Latest Update: Friday, 23 March 2018
We started this page in January of 2018 and will add to it over time. It will always be a work in progress. Some comments apply to all lifts, others to only our lifts. Your feedback is always appreciated.
Sections, in Order of Appearance
- Normal Lift Operations
- Tips for Winter Operations
- Glossary of Terms
Maintenance and Safety are synonymous.
Taking Maintenance for granted puts everyone who rides the lift at risk.
Comprehensive yearly maintenance is essential for the very same reason that you have the lift in the first place, gravity. Lifts overcome gravity; maintenance prevents gravity from overcoming lifts. If unchecked, gravity rapidly converts height into speed and things can go very badly very fast.
Unlike the relentless force of gravity however, lifts are machines with moving parts that sit out in the weather year after year. Some of these moving parts actually rarely move and they need testing and lubrication to keep them working. The Emergency Braking System is particularly important; in the very unlikely event that you need it, it must perform instantly and flawlessly. When we do the annual service we always test these systems dynamically. We also check other critical components like gearbox oil, winch drum fittings, bearings, hoisting cables and some of these items need periodic replacing.
When anyone does an annual service they should always test all critical systems, preferably in the spring before it's used. This service can be done by yourself, a handyman, another lift company, or us. We are happy to train and support owners or their handymen. Whoever services your lift assumes responsibility for the proper functioning of all lift components. Because Private Residential Inclined Elevators are not regulated by the TSSA, or any governing body, it is ultimately the owner's responsibility to ensure that their lift has been serviced conscientiously. If you employ someone to service your lift, you would be prudent verify that, at a bare minimum, all critical systems have been tested and maintained.
In addition to the critical systems, there are also many preventative maintenance items. Electrical connections, for example, can vibrate loose. And any single loose connection, for example, can disable a lift.
At Inclined Elevation we believe that you have your lift to solve problems, not create them; so rather than waiting for an urgent call on a long weekend to make a special trip to do something simple like tighten a loose connection, we have a 4-page service checklist that we continually update and use on our annual service call.
For all service inquiries, including scheduling service, getting over-the-phone support, or getting a copy of our current checklist, please call for Renee or John at 705 645 4567.
Normal Lift Operations
The PLC's (or Smart Relays) that run almost all of our lifts have numerous hidden features that most riders will never use. But sometimes these features come in very handy. It may be worth your while to skim through this section so you know what can be done. A caution, not all features work on all lifts. If you see some feature that you would find useful let us know and we can upgrade your Lift Control Program.
Activating and Deactivating the Lift: With the PLC running the lift no keys are required. Instead each lift has a specific Activation Code which is entered using the STATION and STOP buttons. Lifts can be manually deactivated by holding in the STOP button until the red light goes out. They also have a unique "Idle Off" deactivation time. When the lift is deactivated it will not respond to the STATION buttons.
The Red Light: The STOP button typically has a red LED bulb that goes on when the Car is moving, goes on if the STOP button is pushed and the lift is active, and blinks if the Slack Cable Brakes have tripped and stopped the motor.
Normal Operation: Activate the lift, insure the station gate is closed (if applicable), close the Car Gate (if applicable), and press the STATION button for the station you want to go. On lifts with Automatic Station Gates the gate will close before the Car will start moving.
The PARK button: Pressing a PARK button will cause the Car to leave the station it's in for a programmed amount of time and then stop. On some lifts, pressing the PARK button 3 times will move the Car as above, but then deactivates the lift after the Car stops. The red light will blink 3 times to indicate that the lift will deactivate after it stops.
The LIGHTS button: Some lifts have a LIGHTS button. Pressing it toggles the external station, dock, or track lighting using the PLC. The PLC is typically programmed to automatically turn off the lights after a preset time period. The lights themselves must be installed by either the home owner or a licensed electrician, we can only provide the switching mechanism.
Gate Interlock Overrides: On lifts with Interlocked Gates, if you are at one station and the Car is at the other and that Station Gate is not latched because the previous rider did not close it properly you can be stuck. There is a software override available to avoid this predicament. In this case pressing your station button 5 times overrides the Open Gate Interlock and the lift will run. It's imperative that the rider take responsibility for monitoring the unprotected Station Gate and run the Car to the open station as soon as possible. This override is available on 2 station lifts only, otherwise a gate could be left unprotected indefinitely.
