There are three ways of providing access between floors for the handicapped or disabled; residential elevators, stair lifts and platform lifts. By far the most popular method of residential lift is the home chair stair lift.
The reasons why they are preferred by the majority is because of ease of installation and price. Residential elevators and platform lifts start at around 10k to 16k. The price of a home stair lift will depend on its type. A straight type will range in price from 2.5k – 4k, whereas a curved model is custom made and will cost anything between 5k to 20k. The complexity of the installation ultimately dictates the cost of installing a curved lift. The cost is impossible to know before the supplier carries out an onsite inspection.
There are four types of drive types. However, the vast majority of new stair lifts use the rack and pinion system.
Most cable drive systems use a strong steel cable – aircraft cable is the norm. The main disadvantage of this type of drive system is that the ride can be less than perfectly smooth. However, technology has moved on and those companies that still use this drive system say that the ride is as smooth as any other type. Summit and Ameriglide stair lifts both use this drive type.
Chain drive systems are used only for heavy duty models. They are loud and not really used in residential stair lifts.
The screw drive uses a lifting mechanism with a screw driven actuator. This is powered by a rechargeable battery. Again, this type is not used in home models.
The rack and pinion drive system is by far the most popular type for residential stair lifts. Rack and pinion systems – meaning gear and teeth – used to have to require regular cleaning and replacement of gear oil. However today’s home units have sealed drive systems that require no maintenance at all.
The Track or Rail
This is the base along which the carriage travels. The track is always fitted to the stairs and never to the wall. This means that a track can be fitted to either side of the stairs. Tracks used in straight stair lifts are made of extruded aluminum whereas curved ones usually use a mixture of both steel and aluminum.
With early designs the power source was AC mains. But today, most stair chair lifts are powered by DC 12 volt rechargeable batteries. Batteries are preferred because a trailing cable is used with AC mains powered stairlifts. The cable is reeled out and reeled back in each and every time the chair travels up and down the stairway, which causes wear and tear. Also, battery powered units can still be used during power outages. Some states prohibit the installation of any appliance unless it is installed by a qualified technician.
All makes of stair chair lifts offer this option. There are two types; 90 degree and 180 degree swivel seats. A 90 degree swivel seat is mounted on the upstairs side of the chassis and fold in one direction. A 180 degree swivel seat folds in both directions. One manufacturer, Stannah, makes a motorized swivel seat.
Many brands like the Acorn Superglide and the Stannah stair lift have integrated circuit boards that can help diagnose problems with your lift and decrease maintenance costs.
All manufacturers offer a mixture of accessories either as standard or optional. What you choose will affect the cost of the stair lift.
Perch stair lifts allow the passenger to remain standing. This is excellent for those who have problems bending at the knee. The Acorn Superglide Perch is one such example.
Just about all home units come with safety belts. Some brands come with retractable lap inertia belts, while others offer 3-point fixed shoulder belts.
Installation of today’s straight models is quite easy. Many manufacturers and dealers encourage customers to self-install. However, a customer should never self install and the Accessibility Equipment Manufacturer’s Association strongly advises against it.
The installation of a residential lift really can allow someone to regain their home and independence. The chair stair lift that is best for a customer will depend on their requirements and budget.