What Are the Different Types of Lifts?

The main types of commercial lifts are passenger lifts, goods lifts, wheelchair or disabled access lifts and scissor lifts. Each type of lift uses a specific lifting mechanism, which will depend on the lift height, weight capacity and power required. Each of the different lift types will have different design considerations and can be seen in many commercial, industrial and public buildings.

As if that were not enough lifts for every conceivable use, within every type of elevator or lift there are also subcategories, which will be used in different circumstances and to meet special requirements. It is a complex subject, but we are a leading designer, manufacturer and installer of many types of commercial lifts, so please read on to learn more about them.

We will first discuss the various types of lifting mechanisms each type of lift might use, for a better idea of their mechanical workings and how they elevate and lower. If you would like to get an easy-to-install, cost-effective, and energy-efficient commercial lift please contact us.

Types of Lifting Mechanisms

The way a modern lift does its lifting is typically by using an electric motor. Historically, lifting mechanisms also included steam power or the use of hoists, windlasses and power screws. However, the electric motor powers each type of mechanism in a slightly different way. 

The most common lifting mechanisms for commercial lifts include the following:

  • Hydraulic lifting mechanisms: This is a type of lift that uses a piston to push the lift car up using hydraulic fluid. An electric motor rapidly forces the fluid into the piston to generate enough force to lift the car or cabin. Releasing the fluid then lowers the car.
  • Traction lifting mechanisms: Traction lifts use strong ropes, usually made of a steel wire, and wheels that are turned by an electric motor to lower or raise the lift car. The traction lifting mechanism uses a balanced counterweight and brakes for safety.
  • Machine-room-less lifting mechanisms: An ‘MRL’ lift has its mechanisms at the very top of the shaft in what is known as the ‘override space’. This is a very energy-efficient, compact and easy-to-install design that is often seen in many of our commercial lifts.
  • Vacuum lifting mechanisms: A less common lifting mechanism for elevators uses an air vacuum, which creates air pressure to pneumatically lift the car. This is an unusual lifting mechanism for commercial elevators, but the technology is rapidly improving.

The oldest lifts still in use tend to have traction mechanisms, but the best option depends on the height of the shaft, the weight of the cabin or car and several other factors. Some potential, but still theoretical, lifting mechanisms include having lifts powered by electromagnetic propulsion.

Different Types of Passenger Lifts

If you use an elevator or lift as a passenger you will notice many differences between them. You will commonly see the following types of passenger lifts, which largely depend on the building:

Gartec Commercial Lift
  • Hospital: Hospital passenger lifts are usually quite a bit larger than a typical passenger lift, simply because of the frequent need for travel with a stretcher, hospital bed or just a patient in a wheelchair who is travelling with a healthcare practitioner.
  • Hotel: Hotel passenger lifts often travel long distances, so you are likely to see multiple lift shafts that can accommodate several lift cabins within one system, which reduces delays. Depending on the height of the building they may use traction lifting systems.
  • Flats: There are lots of small and large flats or apartment buildings that will have a lift. Traction lifts are common in large buildings but the use of a hydraulic mechanism can save a lot of energy, which will help to keep a small building’s lift running costs low.
  • Offices: Offices typically feature one or more lifts, but they can be quite small or very large cars, depending on the capacity of the building. Converted buildings with offices often use tiny lifts, which typically use an MRL mechanism.

Whatever type of passenger lifts you happen to see, they are likely to experience heavy regular use. As a result of heavy use, there can be an increased need for servicing and maintenance.

Types of Goods Lifts

A goods lift is primarily designed to take a light or heavy load and not passengers, but they may take a few passengers as attendants as well. The main types of goods lifts include the following:

  • Dumbwaiters: A small, basic elevator designed only for goods is a dumbwaiter. It is a lift that will help to lift meals, loads of laundry, documents or cumbersome pieces of equipment. Dumbwaiters are often present in smaller buildings with less shaft space.
  • Trolley lifts: A slightly bigger goods lift, this is a half-height lift that you can easily roll a catering or laundry trolley into, before pressing a button and retrieving it from a lower or higher floor. These are very common in hotels, care homes and the catering trade.
  • Box lifts: In retail, manufacturing and similar environments boxes, pallets and cages of goods need to move floors frequently. A box lift usually uses a shutter or picket gate to open or close instead of a door and a traction and brake system to handle heavy loads.
gartec dumbwaiter concealed behind a door

The term ‘service lift’ or ‘service elevator’ is also sometimes used, which essentially means the same thing. These lifts may be seen in large blocks of flats where moving furniture is necessary.

Wheelchair or Disabled Access Lifts

For access to commercial space as a wheelchair user you can use a sufficiently-sized passenger lift. However, when a dedicated disabled access lift is present, types may include the following:

Stairlift access solution for the home
  • Stair lifts: Stair lifts use a platform for the wheelchair user to roll onto or may have a separate seat. Stair lifts have the advantage of being able to navigate both curved and straight staircases with ease. A stair lift can be either user or attendant controlled.
  • Step lifts: Step lifts are adjacent to the staircase and raise vertically, they do not incline along the side of the stairs as a stair lift does. The step lift will raise the platform only a small distance (the height of the stairs), usually to a maximum height of just 3 metres.
  • Cabin lifts: A cabin lift has a smaller car that goes short distances, typically with enough room for just the wheelchair user. A larger variety will have room for a wheelchair user to travel with an attendant. They mostly use MRL lifting mechanisms.

Some wheelchair lifts, notably cabin lifts, may also be usable by a set number of passengers without a wheelchair user present – and can sometimes be used as a light goods lift too.

Types of Scissor Lifts

Scissor lifts use a folding mechanism that forms an X-shape, similar to the look of an extendable bathroom mirror, but use various lifting mechanisms. Types of scissor lifts include the following:

  • Electric scissor lifts: An electric scissor lift relies on an electric motor for extending upward. Electric motors can sometimes not provide sufficient support or power for a particularly large load, such as a big pallet of bricks on a construction site.
  • Hydraulic scissor lifts: These are a more durable type of scissor lifts, capable of lifting heavy loads of goods or people while they work at height, such as when washing or fitting windows on the outside of a tall building.
  • Diesel scissor lifts: Diesel is used as the power source for most rough terrain scissor lifts, which must be taken away from an existing power source. The diesel fuel will also power the motor for the large, off-road wheels, which enable it to move into position.
  • Pneumatic scissor lifts: Pneumatic scissor lifts are mostly used as a table or worktop. They typically lift with a compressed air pump, often foot-operated. These are mainly used indoors in factories and manufacturing, such as the automotive industry.
Gartec Lifts

Scissor lifts are a type of lift used primarily for indoor or outdoor construction projects. Scissor lifts are a type of elevated work platform, of which there are many other types.

Different Types of Commercial Lifts Explained

We are award-winning designers, manufacturers and installers of a wide range of commercial lifts, so we are a reliable source for simple explanations of the various types and subtypes of lifts. Each type of lift exists for different uses and incorporates one of several lifting mechanisms.

The next time you are in a building using a passenger lift or see a wheelchair lift, goods lift or scissor lift, you should understand a bit more about how they work. Please feel free to get in touch with us if you need a commercial lift installation for any of the lift types described above.