A Stair Lift is a simple piece of accessibility equipment, designed to help people with mobility limitations get up and down their stairs safely. Key components of a stair lift include a chair, a motor and a fixed track they travel along. Stair lifts can be adapted to a variety of staircase types, including curved and outdoor stairs.
A common question before buying a stair lift is whether or not it will fit on your staircase. That’s why the first step of our buying process is to schedule a free in home visit, where a Stannah stair lift expert will measure your stairs and get a sense of your needs. Nevertheless, if you are looking for technical specifications of our stair lifts, you can find details – such as height, width, depth and rail length – by reading Stannah's Stairlift Dimensions Page.
Stair lifts employ a battery-powered rack and pinion drive system, constantly charged by a nearby outlet at the top or bottom of the stairs. This design allows the stair lift to carry its rated load up and downstairs. Safety features, like the over-speed governor and emergency braking system, ensure that the stair lift will never travel faster than it is supposed to. Typically, stair lifts travel at about 18 ft per minute.
The main power supplied by the electrical outlet helps the batteries maintain a full charge, so that your stairlift is ready to go at all times. However, the stairlift won’t overdraw from your electrical supply and the minimal output means there won’t be any significant impact on your electric bill. You can learn more about energy efficient stairlifts from Stannah here.
In the event of a power outage, the batteries will continue to operate your stair lift for approximately 20 round trips. While your power is out, you can save the stair lift’s batteries by turning off an isolator switch when you aren’t using the stairlift. However, this is only recommended during an outage and it’s important to leave your stairlift switched on the rest of the time.
Stair lift batteries last between 1 and 5 years. Battery life depends on usage and how often the stair lift is left off charge. When it’s time to get them replaced, a professional technician (ideally a representative from the manufacturer or an authorized dealer) can service your batteries for you. Unfortunately, this isn’t something that you can do on your own, as these industrial batteries are stored within the stair lift’s carriage and require technical training to install. However, stairlift batteries are usually covered under an initial warranty or extended service plan.
Stairlift weight capacity depends on your staircase type and the model you need for your home. Straight stair lifts can carry heavier loads than curved stair lifts, which operate on a different track that has to adapt to the bends and turns of your staircase. Typically, you can expect weight capacities between 300 lbs. and 350 lbs. for straight stairs and 265-300 lbs. for stairs that turn.
There are three basic stair lift types: straight, curved and outdoor. Each model is suited to a different type of staircase and comes with a unique set of attributes and benefits. Let’s take a look at the different stair lift types:
Straight stairlifts are the most common type of stair lifts, as they’re designed for simple, straight-run staircases. Usually, these are between 12 and 16 steps, but every house is different and a straight stair lift can be installed on a staircase that’s up to 12 meters (39 feet) long! Thankfully, most staircases are much shorter than that and straight rails can be cut down to the precise length you need, making straight stair lifts are also the most adaptable and reusable type of stair lift.
Since the rail can be cut down to fit on shorter staircases, you can re-sell or donate your stair lift, or simply take it with you if you decide to move. It is important to note that this doesn’t guarantee the new set of stairs will be wide enough for a stair lift and the track cannot be extended, if the new staircases is longer than the original.
Stairs that turn are a more complicated proposition than straight-runs. Fortunately, curved stair lifts can handle the bends and turns of almost any staircase.
As the name implies, custom curved stair lifts are designed specifically for your staircase. After measuring your stairs during a free home survey, stair lift professionals will design a custom curved rail that can be manufactured from scratch for a snug fit on your stairs. Custom rails do take a bit longer to manufacture, but the fit on your stairs and the smoothness of the ride are second to none.
An Outdoor Stair lift is just that: a stair lift designed for outdoor staircases. They provide access to backyards, gardens and even garage entryways. Outdoor models can withstand harsh weather conditions, including extreme heat and cold.
Usually, outdoor stair lifts are made with durable metal rails and strong plastic seats that can handle being out in the sun or exposed to winter weather. A protective cover and a closed rail system are also vital components to ensure that your outdoor stairlift can handle the elements. If you’re interested in an outdoor stairlift, make sure you ask about landing controls and a key lock system, so that you can store your stairlift safely.
Heavy duty stair lifts are stairlifts with a significant weight capacity (over 300lbs). While most stairlift companies don’t make this distinction, it’s an important question for many people. Typically, straight stairlifts have a higher weight capacity than curved models, so it’s better to install on a straight-run staircase. If you’re concerned about weight capacity, simply ask the question. Most stairlift companies can accommodate higher weight capacity; it’s simply a matter of finding the right model for your needs.
So, now that we’ve covered the basics, the question becomes, “who can use a stairlift?” While most people can operate a stairlift, it’s important to make sure that you have the mobility required to get in and out of the chair safely. Let’s look a t few scenarios and see if a stairlift is right for you.
