Why Don’t Houses Have Escalators?

Maybe I’m a little claustrophobic.

Or maybe I find the idea of being stuck in an elevator at my house with nobody around kind of frightening.

Or maybe I just like the idea of having an escalator in my house.

An escalator seems so much more flexible than an elevator:

  • if the power goes out you can still use an escalator
  • an escalator is better for your health, it could even be part of your workout routine; you can use the escalator for an interval workout – walk up the escalator with the power off, then ride it back down to recover; repeat 10-15 times. You could use it like a stairmaster – stand at the bottom of the escalator and turn the escalator on in the reverse direction, and just walk “up” the steps at a steady pace; perhaps you could even adjust the speed of the escalator.
  • an escalator would not take up additional space; you can just replace your stairway with an escalator
  • your pet could still move between the upper and lower levels of your house without your intervention; teaching them to use an elevator could prove difficult
  • it’s easier to make a grand entrance on an escalator, for when you want to do things like announce that you are running for President or to simply say aloha

patescalator

I could go on and on here, but clearly escalators are the way to go.

So why don’t we see escalators in houses?

I don’t have the answer, I’m just throwing out the idea.

In the meantime, a group of mechanical engineers, biomedical engineers, and computer scientists at Georgia Tech and Emory University is working on a sort of pre-cursor to home escalators. The team is developing “energy-recycling stairs“,  spring-loaded stairs that compress when stepped on, absorbing impact and saving 26 percent of a person’s energy. This energy is then stored to provide a boost of 37 percent when stepped on going upwards.

The system can be installed on existing staircases on a temporary or permanent basis, and the researchers hope that, if developed further, it could replace stairlifts and even elevators.

So why not go all the way, and just turn a staircase into a moving staircase, i.e., an escalator.

I’d seriously consider starting a company that manufactured and sold residential escalators, but it seems like the type of business that would have more than its fair share of ups and downs…

35 thoughts on “Why Don’t Houses Have Escalators?

  1. Hi Jim, I have just put that question to my wife whilst watching the TV, as in the U.K. we currently have an advert running for a cordless vacuum cleaner and in the advert they have a escalator type stairs covered in carpet, and I said that would be a great idea, especially for the elderly in this country as when most couples get old and the kids leave the nest, they sell there houses and move into a single storey bungalow, because they can’t go up and down the stairs anymore. So it would be a perfect installation for them to have, to allow them to remain in there house, and less stress and money than moving. So yes I am of the same view as you, “why” has no-one thought of this before and designed a prototype..?

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    1. Thanks for your comment; now there’s at least two of us! I agree that a house escalator would be quite useful for the scenario you mention, as well as for many others. If we keep doubling the interest level every week, just think where we will be at the end of year. They’ll have to start building houses with escalators at that point.

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  2. Hi Jim, I had a user just ask a similar question on my site. Although no one has come up with a quality answer, I think it would be a great idea if a company could come up with a low-cost residential escalator design and an affordable installation cost as I imagine these two cost would be separate. I think that it would be a beneficial for the aging population providing them the ability to stay in their homes longer without having to worry about the potential of falling down the stairs because of limited mobility issues. One concern that came to mind is the possibility of an unattended small child jamming fingers or toes between the moving stairs and I don’t believe home escalators would require regular inspections or permits such as the ones you find in local malls around the country. If so, this would be a major plus. The only idea I came up with would be to add child proof gates on both ends of the home escalator and/or some sort of automatic shutoff mechanism in the unfortunate event this should ever happen. If these two concerns can be addressed, I think home escalators have a very real possibility of making their debut into homes around the world in the near future. The question is when? I’m going to do some more research and see if anyone has something in the works.

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  3. In this day and age of NFC (near field communications) it seems a user could have a fob that would limit who could activate the escalator and also detect which direction it should run. Presumably any home installation would need to be bi-directional. After a bit of research, it seems current escalator costs are $10k+, so some serious value engineering is needed!