Gate Opening Override: If the Car is away from any Station and you need to open the station gate for any reason holding in the STOP button until the gate interlock module releases will allow you to open the gate. This process takes 10 seconds and deactivates the lift as well. A caution, all station gates are unlatched doing this.
Resetting the Emergency Brakes: If the Slack Cable Trigger Arm or the Over-speed Trigger Arm trips the Brake Dogs will dig into the track and the car will stop. The Hoisting Winch will also stop. Before the car can go down the hill again the cause of the tripping must be addressed and the Triggers Arm(s) and Brakes must be reset. We need to make and post videos showing you how to do this. For now, you'll have to call John at 705 783 9352 or Chris at 705 205 1319 and we will walk you through the brake resetting process.
Tips for Winter Operations
Lifts need more attention in the winter because things can ice up and stop working. This checklist is especially important after a snowfall or a freeze.
If the lift is going to sit overnight or longer in winter weather it's always a good idea to leave the car at the bottom of the track, or, if you have mechanical limit switches, nearly at the bottom:
- the motor is stronger at pulling the car up than gravity is at pulling it down so it's better to pull accumulated snow or ice up and out of the track rather than having gravity push it down and in;
- snow or ice on the track can stop the lift momentarily and trip the Over-speed and or Slack Cable Braking Systems on the way down but not on the way up;
- the brake dog teeth are less likely to get jammed with snow and ice, if they fill with material it may prevent the teeth from digging into the track, allowing the Car to slide down the track for a many as 5' until a Trigger Arm hits a Crosser and stops the Car;
- if the car sits near the ground in the bottom station this will also help prevent snow accumulation under the car, it only takes a small piece of ice in the wrong place to trip the Slack Cable Brakes;
- for Mechanical Limit Switches only: bring the car back up the hill a few inches, this will keep the car off the Lower Limit Switches and prevent them from freezing in their tripped positions and disabling the lift.
- Before you ride it down the track clear all the snow off the brake dogs and the dolly, especially where the "drawbar" (the bar the hoisting cable fitting is attached to) goes through the dolly frame. Be sure that there is no ice between the drawbar and the dolly frame.
- Before you ride it down the track ensure that the "Brake Dog Axle" can rotate. There's a red lever attached to the Brake Dog Axle that you can use to rotate the axle back and forth. Leave it with the Brake Dogs as far up and off the track as it goes before you send the car down the track.
- If the Brake Dog Axle was frozen you should really trip and reset the Slack Cable Brake to ensure that the Drawbar can slide. The Over-speed Braking System is operates independently of this Drawbar but two Brake Triggers are thousands of times better than one.
- For Mechanical Limit Switches only, before you ride the car down the track check that the three Upper Limit Switches are Operating Properly: these Switches are mounted to the side of the track, 3 at each station and, if the temperature has recently fallen through the freezing point, they can freeze in their tripped position, disabling the lift. Before you get on at the top station send the car down until it's below the Limit Switches, and bring it up again. If the car runs normally it's ready to ride, if not, work the offending Limit Switch Lever back and forth until it naturally returns to it's un-tripped position. To be really really positive you can retest the switches with the car before you ride. If a Limit Switch Lever doesn't flip back to it's relaxed position, or the lift doesn't work as it should, please call us.
- For Mechanical Limit Switches only, check the Lower Limit Switches too: Repeat the step above from the bottom station, but with up and down reversed.
- If the Car has minimal clearance underneath the floor when in the lower station you need to keep this area clear of snow, otherwise the car may hang up, stopping before it should and tripping the Slack Cable Brake.
- When Leaving it Overnight: Leave the gate open ( so it doesn't freeze shut) and send the car to the bottom.
- If you left the car at the top overnight and are worried about ice or snow on the track, load the car down with something heavy and place the load at the downhill end of the car before you send it down. You can use yourself as (some of) the weight if you want. Remember that the car can be brought up the hill even if the emergency brakes are tripped and that you don't want to trip the lower mechanical limit switches if they may be iced and unable to return to their un-tripped position. The brakes can be reset at the top.
Glossary of Terms
(Some of this will look like jargon because it is. But jargon is just a specialized language that has to be created to go where English has not gone before. We've tried to Capitalize all Jargon to underline that it is Jargon.)
