Last Updated on Wednesday, 30 Jan 2019
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 Inclined Elevation lifts. Please email John with your always appreciated feedback.
Sections, in Order of Appearance
Normal Lift Operations
Tips for Winter Operations
Glossary of Terms
Comprehensive yearly maintenance is essential because gravity is ever present. Neglecting lift maintenance, for any reason, puts every lift rider at risk.
Unlike the relentless force of gravity, lifts are machines with moving parts that sit out in the weather year after year. The Emergency Braking System has parts that only move in the unlikely event that they’re needed. These parts need annual dynamic testing and lubrication to know they’ll work instantly and flawlessly in the unlikely event that they are needed. We also check other critical components like gearbox oil, winch drum fittings, bearings, hoisting cables, electrical systems. Some parts, like the hoisting cable and the gearbox lubricant, need periodic replacing.
The annual service should always test all critical systems, preferably in the spring before the lift is used. This service can be done by yourself, a handyman, another lift company, or us. We are happy to train and support our lift 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, 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, work as required, and have been serviced.
In addition to the critical systems, there are also many preventative maintenance items. Electrical connections, for example, can vibrate loose over time and disable a lift.
At Inclined Elevation we assume that your lift is there to make cottage life easier, not harder. We don’t want urgent calls on long weekends to make service calls to fix lifts so we follow our 4-page service checklist, a checklist that we regularly update.
Normal Lift Operations
We use a PLC (actually a baby PLC called a Smart Relay) to run almost all of our new lifts and our PLC programs have numerous hidden features that most riders will never use. Every once in a while, however, it may be that you will find that one of these features will come in very handy. It may be worth your while to read this section so you know what you can do in some situations. A caution, because the Lift Control Programs have evolved over time, not all features are programmed into 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 a PLC running the lift, no ON/OFF key is required. Instead each lift has its own specific Activation Sequence entered by pulsing the UP, PARK, DOWN, and STOP BUTTONS in a pre-programmed order. Lifts can be manually deactivated by holding in a STOP button until the red STOP light goes out. Each lift also has a programmed "Idle Off" deactivation time. When the lift has been deactivated it will not respond to the STATION buttons until it is reactivated by entering the Activation Sequence.
The Red Light: The STOP button typically has a red LED bulb that
lights when the Car is moving,
lights 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 appropriate button for the station you want to go. On lifts with Automatic Station Gates, the gate will close before the Car starts 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 thaw followed by 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, about 2 feet (60 cm) up from the bottom so it’s just above the lower Deceleration Limit Switch. Here is a list of the reasons for following this practice:
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 Slack Cable and/or Over-speed 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 up to 5' until a Trigger Arm hits a Crosser and stops the Car, so NEVER ride the lift with ice on the Brake Dogs;
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 Brake;
for Mechanical Limit Switches only: bring the car back up the hill to just above the lower Deceleration Limit Switch, this will prevent the Lower Limit Switches from freezing in their tripped positions, temporarily 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 hasn’t also iced up and can slide. The Over-speed Braking System operates independently of this Drawbar but two Emergency Brake Triggers are much 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 (4 since Lift 80) and, if the temperature has recently fallen through the freezing point, they can freeze in their tripped position, disabling the lift. Before you ride down the track first send the car down until it's below all the Upper Limit Switches, stop it, 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 and then test again. 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 before you ride it.
Also, 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. In other words, before you ride up the lift, make sure that the Lower Limit Switches are operating as they should, otherwise it may not go back down to the bottom. We now have an updated PLC program that will allow you to send the lift to the bottom, bring it up to just above the Lower Mechanical Limits Switches, and deactivate with one command. Call John if you’d like this program installed on your lift.
If the Car has minimal clearance underneath the floor when in the lower station you’ll need to keep this area clear of snow, otherwise the car may hang up on the snow, tripping the Slack Cable Brake.
If you left the car at the top overnight and are worried about ice or snow on the track tripping the brakes, try loading the car with something heavy before you send it down. If your car is Cantilevered place the load away from the track, if it’s non-Cantilevered center the load on the car floor. You can use yourself as (some of) the weight if you feel comfortable. That way, on Cantilevered cars, you can reset the Slack Cable Trigger before you go up the hill. Remember that the car can be brought up the hill even if the emergency brakes are tripped.
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.
Cantilevered Car: A car is cantilevered when it’s mounted at the lower end of the Dolly (as in the photo below) and Non-Cantilevered when it’s located on top of the Dolly (see, for example, Lift 33).
Car: Where you sit to ride the lift.
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 protected under the black metal 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 Switch 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 on the left is the one closest to the end of the track, it’s the Emergency Stop Limit Switch, the middle one, shown in the tripped position, is the Stop Limit Switch, and the one on the right, closest to the middle of the track, is the Decel or Deceleration Limit Switch. At Lift 80 we started doubling up all Decel Limit Switches as a redundancy.
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.
Proxy: A proxy is a solid state switch that serves the same function as a Limit Switch. We found AC Proxies were not durable enough. Since Lift 86 we have been using DC control systems with DC Proxies.
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.