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  4. Thank you for answering the question that I have had for a long time. I am a senior citizen, and I am shopping for a new home. However, most of the homes in my area are two story. Since I am very claustrophobic, I do not want to consider an elevator—but an escalator would be perfect. Even an expensive escalator might be cheaper than selling a home and purchasing a new one-story home.

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  5. I am building a house and its going to be super space saving … and thats how i reached this page … Why not home escalators.
    I feel its got to do with commercial economics … there may not be enough customers and the customization (since ALL houses are non standard design !!! weird statement) …would be a nightmare in terms of pricing … every installation may be a different design …
    I guess a guideline will require to be released .. “If building a new house and are planning for an escalator stair system … the recommended dimensions and etc are as such …blsh blah blah”

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  6. I am presently looking a s home in Arizona that has not sold in a very long time because the topography of the property requires that you climb a set of stars to get to the man floor. The property is being sold for $600k and I think if you could get an escalator installed for under $20 grand it would sell.

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  7. Well not sure if you came to final conclusion , but, I would say you ae in the right track some serious engineering would need to be put in the current commercial designs to simply and reduce size of equipment. The biggest thing i see currently would be with retrofit and the amount of equipment that has tongo below grade., . But I think is a great idea. And new construction would not be an problem. Good luck.

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  8. I ran across your blog while searching for whether a home escalator exists and am glad others are interested. There are three steps from my back door to the kitchen and not only is it getting hard for me but now my dog is having big problems with those steps. An escalator would be great.

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    1. An outdoor escalator would seem to be more difficult to install, since it would be exposed to the elements. I hope you and your dog find some way to make those back steps easier!

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  9. For Jan Wade who needs an escalator for three steps from back door to the kitchen, there are 3 solutions:
    1. Some companies make lift platforms that go up 3 to 5 feet. Mostly for people who are in wheelchairs. Some are built for outdoor use.
    2. Stair lifts (the kind that have a small chair that climbs up the side of a staircase on a rail) can be adapted to have a small platform for the dog to join you. We had 2 wire haired fox terriers who in late life needed such help and would have enjoyed the ride. (They also had the smarts to push buttons, to go up themselves. :–)
    3. In Switzerland they make outdoor inclined lifts. Some serve apartment buildings built on a slope. ( I have seen photos when searching for “Switzerland hillside homes”.)
    Some are used in vineyards. Rick Steves (the Europe travel TV show producer) showed one in Italy –Cinque Terre from what I recall. Try looking at https://www.ricksteves.com/watch-read-listen/video/tv-show

    If your lift needs to be outside, you may need a roof over the lift and side walls to keep rain and snow off the mechanism.

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  10. I am trying to put an escalator from my first floor to the basement. This is now a steep stairway making it difficult to store things in the basement. I am surprised that an escalator is not available. Could a commercial elevator be modified from home use? As to the risk factor, I could put a lock on the door to the basement which answers that problem.

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  11. Jim I too am interested in installing an escalator in my house. I do not believe there is any engineering issue. Surely the existing mechanical systems could be scaled down to the appropriate size.

    The question is why has no company done so ? Maybe an existing manufacturer should be asked the question…. Why not?

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    1. I’ve thought the same thing, Richard, why aren’t there houses with escalators? I think what is needed for a large home-builder to start offering it as an option, and see what the demand is. If there is enough demand, that would get the ball rolling.

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  12. This is a relatively simple DIY project:

    1.) Existing staircase (or new staircase space) should be straight – no landings (but any stair config would work except curved stairs)
    2.) Understand the use case! Commercial escalators are designed so many people can use them SIMULTANEOUSLY. In a SFR use case, only one person uses the home escalator at a time. Doh! Thus:
    No Need For a bunch of Risers and Treads. You just need ONE Riser & ONE tread.
    3.) Think of a elongated treadmill powered by a directional Servomotor
    4.) Lay your long-ass treadmill over the existing stairs.
    5.) Attach ONE stair (one riser and tread section) to the tread mat, preferably with railing attached to it.
    6.) Use switches that the ONE stair will trip at the top and bottom of the length of the apparatus to auto stop the servomotor.
    7.) Have an elevator-like button on the wall at the top floor and lower floor wall (to call the ONE stair if its in the opposite position)
    8.) wire it all up, use some simple controller, and Volla!