Seniors Typically, seniors are the group most associated with stair lifts. And, right enough, they are the leading demographic of stairlift users. It’s only natural that our mobility should decline as we get older and with so many seniors focused on aging in place, stairlifts provide an attractive alternative to moving or remodeling. For many seniors, their home is their castle. Some have even lived in the same house for decades, so, the prospect of picking up and moving can be hard. Stair lifts make aging in place a real possibility for these seniors, and their easy functionality and ergonomic designs help seniors save their physical energy for the rest of the day.
People with limited mobility Of course, you don’t have to be a senior to use a stairlift, anyone with limited mobility can benefit. Stair lifts can help those with chronic conditions, degenerative injuries or even provide relief during a temporary recovery from surgery. The most important factor is being able to get in and out of the chair safely. Even if you struggle to sit down with your knees bent at 90 degrees, there are standing model or “perch” stairlifts that can accommodate your needs.
A Person Who Uses a Wheelchair Those living with permanent disabilities and people who use wheelchairs might have a harder time using a stairlift, but it really depends on the situation. A stairlift is not a platform lift and cannot carry a wheelchair upstairs. So, for wheelchair users to operate a stair lift, they will need to have wheelchairs stationed near the top and bottom of the stairs. They’ll also need to be able to transfer from their wheelchair to the stairlift’s seat and back again. This can be done with help, but it’s better if the user can perform this task independently. Everyone’s mobility is different and the best way to find out if a stair lift will work for you is to stop by a local showroom and see for yourself.
Almost every stairlift on the market is equipped with safety sensors beneath the footrest and on the sides of the motorized carriage. This ensures that the stairlift will come to a gentle, but immediate stop if it encounters an obstruction.
Retractable rails are an optional feature for staircases with limited space at the bottom landing. The rail raises and lowers automatically as the chair rides up and down the stairs, clearing room for a door or walkway. This prevents the rail from becoming a tripping hazard or blocking an emergency exit.
Just about every major stairlift company carries models that fold up to save space on the stairs, when not in use. The seat and armrests usually flip up manually, but the best companies provide powered footrests. These usually include a button on the armrest that folds the footrest up and down, making it easier to get in and out of the chair and avoiding the need to bend over when folding the footrest (especially important at the top of the stairs).
The slimline hand control is mounted to the armrest and allows you to use any part of your hand to operate the stairlift. Simply push and hold the control in the direction that you want to go to move your stairlift. If you let go, the stairlift will stop. The hand control is soft and ergonomically designed for those with limited dexterity. An alternative “rudder” style is also available.
The key lock feature prevents unauthorized use of your stairlift. Simply remove the key and no one else will be able to use the stairlift. When you’re ready to go, replace the key. If you aren’t concerned about others using the stairlift, you can leave the key in all the time.
Types of Seats
There are several types of stairlift seats to choose from. While it’s important to find something comfortable, you should also make sure that you select a seat with the practical features that will suit your needs. Wider chair arms provide extra space and have the added benefit of offering more leverage when you’re getting up from the seated position. Perch/standing models are a good solution for those who struggle to bend their knees or have back problems. You can ride upstairs in a semi-standing position and the hydraulic seat will make getting out of the chair much easier.
In addition to these practical features, many stair lifts offer intriguing style options. You can get vinyl or woven upholstery and choose from a variety of colors. Some stair lifts even come with light or dark wood trim. Once you’ve found the seat that will suit your needs, choose the style options that will suit your home!
Powered Swivel Option
All Stannah stairlifts swivel at the top of the stairs, so that the rider can get off safely. But, if manually swiveling the chair is difficult due to limited mobility, we offer a powered swivel option to make turning easier. This mechanism allows the user to swivel the chair to face away from the stairs, by simply continuing to hold the hand control or using the remote. The chair can also be swiveled back into the riding position using the remote, to allow others to use the stairs.
Retractable Rail Option
For straight stairs, Stannah offers a retractable rail that raises and lowers automatically as the chair rides up and down the stairs. This is a great option if the rail could pose a potential tripping hazard at the bottom of the stairs or if there is a door in the way. With the retractable rail option, your Stannah stairlift will be there when you need it and out of the way when you don’t.
Seat Belt Options
The standard retractable seat belt on the Siena and Starla chairs is designed for ease-of-use and can be upgraded to an ‘Immobilizer seat belt’ so that the chair will not operate from the armrest control until the seat belt is engaged (standard equipment on the Sadler chair). Our lap-diagonal and five-point seat belts (above) provide extra restraint over the shoulders and, if needed, between the legs. We also have a center-clasp seatbelt option.
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