lowest floor and opens the door, a comforting safety feature.
  • They offer super quiet operation with use of a remote motor.
  • The PVE seems faster as you have an open panoramic view when traveling between levels.
  • The pneumatic elevator has a more contemporary appeal with elegant designs.
  • You can take your elevator with you if you move.

Vacuum Elevator Disadvantages

Disadvantages of PVE elevators include:

  • The design options are limited compared to the very versatile designs of traction elevators.
  • PVE designs are all-glass tubes which may not be the preferred aesthetic for a home.
  • The cab is generally smaller than the traction elevator although the largest of the three PVE models accommodate wheelchairs and up to 3 passengers.
  • The largest model has a maximum capacity of 525 lbs.

Whether you are buying an elevator to age in place or for convenience, our Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist CAPS can visit you at your home to help you learn more.

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The number one question we receive is about the cost of a home elevator. Traditional elevators start at $27,000 and vacuum elevators at $35,000. If this is an investment you wish to make in your home for your safety and convenience, let's schedule a free in-home consultation. See more home elevator pricing details.
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More Residential Elevator Type Comparisons

It can be confusing to figure out which elevator type is right for your home, mobility needs, and personal style preferences. We’ve put together other elevator comparisons like the one above to help you prepare to ask the better questions when you talk with your home elevator installation company. Feel free to download one of the below if it is a better fit your for interests.

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