    Bonus: People can still get up and down even if this “Es-solo-calater” is not operational!

    Easy Peazy.

    I got the idea based on the video below:

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      1. Basically, the mat of the treadmill never makes a complete rotation. It just moves a single stair attached to it up and back down. With hand rails on both sides, it would easy for a person to walk up that incline. The time for me to build my escalator is fast approaching as I’m getting old(er). Build it, or like a lot of older people with a 2-story home, sell the house in favor of a single story home.

        I like our 2-story home.

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  13. I don’t know why but the idea just hit me too how great it would be to have an escalator between my first and second floors. I’ve been seriously thinking about adding on to my condo and putting in a first floor master but I would almost think if my 14 steps from top to bottom could be converted to some type of escalator system, that would be awesome and probably cheaper than a renovation on my condo. Fortunately, I can still get up and down my steps but some day it will ultimately become more difficult. I know there’s only a few of us who have responded but I still think the idea could be engineered. If anyone here’s such a thing, please feel free to contact me.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Using escalator is my idea also. But if you think about cost 😭😭. If demand increases cost may reduce for which escalator company has to come forward and lower the price and make more demands for middle class house construction also. I am in Chennai, India. If I built stair case min INR 4 lacs, if I prefer lift min INR 6 lacs whereas escalator more than 20 lacs. Escalator is good for home than anything, but manufacturing company reduce cost equal to stair case, so demand will be multifold.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad to see somebody else thinks escalators are a good idea. I agree that the cost has to be reasonable in order to get people to install one in their home.

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  15. Jim Borden
    Thank you for your interest in home escalators. I can clearly
    see an advantage to this concept as our population gains in age.
    At age 76, I am not as agile as I was 20 years ago. We live in a ranch style home with a garage that enters at the basement level.
    The living portion of home is a standard Straight flight of stairs from the basement to the kitchen
    of the home. There are many companies that will add a chair lift
    to one side of the stair case.
    My question to you is, “why can’t the chair be replaced by a simple platform that uses the same substructure and lifting capability as a chair lift?
    In our home, the platform configuration would permit the person on the platform to stand and ride up and down as needed.
    In addition, the platform (glide) permits the rider to avoid the stairs (12 or 13) which is where many of the trip and fall injuries happen and have hands free during operation to meet the same osha requirements as a seated person.
    One additional element that would be a benefit to many people is the way groceries and other items get from one level to the other without concern for carting things arms full up and down stairs.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. thanks, Bill. You make a lot of good points here. Your platform idea seems to make sense, and it would help with the groceries. I’ve heard that’s why some people like elevators, so they can move things from one level to the next without using the stairs…

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      1. Jim
        The minimum width for a in house elevator is 36 inches plus construction material and then there is the cost of renovation. I have looked into the smallest elevator available and we miss the specification by 1 &1/2 Inches.

        The platform concept fits within the minimum required legal Width of a stairway in most states. Thus, any place a chair lift will go, so will the platform.
        The size of the platform would be 20-24 inches front to back and side to side 36 inches.
        The Platform controls would be part of the platform and would be activated and de-activated by the person riding the platform.
        If the unit was being operated like a dum-waiter only (no person on board) separate controls would be installed at the bottom and top of the stairwell. I envision this concept for multiple suitcases Or
        Other items.
        My hope is that someone with an engineers mind, can make this concept work at a modest cost, for the average home owner that can not afford extensive construction costs, similar to a stair chair application (owned or rented).
        Thanks Jim

        Liked by 1 person

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