If you have mobility issues, home elevators are the most effective way to access all levels of your home. They are not, however, the only solution. A stair elevator, also known as a stair chair lift, can be equally effective under certain circumstances, especially when budget is a consideration or your home lacks the space for home elevator installation.
What is a Stairlift Elevator?
A home stair elevator is a mechanical system designed to lift people up and down stairs. Unlike home elevators, a stairlift elevator does not ascend and descend vertically. Instead, a rail with an attached motorized chair is installed along a wall adjacent to the stairs. The chair lift is powered by batteries that are continuously powered through standard wall outlets.
In most cases, stair lift elevators use a chair, but platforms may be used for people in wheelchairs. Chairs are the most common solution, however, as they leave most of the stairway accessible to other people.
Benefits of a Stair Chair Lift
While not as permanent or versatile as home elevators, stair elevators come with a number of benefits for people with mobility issues, including:
- Increased freedom: A stairlift elevator’s primary purpose is to provide access to different levels of your home. Doing so allows you to maintain your independence. Chair lifts are popular with seniors as they help people age in place.
- Safety: While not as safe as an enclosed home elevator, a chair lift comes with features to keep you safe during operation. Safety buckles on the chair prevent you from falling, while sensors prevent the lift from operating if they detect obstructions on the stairway. Similar sensors ensure the armrests and footrests are properly positioned, and you can lock the operational switch to prevent children from using the lift unsupervised.
- Comfort: A home stairlift elevator can be easily adjusted to accommodate your height, with padded armrests and a range of seat sizes for the most comfortable ride possible.
- Staircase Access: Most chairlifts have chairs and footrests that can be folded away when the lift is not in use. This allows other people access to the stairs without the need to navigate around the chair.
- Ease of Use: To use a stairlift elevator you simply press and hold an armrest toggle switch. Release the switch and the lift comes to a complete stop. For households where more than one person uses the lift, you can opt for remote controls which call the lift from the bottom or top of the stairs.
- Customizable Features: Chair lifts can be customized to fit your needs and your stairwells. Lifts can be installed to go up and down curved as well as straight stairwells, and designed to fit a wide range of stairway widths and lengths. Standard options include helpful features such as swivel seats, call/send remotes, and foldable chairs.
- Short or Long Term Mobility Solutions: Unlike home elevators which are permanent installations, a stair chair lift can be a solution for short-term mobility problems. The chair can be installed while you’re recovering from surgery or an accident, then removed when your full mobility is restored.
- Cost: If you’re on a fixed budget, a chair lift may be a more affordable option than a home elevator for straight stairwells.
Limitations of Stair Lifts
A chair lift isn’t a perfect solution to your home mobility needs. Such lifts have some limitations, especially when compared to residential elevators. Before you make your final decision, make sure you consider the following:
- While newer homes have wide stairways that can accommodate stairway elevators, older homes may have narrower stairwells. A professional lift installation service will be able to assess your home to see if a chair lift or home elevator will best meet your needs.
- Wheelchair users may find moving from the chair to the stairlift and back again difficult, and would need to have a chair at the top and bottom of the stairs.
- Physical limitations can impact your use of a home stair elevator. Full leg or hip casts, for instance, can make it difficult or impossible to sit safely in the lift chair. Weight limits also need to be considered. While most basic stair chair lifts can support up to 265 lbs, users who need more carrying capacity will need more expensive models rated for 350 lbs and up.
- Chair lifts are a slow alternative to home elevators. The average stair elevator for home use moves at a rate of 2.5 inches a second, which can be agonizingly slow when you’re in a hurry.
- Stairlift elevator batteries are continuously charging, which can result in higher electricity bills.
- Unlike home elevators, a chair lift will not add to your home’s value, and may even detract from its selling price if buyers don’t want the lift.
- Check your local fire regulations before buying a stair chair lift to make sure installation doesn’t violate local codes.
- Chair lifts offer few customization options to match your home’s style and decor, often causing the chair to clash with your home design.
Stair Lift or Home Elevator?
It’s not unusual for people to initially opt for a stairlift elevator, only to replace it with a home elevator at some future point. This may happen either because mobility issues become more severe or homeowners become frustrated with the chair lift’s limitations. This increases overall costs as you’ll have paid for both mobility solutions. Better to make a careful decision now and select the option that will serve you over the long-term.
Stair lifts are often seen as alternatives to home elevators when space is at a premium. Shaftless home elevators require less installation space and are often the best mobility solution for smaller homes or in homes with curved or unusually shaped stairways. Contact a Symmetry Home Elevator dealer today to discuss whether chair lifts or residential elevators are the best choice for your home and your lifestyle.