Elevators Vs Stairs Trent Wright

Taking the stairs is a small step in the right direction for sustainability.

The mathematical questions I would like to know are, how much energy is being saved by taking the stairs? How much energy it takes for the elevator to operate? and what is the cost of running the elevator?

Before we do that, we must understand how an elevator works.

Most elevators work just like a pulley. A very strong metal rope is joined to the top of the elevator car and goes up through “a sheave” in the engine room above the elevator. The sheave is like a pulley wheel with grooves in it to hold the rope tightly. On the other side of the rope is a weight, which is about as heavy as the elevator car when it is half full. This balance the car, so that not too much energy is needed to move it.

Both the weight and the elevator car are held in place by guide rails at the sides of the elevator shaft (the tunnel the elevator is in). A motor can turn the wheel in either direction so that the elevator either goes up or down (with the weight doing the opposite). When you push the button inside the elevator, you activate the motor. When the motor stops, the grooves in the pulley wheel keep the rope in place so the elevator stops moving.

Hydraulic elevators have an average cost of $20,000for the elevator itself, with installation pushing the total cost to around $30,000 or higher Pneumatic elevators are less costly and easier to install with a total cost of around $10,000 on average.

If you take two flights of stairs every day at work, you’re saving about 72 kilowatts of power each year. Each of those days equals about 90 cents a year in energy costs. An elevator uses about 100 Watt hours per round trip per person, this is about how much a desktop computer and monitor use running for 30 minutes. When it comes to human energy. Stair climbing is like running and walking in providing aerobic benefits and building and toning muscles however stair climbing for exercise will burn twice the fat in half of the time than running and three times more than walking. The calorie-burning and aerobic benefits of stair-climbing are determined by the intensity of your climbing. Walking casually up the stairs provides only slightly greater benefits than running or walking but if you put some effort and energy into moving quickly up the stairs, the benefits are increased. Barring any medical conditions that may prevent you from climbing stairs, choose the stairs instead of the elevator whenever possible.

The stairs are a small step in the right direction. Although the energy being used from the elevator isn’t huge, using the stairs maybe a way to maintain a healthy lifestyle. The 90 cents a year in energy cost are small so that will not stray people away from the use of the elevator.

Let’s assume someone weighs 275 pounds. Now to lift them at a rate of two feet per second takes about 1 horsepower. Five floors, call it 50 feet, so it takes 25 seconds.  Now 1 horsepower is about 750 watts, with overhead let’s say 1000 watts. So, you’ve used 1000 watts for 25 seconds, or .007 of an hour. You’ve used .007 of a kilowatt-hour.

The elevator does not use enough energy to make a huge impact on sustainability. The biggest factor to using the stairs is the health benefit. If you’re taking the stairs for health reasons, try to continue to do more such as riding you bike instead of public transportation. There are many healthy lifestyle choices that also contribute to sustainability. Riding your bike to work can cut down your household emissions by 6 percent. So, if you ride your bike and then take the stairs when you get inside you’re making a bigger contribution.

Does reducing your use of elevator trips make sense?

For health reasons, probably. Walking up a couple of flights of stairs a day is good excerise and your heart will be happy with you. But in terms of reducing energy usage for environmental reasons, not really. There are many other things that are much easier to do that would have bigger impacts. Changing 3 100 W light bulbs to CFLs would save more electricity than the typical apartment dweller going cold turkey on elevators.

If you were to walk up and down 3 flights of stairs instead of an elevator, that would save 15 Wh a day or 450 Wh a month. That would be enough to power a 37″ Plasma TV for 3 hours. It is something, but not much. If you wanted to save energy, you would be better off trying to walk or take public transportation to work.

If living in a high rise in a dense urban environment allows you to save more than 1 gallon of gasoline due to decreased driving, the elevator usage more than pays for itself in energy savings.

The cost is minuscule and so is the amount of power being used when taking the elevator. If everyone in the world took the stairs it may make for a significant change. If you’re looking to live a healthier lifestyle, taking the stairs over the elevator is your option. When it comes to energy and cost there’s not enough to create a more sustainable environment.




Rastogi, Nina. “When People Take the Elevator, Does Earth Get the Shaft?” Slate Magazine, 7 Apr. 2009, www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/the_green_lantern/2009/04/energy_and_elevators.html (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site..

“Q&A: How Much Energy Do I Save by Taking the Stairs Instead of the Elevator?” Great Forest, 23 Apr. 2013, greatforest.com/sustainability101/qa/qa-much-energy-save-taking-stairs-instead-elevator/.

“Everyday Environmentalist.” Why It’s Smart to Take the Stairs | The Nature Conservancywww.nature.org/greenliving/gogreen/everydayenvironmentalist/take-the-stairs.xml (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site..


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1 Response to Elevators Vs Stairs Trent Wright

  1. Rose Gerber says:

    I find your article very interesting. I live on the seventh floor of my building and take the elevators as much as I can (i’m very lazy). Although your findings show that taking the stairs does not save you a meaningul difference I like your point about how taking the stairs is a lot healthier for us. Your article made me think about the stair workout machines many people use in gyms. I am curious as to how much energy those machines use and if it would be better for poeple to work out by literally running up and down real stairs? Overall you had a very interesting article and I enjoyed it!

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