Elevator drive systems & Home Lifts

Published on 2021-10-11

Cibes Air residential lift

When considering a residential elevator, it is essential to have a basic understanding of the different drive systems offered by manufacturers. Knowing the basics will help you acquire an elevator suited for your particular need. 

Elevators are mainly driven by the following types of drive units: Traction, Hydraulic, Screw.

Traction Drive

A traction lift consists of an elevator car connected by steel ropes to an electric motor. A counterweight is attached to balance the elevator load, which in turns raises or lowers the lift car and its passengers.

Advantages Disadvantages
A traction elevator is able to travel at high speeds when compared to hydraulic or screw drives. High installation cost, due in part to system complexity.
Traction elevator models are available with and without machine rooms (MRL). High mainteinance work, depending of use and location; but generally once a month.
Traditional traction elevators require additional headroom space, for a higher project cost, when compared to screw or hydraulic lifts.



A Hydraulic Lift is electrically powered by a pump pushing fluid, usually oil; to a cylinder where the oil pressure increases pushing a piston cylinder, which propells the elevator car up and down.

Advantages  Disadvantages
Low installation cost. Installing an oil system at home has to be considered with care, oil being a toxic and highly flammable chemical, which also might increase your home insurance cost.
In general, a hydraulic lift uses less space than a traction lift. Complex system, which requires once a month mainteinance work, depending of use and location.



A Screw driven lift consists of an elevator car or platform attached via a nut to a steel screw that runs from the top to the bottom of the lift. The elevator car moves by means of the nut’s turn.

Advantages: Disadvantages:
High levels of safety, due to its simplistic mechanicanism. Low travel speed (30 feet/sec).
Low mainteinance costs, depending on use and installation environment; but usually twice a year.
Low installation cost. Requiring minimal space and 2 to 5 days for their installation. Reduced or no pit, minimal headroom, integrated machinery (MRL), fully electrical, low noise levels.


As a consumer you will run into three basic limitations to consider when arguing towards a specific drive system:

The Space: An minimal footprint elevator is a desirable choice even when you have enough room to install a lift.

The Cost : Contractor work can become a big part of your elevator project speding. Take into consideration that most hydraulic and traction elevators do requiere a concrete shaft. Some models would also requiere the purchasing of elevator doors.

The Speed: A residential elevator is, statistically speaking, a two stop elevator; as such a low speed ride is a sensible option. Consider also, that high speeds are not really achievable during a short elevator ride.

Cibes Lift offers screw driven vertical platform lifts (VPL) as well as full cabin elevators specifically designed with the residential user in mind.

Contact us to learn how we can help you acquire the right elevator for you.


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