Elevators Cost How Much to Maintain!?

Living in a condo building, we use our elevators without a thought – they’re a part of our everyday lives.  Reliable and convenient, it’s easy to forget that elevators are complex machines designed with our safety first and foremost in mind.  So, it may come as a shock to condo owners when they realize just how much it costs their condo corporation to maintain an elevator over a year.


Elevator costs are always the responsibility of your condo corporation because they represent a shared appliance in the building.  As we pay our condo fees each month, a reserve fund to cover these costs slowly grows so the condo corporation can cover expenses when they arise.


So why are elevators expensive to maintain, and what can we do to keep those costs down in our buildings?


7 Things to Know About Elevator Costs in Your Building


1)  The elevator industry is highly regulated.  


Costs are high because the elevator industry is one of the most regulated niche industries that provide services to condo corporations.  In Alberta, the regulatory body for elevators is the Alberta Elevating Devices & Amusement Rides Safety Association (AEDARSA).  Mandating safety inspections at regular intervals, AEDARSA ensures that elevators in use throughout the province are consistently maintained according to their specifications.  As a result of this regulation, Albertans can enter elevators across the province with the reassurance that a safety inspection has been performed recently.  However, meeting AEDARSA’s requirements does cost condo corporations hundreds of dollars each year per elevator.


2)  It’s a small industry, requiring parts manufactured far away.  


On top of the expense of a technician, elevator parts are also costly.  The local elevator industry is tiny and relies on elevator parts often made far away.  Manufactured in Detroit or as far away as Germany, parts are usually distributed from a facility in the Toronto area.  The supply chain that delivers them from far away amplifies the price of parts.


Replacement components often cost tens of thousands of dollars.  For instance, customized metal ropes made from braided cables can cost in the ballpark of $20 000 for a 9-story building.


3)  Costly maintenance inspections must be conducted to ensure safety.  


Regular inspections mandated by AEDARSA are completed quarterly, annually, and every five years. In addition, every elevator must be inspected quarterly to ensure it meets AEDARSA’s maintenance guidelines.


Since 2018, a new five-year inspection has been added called the Cat-5 Inspection.  The Cat-5 Inspection is particularly expensive, typically costing $3000 to $5000.  However, the cost is usually built into your condo corporation’s contract with an elevator company.  It requires a total shutdown of the elevator and a load test where they bring massive weights into your elevator to make sure it operates normally while carrying its maximum rated load capacity.


In addition to these inspections, AEDARSA must also perform an annual safety inspection on behalf of the government.  Condo corporations are responsible for the cost of this yearly inspection while also paying to renew their permit to operate an elevator for another year.


The cost of these inspections can quickly add up, and fines are liberally applied to any condo corporation failing to keep up.  Catalyst recommends that condo corporations avoid ‘cutting corners’ regarding elevator maintenance. Doing this often results in increased costs in the future, and AEDARSA can order an elevator to be shut down if it isn’t following safety rules while applying fines if applicable.


4)  Cleaning your machine room regularly can help reduce costs.  


Keeping your elevator’s machine room clean is one of the simplest ways to reduce elevator costs.  Once a month or quarter, the room needs to be swept and mopped to eliminate all the dust that might otherwise accumulate and cause equipment failure in the future.  A simple way to prevent dust from accumulating is to install a door-sweep at the bottom of the door to the machine room to prevent dust from entering from the parkade.


Elevator machine rooms also typically house an exhaust fan that removes hot air produced by equipment, often venting it into the parkade to provide heat.  These exhaust fans are not something that AEDARSA or your elevator company inspects when performing inspections.  So, making sure the exhaust fans are in good operating condition will help extend the life of your elevator.


5)  Regular cleaning of the track for the elevator doors can help reduce costs.  


The number one cause of elevator problems results from obstructions to the track that the elevator doors roll back and forth within.  Dirt and tiny rocks can easily get in the tracks, jamming the mechanism that opens and closes the doors.  The smallest rocks can bump the elevator off its rollers, and if it goes off the rack as it’s travelling, it will activate a safety mechanism that disables the elevator.  If this happens, an elevator company will happily rectify the situation for a few hundred dollars and remind you to clean your track more often.


Catalyst recommends speaking with janitorial staff in condo buildings, so they know always to sweep out or vacuum these tracks as part of their regular cleaning routine.


6)  Consult with a Reserve Fund Planner to help save for elevator expenses.  


Surprise expenses are never welcome, which is why Catalyst recommends consulting with a reserve fund planner.  These professionals can assess the current state of your elevators and give your condo corporation a better idea of what elevator expenses you should be saving for in the coming years.  For instance, Catalyst recommends incorporating the cost of the Cat-5 inspection into every condo building’s yearly reserve fund.  Even though it’s an expense that only comes around every five years, a little reserve fund planning can ensure funds for the Cat-5 have been set aside in advance.


7)  What to do when an elevator emergency happens.    


You can always call Catalyst if an elevator emergency arises.  In the unlikely event, you should become trapped inside your building’s elevator, rest assured that all Alberta elevators are wired with a phone line.  Picking up the phone in an elevator should automatically direct you to the ‘help centre’ for that elevator service company.  If the elevator company can’t respond immediately for any reason, they will send the fire department to your rescue.


While we often take the elevators we use daily for granted, these complex machines can be costly to operate and maintain.  However, with a bit of planning and regular maintenance, your condo building can keep your elevators on the move while ensuring unexpected expenses are kept to a minimum.

Have questions about your elevator? We are happy to chat with you. Contact us today at Catalyst Condo Management Ltd.