Barriers to Adoption
In addition to elevators’ small share of annual energy use, several obstacles interfere with greater adoption of efficiency technology.
1) Sticker shock. “Although architects and owners care about the elevator experience as an extension of the building’s presentation, incremental costs are a barrier regardless of payback or return on investment,” the study authors write. “The challenge is to help customers understand that lifecycle costs matter much more than first costs.” Unfortunately, elevator replacement payback periods can be long – especially in low-rise buildings where trips are shorter and fewer than those in taller buildings – which can dissuade potential investors.
2) Tenant-landlord bundles. Elevators are generally considered as common space in buildings with multiple tenants, so the associated energy consumption is usually bundled with the energy use and upkeep of other common areas and billed to tenants as a general O&M charge. “The overall reduction in costs per tenant is usually not significant enough to motivate an upgrade,” ACEEE says.
3) Difficulty in quantifying soft benefits. Some upgrades, particularly advanced software packages, offer shorter wait times, higher reliability, and rides that are smoother and faster in addition to lower energy consumption. However, it’s difficult to assign a dollar value to an improved experience, so these benefits are underrated.
4) The lack of an established performance metric. ASHRAE is currently attempting to develop credible minimum efficiency levels for elevators, including a usage-based elevator classification and maximum standby and travel energy. Including elevators in ASHRAE 90.1 would go a long way to establishing much-needed performance requirements, ACEEE believes: “This would conform to long-standing incentives practice for HVAC equipment, for which the baseline has been the relevant legal federal minimum energy standard.”
The study also calls for an industry program to identify the top performers in elevator efficiency, but notes that ENERGY STAR inclusion may not be appropriate. “For mass-produced products in the ENERGY STAR program, 20-25% of the models offered would meet the proposed criterion … [However,] elevators are typically built to order, not mass-produced, so the concept of ‘model’ is quite different.”
Instead, a performance-based elevator efficiency recognition should be based on the NEMA Premium motor specification and the Consortium for Energy Efficiency’s public awareness program Motor Decisions Matter, ACEEE argues.
To learn more about your upgrade options and what’s ahead for elevator technology, read Advancing Elevator Energy Efficiency at aceee.org.