Elevators typically have service lives of over 20 years, but over time their performance can begin to decline. When that happens, it might be time to consider modernization.

The decision on whether to modernize elevators depends to a large extent on tenant satisfaction. If many complaints are being received, the building manager might want to modernize the elevators to make them more efficient and reliable. Managers should also look at the number of service calls made over a moving 12-month period and see if they are increasing or decreasing.

Modernization might not increase the speed of elevators, but it can increase their efficiency. Modern elevators with destination dispatch technology can group passengers by where they are going, eliminating wasted trips and reducing wait times. Microprocessors can learn traffic patterns in a building and adjust accordingly. Modern elevators can have improved acceleration and deceleration rates, and doors can open and close faster.

Modernization can also make elevators more energy-efficient and reduce energy costs. They can feed energy back into the building as they descend, rather than releasing it in the form of heat. That can reduce the amount of energy needed to keep the machine room cool.

Elevator modernization can reduce electromagnetic noise. This can be helpful because computers and wireless networks are sensitive to it. Solid-state elevator drives vary in terms of the amount of electromagnetic noise they produce.

Elevator modernization can affect electrical performance. An older generator might not be compatible with a new solid-state drive because drives do not tolerate variations in power quality well.

The facility manager might decide to upgrade to a closed loop door operator system and replace it with a new control system later. A closed loop operator can monitor door position to improve performance. It can also tell if there is drag on the motor because of something stuck on the track or a pressure problem and make adjustments.

Facility managers who are considering modernizing their elevators should begin with an evaluation that will objectively measure acceleration, deceleration, vibration, door opening time, and sound. This can reveal weaknesses in maintenance and highlight ways to improve the elevators’ performance.

It might be possible to make small improvements, rather than undertake a full modernization, which could save thousands of dollars. An evaluation can let a facility manager know if it will be necessary to upgrade other systems or building features to comply with building codes. Regular inspections can also help prevent elevator breakdowns.