Brake Dogs: Each lift has two Brake Dogs that are fixed to the ends of the Brake Dog Axle. They each have one curved face with teeth that point down the track and dig into the track when the Brake Axle is rotated, by either the Over-speed Trigger Arm or the Slack Cable Trigger Arm or manually. The photo below shows a Brake Dog in it's un-tripped position and the Brake Dog Axle that controls the Brake Dog.
Brake Wiggler: This is the red lever attached to the Brake Dog Axle which is used to test that the Brake Dog Axle rotates freely.
Brake Dog Axle: A 1" diameter steel rod located near the top end of the Dolly, see the photo below, that runs from one side of the track to the other and has a Brake Dog at each end with teeth to dig into the track and stop downward motion. See the photo below.
Car: The place you sit to ride the lift. It's attached to the bottom end of the Dolly on this "Cantilevered" lift. On Non-Cantilevered lifts the Car sits on top of the Dolly.
Dolly: Shown above, it's the rectangular frame that runs inside the track on 4 Main Wheels. It's centered on the track by 4 Rider Wheels, attaches to the Hoist Cable through the Drawbar, and supports all the Slack Cable and Over-speed Braking Mechanisms. The orange lever, the "Brake Wiggler", is used to ensure that the Brake Axle rotates freely. The Over-speed Governor is under it's Housing.
Drawbar: The hoisting cable attaches to the drawbar which in turn supports the dolly. It's also an integral part of the over-speed braking system, if the hoisting cable goes slack two springs pull the drawbar towards the lower end of the dolly, releasing the Slack Cable Brake Arm which engages the Brake Dogs.
Limit Switches are located on the track, 3 per station for soft stop-start lifts, to signal the PLC to slow down and stop the car level with the station. There are 3 Mechanical Limit Switches in the picture below, the switch closest to the end of the track is the Emergency Stop Limit Switch, the middle one shown in the tripped position, is the Stop Limit Switch, and the one closest to the middle of the track is the Decel or Deceleration Limit Switch.
Over-speed Braking System: If the car speed exceeds 0.50 m/sec ~ 100 fps a German Over-speed Governor will release the Over-speed Trigger Arm which will drive the brake dogs into the track and stop the car. When the car stops it will also trigger the Slack Cable Breaking System. The photo above shows the Over-speed Trigger Arm running from the Brake Dog Axle into the Over-speed Governor Housing.
Over-speed Trigger Arm: This arm rotates on the brake dog axle and goes into the Governor Housing. Inside the Hoiusing the Arm is supported by the Over-speed Governor. If the Governor Pulley rotates too quickly the Governor releases the Over-speed Trigger Arm which is rotated by gravity and still coil springs to engage the Brake Dogs with the track and stop the car.
PLC: almost all our lifts are run by Programmable Logic Controllers or PLC's. They have an input side which receives information from the Buttons, Limit Switches, an output side that controls the motor (often through a VFD), and a Lift Control Program that connects the inputs to the outputs. PLC's offer lots of advantages over hard wired control panels.
Rider Wheels: small nylon wheels mounted on the dolly, 2 at the top and 2 at the bottom, that keep the dolly centered in the track and prevent the main wheels from scuffing the track.
Slack Cable Brake Arm: This arm rotates on the Breake Dog Axle and sits next to the Drawbar. It's supported by a steel pin welded to the Drawbar.
Slack Cable Braking System: If the downward movement of the car is impeded for even a fraction of an inch the Hoist Cable goes slack which allows Brake Activation Springs to pull the Drawbar toward the bottom of the Dolly, releasing the Slack Cable Brake Arm to drive the Brake Dogs into the track, stopping the car. When the cable goes slack another switch stops the motor and sets the motor brake. The car is still able to go back up the hill.
VFD: We use Nord-Gear 3-phase motors controlled by a Variable Frequency Drive (VFD) to power the winch on all our passenger lifts. These brilliant modules take single phase, 60 Hz, 220 Volt input, convert it to DC, and then invert it to provide 3-phase, variable frequency, 220 VAC power to the motor. With this system you get soft stops and starts, better power efficiency, and quieter operation than you would from a single phase, single speed motors.