As we age or suffer medical disabilities, it is quite common for stairs to become a problem. One solution is to move to a ground-floor flat, but this is not always possible. A cheaper alternative can be found in providing a stair lift. This means that the resident can continue to use not just the stairs, but the entire home as well.
A stair lift enables people to continue using the staircase and the entire home, in spite of their reduced physical mobility. (Photo source: RJ Mobility)
Types of stair lift
The best-known type of stair lift has a rail system alongside the stairs. It has a seat with a footrest and armrests and can move up and down the stairs powered by an electric motor. Most models are intended for interior staircases, but exterior staircases can also be fitted with an adapted stair lift as well.
A wheelchair stair lift is also a possibility. The wheelchair is driven onto a loading platform and subsequently ascends or descends the stairs. Moreover, there are also stair lift models which enable boxes, containers and other items to be transported from floor to floor. It is handy for people who are no longer able to manage this by themselves.
Straight or with curves?
For obvious reasons, a straight stair lift is cheaper than a model where the rail has to accommodate curves or a turn. For curved staircases, a more expensive model will of course have to be installed. Sometimes, the rail at the bottom of a straight staircase is curved away so that the stair lift seat can be turned to one side. This means that access to the stairs is not obstructed, thereby enabling other people to pass.
Example of a stair lift with curved rails. (Photo source: Acorn)
AC or DC power supply?
Previously most stair lifts employed an AC power supply. Such models have a sliding contact in the rail, and the connection to the power grid is made by inserting a plug into a power socket.
DC models have one very important advantage, namely that they can operate in the event of a power outage. These models usually employ several batteries positioned under the stair lift seat. The rail is supplied with a charging point at the bottom and top of the stairs. Sometimes, a charging point can also be fitted at an intermediate level. The power supply also comes from a power socket, but it first goes through a transformer and a rectifier. The principal disadvantage to a DC stair lift is the limited lifetime of the battery and the fact that battery replacement must be performed by a qualified service technician.
Provide a power socket
In new construction or when thoroughly renovating your home, it is advisable to provide a power socket at the bottom and at the top of the stairs. This is a small operation but one which will make your home a lot more flexible should it ever be necessary to install a stair lift. The power socket can also be used when vacuuming the stairs.
Safety and operation
In order to ensure the safety of the user, the seat is usually fitted with a belt. The footrest is also fitted with a sensor so that the user will not get hurt should their foot become trapped between the footrest and the next step.
To operate the stair lift, either buttons are provided on the armrest or a holder is fitted for a remote control.