A stair lift is an amazing technological innovation that allows people who face mobility challenges easily move between different levels of their homes. For seniors, they can help prevent dangerous falls and for all of those facing mobility challenges. In recent years, the number of stair lift manufacturers has greatly increased, meaning the home owners have many more choices and the prices of stair lifts have become much more competitive. Although a stair lift once was considered a luxury for only the most wealthy homeowners, these days prices have become surprising affordable.
When researching stair lift models and reading stair lift reviews, you will notice they are known by many different names including chair lifts and stair gliders. There are also specialized models such as wheel chair stair lifts and platform stair lifts, which are capable of carrying a wheel chair. However, many platform stair lifts are not installed on stairways but on the outside of a house, which means there will be additional home modification costs involved.
There are also different types of stair lifts available for purchase depending on whether you have a straight stairway or a curved staircase. Straight staircase models are generally the cheapest to install, since curved stairways will generally need to be custom made. Straight stair lifts are usually quicker to install as well, since they will require fewer customizations. The difference in pricing between a straight stair lift and curved one can be substantial. For a straight stairway you can get one installed for as little as $3000, but for a custom made curved stair lift you may have to pay as much as $15,000 and sometimes even more.
With both straight and curved stair lifts, the rails are usually made from steel or aluminum and they are attached to the steps by the means of a metal bracket that is sometimes referred to as a “cleat”. If your staircase is curved, the rails will be designed so that they curve with the smallest radius possible and wrap tightly around posts and other objects.
When research your stair lift options, you should be aware there are many important features to consider. To start, you need to decide what kind of power supply you will be using. You will have the option of AC or DC power for many stair lift models. With AC (alternating current) motors, the stair lift will be wired directly into your house’s power supply (100 volts in North America or 230 volts in Europe). Although this may seem convenient it can lead to many problems if you live in area with power outages. In the event of an emergency, relying on DC power may result in a dangerous situation where an individual is unable to leave their home.
For this reason, today most owners chose using a DC (direct current) model that relies on battery power to move the chair lift. With most versions, the unit is set up so that the batteries will automatically recharge themselves using the home’s power supply but the chair lift will still be available for use in the even of a power outage.
Another important consideration when purchasing a stair lift will be the drive (or “carriage”) that moves the chair up and down the rails. The drive may be a chain, cable or rack and pinion system. Some drives may be a bit more “jerky” than others, so if a smooth ride is important to you, you will want to research these different options.
In terms of comfort, you may want to consider the seat on the unit you purchase as well. Most stair lift models will have a seat that comes with both arms and a footrest. The seats on some models swivel, which is a nice addition, although you may want to make sure it locks when the stair lift is in use.
You will also want to pay attention to the kind of controls that are available. Most manufacturers now offer remote controls as well as arm controls. A remote control will allow another person to easily operate the stair lift, if necessary. Some may also come with special auditory controls for those who are visually impaired.
Additional safety features are also important. This includes such features as cut-out switches in case the stair lift overheats, adequate restraints to ensure the rider does not fall from the stair lift during use, and safety edges.
When getting a quote for a stair lift to be installed in your home, make sure that this includes installation costs if you will not be installing it yourself. It is generally advised to have a stair lift professionally installed, since the installation is a fairly complicated process and you may void your warranty if you attempt to install them yourself. Depending on the type of staircase you will have your stair lift installed on, the installation costs can be quite substantial – at times more than the actual stair lifts themselves, so make sure you are clear on this price before purchasing one for your home.