Choosing Your System

Residential Elevator – Home Elevator Systems. Once you have figured out what the physical characteristics are of your space and hoistway, it’s time to choose a system. Usually, while going through the planning stage it becomes obvious what type of system you need due to your constraints of, pit depth, overhead clearance, hoistway size, and sometimes environmental. ( in some cases such as flood zones and waterfront properties, you may have to rule out hydraulic oil systems, this always depends on the zoning laws of your local town )

The three main types of home elevator systems: or residential elevators are: (a) Roped Hydraulic (b) Standard Cable (winding) Drum (c) MRL Overhead Drum

(a) Roped Hydraulic: This system uses a cylinder or jack, ) depending on where you are in the country, or what company you use, some refer to this as the cylinder, some may refer to it as the jack.) A small tank of hydraulic fluid, and a roping system that is attached to the cab and affixed to the bottom of the rails. As the hydraulic jack moves up or down the ropes act as another method of lifting or lowering the cab. for every foot the cylinder moves up, or down, the car / cab moves up or down 2 ft. This is a 1:2 ratio system. These are very common systems, very reliable and quiet. The tank and controller can be either at the bottom floor, or the top floor of your home depending on what available space you have for the “control room”

Roped Hydraulic System

(b) Standard Cable or Winding Drum: These systems have become very popular over the last few years. This system is a fully roped system that uses a motor and drum to wind cable in and out off the drum, in effect lowering or raising the cab. There is no oil, and cylinders involved with this system, so folks that have reservations about a tank of oil in their homes, or have environmental code issues have this system as an alternative to Hydraulic. What to consider with this type of system is, you need an adjacent room at the bottom floor, on one of three sides of the hoistway. In other words, you need a bigger control room for this type of system than the Hydraulic system.

Standard Cable / Winding Drum

(c) MRL – Overhead Winding Drum: MRL- refers to machine room less. ( control room less ). These systems are great for people that do not have room for a control room / machine room. The entire system with the exception of the controller and drive unit lives above the elevator in the hoistway on the top of the rails. The controller and drive are small units that can be put in a separate room, or closet (remotely), there are still considerations for this, so make sure you speak with us regarding all the aspects of this system. Probably the most important aspect of this system to consider is you nee quite a bit more overhead room for these, a hoisting beam at the top of the hoistway, as well as a 24″x24″ access door at the top most floor over the elevator to get at the system. This system also works based on a motor and a winding drum that lets 3/8″ rope of and on to the drums, lowering or raising the system.

MRL Overhead Drum System


Great Northern Elevator has extensive knowledge regarding Home Elevators, call us early in the planning stages, we will be there to guide you, as the home owner, the architects and builders through each stage of your project.  Phil Johnston 781-927-5164