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Exhaust vent in elevator shaft ?

January 29, 2019

My wife occasionally needs an elevator to get between floors and we've been debating electric vs hydraulic. Hydraulic is smoother and quieter and is her preference... Except for the smell.

Hydraulic elevators have a bit of hydraulic oil smell. I think this is primarily from the ram in the elevator shaft. I'm wondering if a small exhaust fan, like maybe just 100 cfm, in the elevator shaft would do much to exhaust the smell? Or maybe 200 cfm? Set to run a couple of times per hour?



Comments (14)

  • PRO
    Jeffrey R. Grenz, General Contractor

    Talk to the elevator company. Last one I installed was firewalled, so that might mean the flue is special. No complaints about the smell, but it was new.

    Many fans can run continuously, lower CFM.

  • PRO
    RES 3d Sketches

    An exhaust fan at the top would not solve the problem but I doubt it would be a problem if you chose a modern residential system. You should speak to a good residential elevator installer.

  • opaone

    We've talked to two installers and seen their elevators. We could smell hydraulic oil both times and both said that some people can smell it and can be bothered by it.

    Why do you think an exhaust fan wouldn't work?


  • PRO
    Mark Bischak, Architect

    Talk to the elevator manufacturer. Aroma therapy hydraulic oil may be a entrepreneurial opportunity.

  • cpartist

    I don't smell it in my elevator.

    opaone thanked cpartist
  • PRO
    RES 3d Sketches

    Non-residential elevator hoist ways are required to be naturally or mechanically ventilated at the top to allow smoke to escape. The duct to the outside must be noncombustible. I don't know about residential elevators.

    For an exhaust fan to reduce odors from a leaky hydraulic piston, I think it would need to exhaust air from the pit.

    Are you sure there's not an acceptable alternative to an in-ground hydraulic system for occasional use in a home?

  • mike_home

    Have you considered a stair chair lift?

  • opaone

    @cpartist, thank you for that encouragement. I hope ours is the same.

    In residential there is normally never any oil or fluid in the pit. The piston & cylinder are along the side (https://symmetryelevators.com/how-do-residential-elevators-work/). The ram (or piston) has a very thin coating of hydraulic oil and I believe this is the source of the smell as it is a lot of surface area.

    My thought is a powered vent (likely a small inline blower) in the top of the shaft and possibly an open vent for supply air in the bottom on the same side as the hydraulic system. My hope would be that this would pull air in, across the hydraulic components, and out.

  • PRO
    RES 3d Sketches

    In-ground hydraulic elevators are installed in homes. One of the alternatives is a roped hydraulic elevator which is apparently what you are considering.

    opaone thanked RES 3d Sketches
  • opaone

    Are in-ground holed still used? Both of the companies we've looked at said that they've not seen an in-ground system in some years.

  • homepro01


    Have you looked at non-vacuum based electric motor elevators? Here is one example, Stiltz Elevators, they are supposed to be much quieter than the normal electric elevators.

    Good luck!

  • Jakvis

    I think a powered vent may actually make the smell worse. It would constantly be pulling the smell through the whole shaft. The fact is the hydraulic fluid is there and would be constantly outgassing. I would seriously consider an electric motor and cable system. It's what most higher buildings use. They are quiet and when adjusted properly they are very smooth.

  • Hot Rod

    I can always smell hydraulic elevators but I have a strong nose for smells. I can tell if a house has a gas stove, and back in the day I could tell you if there was a waterbed in a house. I can also smell silk in fabrics.

  • Jim Mat

    I saw an electric elevator. From driveway to elevated wood deck. It is a beach butler residential cargo lift. A wheelchair and attendant fit inside. Wonder if there is a safety release or battery back up in case of power outage?

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