We have compiled a list of the most common aspects and features a buyer should consider.
The type of stair lift you need depends on your stairway. Most stair chair lifts fall within 2 categories: straight or curved. Straight stair lifts are for simple stairways. Curved stair lifts are for curved stairways and stairways with multiple sections or odd angles. Curved stair lifts tend to be more expensive since they are typically custom built. Straight stair lifts are less expensive since they tend to be a one size fits all product.
2. Power Source
A typical American outlet is a 120 volt, 15 amp. Most stair lifts will connect to the common 120v/15amp outlet but some may require either a 20 amp or 220v outlet. You will need to have an electrician install a grounded outlet if there is not one already nearby. Some states also require a fused disconnect switch near the stair lift. The cost for a installation of an outlet depends on the distance from your stairway to your circuit breaker box. You should expect to spend at least $150 to have a certified electrician install an outlet for the stair chair lift, if there is not a suitable outlet nearby.
3. Weight Considerations
Make sure you consider the weight limits of each stair lift model you evaluate. A typical model will support approximately 300 pounds and most vendors offer heavy duty models for larger weight loads. Weight limits are important even if the buyer does not come close to the limit. You may have house guests that could benefit from using the stair lift, and it is also common to use the lift for moving heavy items up or down the stairs.
4. Control types
Make sure you understand the controls offered for the stair lifts you are evaluating. All stair chair lifts will have controls on the chairs. Most stair lifts will offer either a wireless remote and/or fixed controls at the top and bottom of the stairway. Remote controls are very beneficial when the chair lift is used by multiple operators.
Make sure you understand both the duration of the warranty offered and the items covered under the stair lift warranty. Most manufacturers offer a warranty for the motor and gears. You should also consider the importance of the warranty with regards to items such as rails, controls, and other movable parts. A good rule of thumb is to choose a warranty based on your expected usage. You may want to look for a better warranty if you expect to use the stair chair lift more than 30 times in a week. You should also ask your sales person about response times for warranty repairs. Make sure you understand how long it will take for a repair technician to arrive at your house should something go wrong.
6. Buy used or new?
Although it is tempting to save a little money and buy used, there are some things you should consider. Used stair lifts may come with rails that were custom made for the previous installation. As with any used purchase, it is hard to tell how well the previous owner maintained the electric stair lift. It is also hard to tell how much use the stair lift received. Also consider the validity of the warranty, if it is still under warranty, when purchasing a new system. There are also companies that will rent stair lifts.
7. Typical cost of purchasing a stair lift
Expect to pay between $1,500 to $5000 for a stair lift. You should expect to add $100-$300 in miscellaneous fees (electrical, permits, etc). Medicare does not pay for home stair lifts. Consult your health insurance provider to find out if they pay for home modifications associated with long term care. Home modifications may also be tax deductible. If you are a veteran there may be funding available from the VA.
8. Battery power
Some stair lifts come with battery backup power. This is an excellent feature to ensure that you are not stranded during a power outage. It costs more for stair lifts with batteries and you should expect to replace the battery about once a year at a cost of approximately $75 per battery.
Lifts for stairs are typically purchased to enable a household member to safely use a stairway, but there are some things you should keep in mind to safely use the chair lift. Make sure that the stairway is free of obstructions when using the stair lift, this includes any pets that may want to get in the way. Some stair lift models have built in sensors that will detect obstructions. Make sure you understand, and use, the safety features included with your home stair lift. Seat belts are the most common safety feature, and probably the most neglected. Even though it seems troublesome to use the seat belt each time, it is an important safety feature. Look for operator controls that require constant pressure, this will ensure the operator is in full control of the chair lift during use.
10. Understanding drive types
Most electric stair lifts offer one of two drive types: Rack and Pinion or Cable. A rack and pinion design is uses a gear to drive along a rail of teeth. Rack and pinion stair lifts offer a smooth ascent/descent but can require regular lubrication maintenance. Cable drive electric stair lifts work by traveling a steel cable along the rail. Cable drive stair lifts are typically cheaper but they ride may not be as smooth as a rack and pinion.