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Everything You Need to Know About Hydraulic Elevators

Ryan Hussey
Written By: Ryan Hussey
Everything You Need to Know About Hydraulic Elevators

Whether you’re looking to install a new system or are curious about how your existing machinery works, here’s everything you need to know about hydraulic elevators.

What is a Hydraulic Elevator?

There are two main types of elevator systems: traction and hydraulic.

Traction elevators utilize steel ropes or belts on a pulley system. Hydraulic elevators are powered by hydraulic jack, which are fluid-driven pistons that travel inside of a cylinder.

How Do Hydraulic Elevators Work?

Unlike traction elevators, hydraulic systems don’t use overhead hoisting machinery. Instead, these elevators use the compression of fluids to generate movement.

The elevator cab is lifted by an electric motor that pumps oil into the cylinder to move the piston. Hydraulic elevators also incorporate electrical valves to control the release of oil for a gentle ride.

The fluid needed to power a hydraulic elevator must be oil-based. Vegetable oil or biodegradable oil can be used as environmentally friendly options.

What Types of Buildings Use Hydraulic Elevators?

You can find a hydraulic elevator in almost any type of building. However, there are two factors that limit the heights they can travel.

Hydraulic elevators require a substantial amount of energy to raise the cab, which is why they’re not usually found in high-rise buildings. These systems also operate at speeds of 150 ft./min. or less, making them slower than other types of elevators.

Because of these factors, hydraulic elevators are only intended for buildings that are up to seven stories.

What Are the Different Types of Hydraulic Elevators?

Not all hydraulic elevators are created equal! There are several variations that can make each system unique.

Holed Hydraulic

With this type of elevator, hydraulic cylinders extend into the ground and are placed inside of a drilled hole. The car of the elevator is mounted on a piston that travels inside of the cylinder, allowing up to 60’ of travel.

Holeless Hydraulic

Since a drilled hole isn’t necessary, existing buildings or areas where drilling isn’t an option can benefit from a holeless hydraulic elevator. However, these models aren’t suited for more than 40’ of travel.

Roped Hydraulic

Roped hydraulic elevators use cables and a piston attached to a sheave to extend the rise of a holeless hydraulic elevator. Since a rope is holding up the elevator cab, a governor is required. These models are intended for 60’ of travel.

Machine Room-Less (MRL) Hydraulic

In machine room-less elevators, the hydraulic lift mechanisms are located in the hoistway instead of a separate machine room. This maximizes the available space in a building.

What Are the Benefits of Hydraulic Elevators?

For many types of buildings, hydraulic elevators offer the following advantages:

  1. Quicker to install than other elevator types
  2. Less expensive to install and maintainIdeal for transporting heavy loads
  3. Occupy less space in a building
  4. Option to have machine room-less configuration

What Are the Disadvantages of Hydraulic Elevators?

Even with the benefits, there are still a few factors that might not make hydraulic systems the right choice for certain applications:

  1. Only intended for low and mid-rise buildings
  2. Can only travel up to 150 ft./min.
  3. More power requirements than traction elevators
  4. May be a bit noisier than other systems

Examples of Hydraulic Elevators


TK endura

Offering a smooth and quiet ride, the TK endura hydraulic system is one of the most notable elevators of its kind. This hydraulic elevator is available in holed, and holeless models and can be customized to your building’s specifications.

Do You Need Help with a Hydraulic Elevator?

With 70+ years of experience, Stanley Elevator can modernize or service your existing hydraulic system or help you install a new hydraulic elevator. Contact us here and a member of our team will be glad to help!


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Ryan Hussey

As VP of Operations for Stanley Elevator, Ryan oversees the field, construction and modernization teams. His resume includes over 10 years of first-hand experience in elevator field service, project management, surveying, estimating and warehouse operations.

Ryan’s role focuses on incorporating new technologies into Stanley Elevator’s operations, while prioritizing the continuous advancement of their elevator maintenance, repairs, modernization and installation services. He also maintains Stanley Elevator’s certifications and relationships with associations, including the Massachusetts Elevator Safety Association (MESA), the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA), the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and the Elevator Contractors of America (ECA).

Ryan holds a bachelor’s degree in management from Providence College and is working on an MBA at Babson College.