Vacuum Elevator Gets a Big Ole Texas Variance

Ever wanted to ride in one of those suction transfer tubes at the bank? Me either. But then they made it bigger and received Texas Lord of Elevators (LT) blessing. Now I’m all for it.

It’s pretty interesting how these new tech variances work. Under NTV-11-01, the latest TDLR New Technology Variance, the pneumatic elevator is allowed to be installed for residential use. The variance basically works to allow the approved conveyance to… bypass… a few code requirements in order to receive a permit. Here are a few codes that don’t apply:

a. Requirement and driving machine suspension means
b. Requirement safety mechanisms
c. Requirement top car clearance
d. Requirement horizontal car clearance
e. Requirement car frames and platform
f. Requirement terminal stopping devices

None of that looks important anyway.

Vacuum ElevatorMy mom actually has one of these now in her house in Tennessee, so I got to be well acquainted with it. It’s a pretty neat little unit which basically uses 5 turbines (aka vacuum cleaner motors) to lift the cab. The descent doesn’t use any of the turbine power. The valves regulate air into the upper chamber which coasts the cab down at a smooth speed. The landing is a little bumpy, having only 5 stiff springs on which to cushion the thud. The whole thing is free-standing, no pit, with all of the forces involved channeled down to the floor on which the unit sits. Ours sat on a wood floor in the den. We painted the aluminum frame to match the staircase railing.

Safety? On a regular basis, I would key open the bottom hoistway door as my brother rode down in the cab. A few pounds of upward force holding the descending cab up would lock it nicely into place and SAFELY kept him there until I released the car (and him) by bumping it up from the control box.


  1. Ralph Dratman says:

    I am looking into the possibility of installing that exact kind of pneumatic elevator in my house (residence) in New Jersey. I called the company that makes and installs them, but was told that New Jersey code so far does not approve pneumatic elevators for residential installation.

    Do you have any suggestions, either on how to get around that restriction, or maybe there is some way to prod the state into updating their code?

  2. daniel says:

    Ah, the age old battle of adopting new technology.

    Stefan from PVE (the manufacturer) should be able to tell you the status of adoption and if someone has even asked about it. The unit is acceptable nationally through ASME A17.7 – the performance based safety code (ie new tech code) however I don’t think many jurisdictions have adopted A17.7. In Texas, the unit isn’t technically adopted, there has simply been a variance created by the TDLR that allows the unit to “be” without adhering to specified code requirements.

    Below is a link to Texas’ NTV 11-01. You could send this to the correct department in NJ and ask them what the next step for NJ would be. I would definitely call Stefan as he is the one who instigated the Texas variance.


  3. Tom says:

    Holy Crap Batman! It only costs $2500.00 to apply for a New Technology Variance Application! Talk about a money maker for the State of Texas!


    This is a new one on me. Anyone else konw of a State that charges $2500 to apply for a variance?

  4. Post: September 7th, 2011: ERS-2011-09-07 #268 Show Notes | Elevator Radio Show Podcast says:

    […] Company Elevator Action review Elevator World Donates Otis Car Switch Escalators are for the birds Vacuum Elevator Gets a Big Ole Texas Variance Flood proof chair lift? Worn elevator brake pads KONE Elevators launches new people flow tools Kim […]

  5. Freight Elevator Repair Services says:

    great posts!

  6. joanna says:

    I heard a complain that after a while the seals might get no-so-tight and then there is loss of pressure = elevator doesn’t work
    is it

    only 1 year warranty ( years from KONE and OTIS)
    so does it mean I am buying a 50 grand TOY?

  7. daniel says:

    The seal around the top of the cab would be a part that might wear out. However, ours is into it’s 8th year of operation and it still works fine with the original seal. It may go a little bit slower as the seal wears out, though. Also, the seal is available for order through the manufacturer, so you’d just replace it.

    You could say the same thing about oiling gears or replacing pump belts for a traditional elevator. There isn’t really an elevator out there that requires no maintenance whatsoever. At least, not yet.

    Not sure about the warranty. I’d call PVE for that info.

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