Stairlifts 101 – Considerations for Purchasing a Stairlift

A stairlift is defined as a chair which safely transports individuals on a track (or rail) to another level of a building. Basically, there are two types of stairlifts: straight and curved. The carriage is the component that runs on the track. It contains the motor and drive system. (Drive systems are covered in the Maintenance section of this article). Onto the carriage, a chair is mounted and a footrest is attached at the bottom. Nowadays, most indoor lifts are powered by 24V batteries, which need to be charged from a standard grounded household outlet.

Stairlift Safety Features
Safety-wise, all straight indoor stairlifts sold in the US are pretty much equal. This is because all stairlifts sold in the US are required to be compliant with Title 21, Sec. 890.5150 of the US Federal Regulations Code for stairlifts. This includes that the lift has a three-prone electrical grounding plug, passenger seat belts, a maximum operational speed (30 ft./minute), overspeed governor (for stopping the lift in the event of a drive failure), chair locking feature at the top of the stairs and sensory detecting systems for stopping travel should the lift strike anything in its path while in either ascent or descent mode.

Made in the USA?
According to an Oct 24, 2023 Retirement Living article, they list the top 6 stairlifts sold in the US. Alphabetically, they include Acorn, AmeriGlide, Bruno, Handicare, Harmar, LifewayMobility, and Stannah. For buyers preferring stairlifts made in the USA, the brands highlighted in bold print meet this requirement.

Electric vs. Battery Operated Stairlifts
All stairlifts need a grounded household source (120V) of electricity to operate. While most stairlifts sold in homes today are battery powered, they too require an electric source for recharging the battery. Battery life can last anywhere from 3-6 yrs. depending on the loads carried and their usage. To extend battery life, the lift should run almost daily. And in places where stairlift usage may be occasional (e.g., summer cottages, public buildings), a totally electric powered lift is generally recommended over a battery powered model.

Stairway Storage
Almost all stairlifts sold today are mounted on the steps, rather than a wall. When not in operation, most can be folded up against the “track wall” to allow able-bodied people passage on the stairs. (This includes the seat, armrests and footrest). Whereas most units fold within 12.5 in. - 13 in. to the wall, Harmar’s SL600 and Ameriglide’s Rave2 provide the narrowest footprints in the industry (11 inches).

Stairlift Maintenance
By observing the stairlift’s load capacity limits and keeping the track clean (think dust, cat or dog hair), your stairlift should last a long time. Polymer drive systems like those used on our Amerglide Rave2 are relatively smooth and quiet (AND REQUIRE NO MAINTENANCE). Metal rack and pinion drives on the other hand, ride bumpier, noisier and require periodic cleaning and lubrication. This is true of our Legacy II model. And due to the presence of lubricants, articles that encounter the track could get soiled.

As for battery replacement, most batteries should last 3-6 yrs. Extended battery life can be achieved by observing the lift’s riding capacity limits and using the lift several times a week.

Stairlift Warranties
Except for Acorn and their private labeled stairlift Brooks, most all stairlift manufacturers warranties cover specific parts ONLY (no labor). The range of coverage can be from anywhere from 3 to 10 yrs. (Our Legacy II carries a Lifetime warranty on ALL parts, except batteries). Also, we offer a 30-day warranty on labor for any part replacement covered under the warranty.

Acorn on the other hand, offers a 1 yr. service agreement where both parts & labor are included. At the end of the first year however, Acorn “encourages” you to purchase an $800, extended “service priority” contract - parts only”. This is one of the reasons that an Acorn or Brooks may come in at a lower price.

Stairlift Features & Options
Some stairlift companies offer optional features to attract potential buyers. These could include retractable seatbelts, key locks, remote transmitters, powered swivel seats or footrests, folding bottom rails, as well as color upholstery options - such as in our Legacy II lift. Some of these features may be included standard on specific models, while on other models be classified as an upgrade.

Who Has the Best Stairlift?
Certainly, if you search this question on the web, everyone claims to be the best. However, most all indoor straight stairlifts are similar and differ mainly by their load capacity, drive systems & warranties. The truth of the matter is that customer satisfaction comes down to how they were handled by the seller, rather than the brand. For example, did the provider keep the customer appraised by returning calls both before and after the sale? Was the installer competent, respectful, helpful, etc.? Is the company quick to respond if the stairlift needed servicing? We at Ohio Walk in Showers & Stairlifts will not abandon you once you sign and will be there long after you own it.

Note that companies with 800 numbers or websites requesting personal information company generally have one goal; to get an in-home visit. Rarely will they divulge their price beforehand. Their sales rep, who may or may not be employed with the company, will “visit” your home to hard sell you. We at Ohio Walk in Showers & Stairlifts however will give you a no hassle, over-the-phone estimate.

P.S. Selecting a stairlift can be a daunting task. Unlike car buying, there are probably questions that you may or some that you have not even thought of that need to be answered. For these buyers, we also recommend visiting our stairlift FAQ page to gain some comfort and insight before venturing into this new endeavor.

 For a no-hassle estimate, please call Jim at 440-667-8827.