On-Demand Escalators Can Cut Energy Use By Up To 52% (Video)

Escalators can be a tricky topic. On the one hand, they’re huge energy sucks when no one is using them and they’re endlessly looping without a passenger, or when stairs are a perfectly useful option. On the other hand, escalators are a big resource in places like airports or for those of us who aren’t able to get up a flight of stairs, so it’s not like we could or would want to get rid of them. The solution seems to be escalators that run only when needed — and that solution can save a ton of electricity.

Life As A Healthcare CIO points us to an example of just such an on-demand escalator in use at the Narita airport near Tokyo.

“They run at a very slow speed, just enough to overcome the inertia of starting them up. When a passenger walks near the escalator platform, the rate increases and the escalator runs at full speed until 30 seconds after the passenger leaves the escalator.”

There is a similar one in use at an airport in Seoul, but this one appears to be shut off entirely until it senses someone walk up to it:

I’ve never come across an on-demand escalator– any escalator I’ve seen is either on or off, and that’s that. So the idea that this (rather “duh”) technology is already in place was news to me. However, New York has already has these in place in some locations since 2008, and they’re quite popular in various areas of Europe.

HK EE Net elaborates on at least one form of technology used for these energy-saving escalators: voltage with variable amplitude and frequency (i.e. VVVF control).

“In escalator applications, VVVF control can be incorporated with automatic start/stop control or automatic two-speed control to vary the escalator speed according to the passenger flow. The operation of these kinds of escalator is determined by the presence or absence of passengers, hence energy can be saved when the escalator is idle. In lift applications, variable speed drives can reduce peak motor starting currents by as much as 80% compared with conventional motor drives. Further, wear and tear of the equipment can also be reduced during start/stop of the motor by using VVVF motor drive. In escalator applications, the measured energy saving of automatic start/stop and two-speed escalator can be up to 52% and 14% respectively in an office building.”

So these airports are definitely seeing some sort of energy savings. It’d be great to see technology like this used in all sorts of locations that have varying flows of passengers, like subways and transit stations, office and convention buildings, and so on.

This article was originally published by Treehugger.

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Photo courtesy of eightdegreeseast
By Jaymi Heimbuch, a Treehugger blogger


Green Road A.
Eric Straatsma7 years ago

This is a defining moment for humanity. Are you up to the challenge of helping to create a new energy paradigm? http://t.co/AE7DjZP

Kris J.
Kristina J7 years ago

On the note of laziness, my favorite escalator is the 4 feet tall escalator going down to a 24 Hour Fitness. They seriously had their own escalator to avoid going down 7-8 stairs...to a gym!!! Good times indeed.

Kris J.
Kristina J7 years ago

This is just one of the countless things I have noticed in my many travels abroad of just how incredibly backwards and wasteful we as Americans really are. They seem to have these almost everywhere I go, even in developing countries. Yet they are somehow 'newsworthy' here in the states. The survey question posed is a bit absurd, though, as if you would be given a choice of the automatic or antique versions. We will use whatever is presented to us, and make do, but tighter regulations (the scariest thing since the Reds to our good friends on the right) should require the use of these in all new buildings and remodels. Of course, the energy companies who controls the country and the congress will be damned to let that happen.

Tim Cheung
Tim C7 years ago


Ell M.
Ell M.7 years ago

Wow, kudos to all the holier-than-thou people shoving their ableism in everyone else's face. The question is "would you use an on-demand escalator" (which unfortunately is a stupid take on this article), not "are you better than all those 'lazy' disabled and just plain tired people out there because you walk up the stairs?"

BTW, the poll question is stupid because who WOULDN'T take an on-demand escalator? Do you really think that people who would have taken a regular escalator would have any reason to shun the "on-demand" kind?

Joel H.
Joel H7 years ago

I prefer to run up/down stairs that are next to escalators in half the time it takes the escalator users. My way of giving a veiled insult to the lazy people.

Maria Teresa Suplico

I've seen some of these on-demand escalators operating in certain malls in our place. We should have more of them. I'd love to use stairs instead of elevators and escalators but my knee problems get in the way so I have to use them instead. Automatic doors? We still need them especially if you're carrying so many things in your arms you can't open the door. Or you're wheelchair-bound and reaching for a knob or to push a glass door will be difficult. Thanks for this article!

Julie W.
Julie W7 years ago

This is a great idea. Seems if we really think about it we can come with all sorts of ways to save energy.

Songbird No Messages Plea
.7 years ago

Auto matic doors are very handy for me when your arms and shoulders don't work well and are in pain this is a big plus for a lot of people. Thanks for this news

Manuela B.
Manuela B7 years ago

awesome idea, so WHY are they not in use world wide????