Stairlift Insights


[originally published 2/27/15]
Statistics show that almost 50% of people over 65 fall at some point and that at least 10% of these falls are on the staircase. Falls can be attributed to bad lighting, clutter, medical conditions or medications causing impairment. Regardless of the situation, Falls are bad! The topic of discussion in this blog is preventing falls on the stairs as it relates to safety equipment particularly stairlifts. A stairlift can seem expensive at first but if you compare it to a fall causing injury, hospital visits, and even death, it is quite inexpensive.swivel-seat

There are many companies that sell refurbished stairlifts or used stairlifts. This can be a cost effective solution for you if you do not mind not having a warranty on your product. Older stairlifts were AC (plug into the wall) powered and therefore could not work during a power failure. What good is a lift if you can’t use it in an emergency? If the power fails then the lights go out. If the lights go out someone is twice as likely to experience a fall on the stairs! Modern stairlifts are all DC (battery powered) and are quite reliable during a power failure. (Most give 10-12 round trips before the batteries die) There are two main types of classifications of stairlifts which we will discuss.

Straight Rail Stairlifts

Straight rail stairlifts (AKA stair lift, stair glide, stair chair) are designated this because the rail is completely straight. These are for staircases that just go straight up and make no turns or bends. Another term you need to know is Right hand or Left hand. This refers to which side the lift will be on. Standing at the bottom of the stairs looking up is how this is designated. Straight rail stairlifts can accommodate up to 600 lbs. and be equipped with options such as:

slFolding Rail (if there are doors or walkways at the bottom of the stairs, the bottom of the rail can be made to flip up then not in use)
Acorn, Bruno, Handicare, and Harmar have manual folding rail options
Bruno and Handicare offer a powered folding rail option
Harmar offers an automatic (non-powered) folding rail option (this feature is done automatically without the use of a separate motor)
Power seat swivel (All stairlift seats are designed to rotate up to 90 degrees at the top landing. A powered option for this is available)

Bruno and Handicare offer a powered seat swivel option for their straight rail stairlifts

Power Folding Footrest ( The footrest of a stairlift can be folded up when not in use to create more space in the staircase)

Bruno and Handicare offer power folding footrests so the user does not have to bend over to fold up the footrest
As far as reliability of a straight rail stairlift is concerned, my opinion is that Acorn and Harmar have the most reliable straight rail stairlifts in the US. Based on the number of service calls I have been exposed to. Harmar’s Pinnacle offers a revolutionary drive system that requires no gear grease and draws less power from the batteries. Outside of service calls, the most common issue the customer needs to know is battery replacement. With new battery technology, stairlift batteries can last up to 5 years but typical is 1-3 years. For more information on straight rail stairlifts contactCenterspan Medical 800-980-3718.

Curved Rail Stairlifts
curve-railIf the staircase is not completely straight then by industry terms it is considered curved. Curved stairlifts can also include “park positions” or “overruns.” Park positions are where the rail will wrap around corners to park the lift out of the way. Overruns are if the unit goes straight for a distance at the top, bottom, or middle of the staircase. Both of these options are used to get the lift away from the staircase for added safety or clearance. Traditionally, curved stairlifts are completely custom built and take several weeks or months to produce. This is not the case anymore with new modular curved stairlifts. We will discuss that momentarily. Let’s start with traditional custom built curved stairlifts. The traditional method of evaluation for these units requires tons of precise measurements and took hours and was not always 100% accurate. Now, manufacturers are using high tech camera systems to produce a 3-D map of the staircase to ensure 100% accuracy. This also speeds up production time. Let’s discuss some manufacturers of curved rail stairlifts.

Bruno CRE2110
Highest weight capacity 400 lb.
Single steel rail with multiple sections one color only
Beige seat one color only
Power seat swivel option
Power folding footrest option
No folding rail option
Made in Wisconsin

Handicare 2000
Up to 302 lb. capacity
Twin tube steel rail design with multiple sections and custom color options
Color options available for seat
Rail design allows for very tight turns
Power seat swivel option
Power folding footrest option
Power folding rail option
Made in United Kingdom

Harmar Helix
350 lb. capacity
Twin tube steel rail design with multiple sections and custom color options
Color options available for seat
True-Curve rail with advanced bending technology creates smoother turns
Very narrow profile
Made in Florida
We mentioned a modular curved rail stairlift before and said we would come back to it. All of the curved stairlifts previously mentioned are custom made and therefore have a significant lead time. Acorn has a modular curved rail that is ready to be installed in a matter of days. The modular design cannot fit 100% of staircases as it is not custom built and is not capable of making as tight turns as the twin tube designs but will work in most situations.

Acorn 180
266 lb. capacity
Single vertical aluminum rail white only
Beige seat one color only
Power folding rail only
When it comes to purchasing a curved stairlift the price tag can be shocking. These units require advanced engineering which is not cheap. Again we ask ourselves what is the price for safety? Purchasing a stairlift is an investment in safety. This is not a purchase that should be made before exploring all of the options and features available and making sure the stairlift is capable of meeting your needs within your budget.

For more information about straight or curved rail stairlifts, contact Centerspan Medical 1-844-SAFE-STAIR (844-723-3782).

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