The main reason for purchasing a stairlift is to allow anyone who is having difficulty climbing their stairs to remain in their home rather than seeking some other less desirable solution.
A stairlift can offer a safe and dependable means to access all parts of the house. It guarantees independence for the user while offering other family members the sense and security that the user is always safe and comfortable in their own home.
Installing a mobility device that facilitates access between floors goes a long way in improving the quality of life of the physically challenged or handicapped. It restores ones self-esteem because it lessens ones reliance on the assistance of others.
Almost any type and configuration of stairs can be accommodated with a stairlift system. A stairlift system may seem expensive at first. However, it must be remembered that it performs a vital function that affects the safety and well being of a family member. That is why, before purchasing a stairlift, a more better understanding of stairlift systems is recommended.
The most common reason for needing a stairlift is where the house entrance and living areas are on one floor and the bedrooms and bathroom are on another floor. Another scenario is where a garage is located on the basement level, the living areas are on the first floor, and other means to access the first floor from the outside are not practical or easily accessible.
Solutions exist other than adding a stairlift in the home. These include:
- Moving to a one level home.
- Remodeling the existing home to add a bedroom or bathroom on the accessible level.
Anyone who has recently purchased and moved to a new home will probably attest to the fact that it is both a costly and stressful experience. For someone who has lived in their home for a long time, this solution is usually considered only as a last resort.
Modifying a home to add a bedroom or bathroom may also be considered. Depending on the existing house, the conversion of a half-bath to a full-bath will typically exceed $8000.00. The conversion of a game room or dining room to a bedroom may cost $4000.00 or more. Any changes affecting the outside structure of the house will definitely be exorbitant in price. Finish-ing a basement is not only costly but it may isolate a family member from the rest of the home.
When these alternative solutions are reviewed, the benefits and cost of adding a stairlift in the home wins out as the best solution in more than 95% of the cases. A stair lift is the most practical and cost effective solution for accessibility and mobility problems without undertaking expensive structural alteration on your home.
The basic function of a home stair lift system is to provide the elderly and people with disabilities easy and safe access between the floors of their house. When people start looking for a stairlift, they generally cast their eyes on the price and overlook the safety features. This is ironic because the focus of the purchase should be on the safety features considering the fragile physical condition of the people for whom the stairlift system is intended. Fortunately, most stairlifts that leave the modern assembly line are now equipped with the basic safety mechanisms that will keep the rider or other members of the household out of harm’s way whenever the stairlift system is in operation.
The ideal home stairlift must be able to detect any obstruction in its path. Most modern stairlifts are equipped with safety sensors or pressure-sensitive plates that effectively stop the lift the moment they detect any kind of obstacle along its path.
If you have small children in the house, you may consider having a lockable power switch which will prevent the lift from being used if the normal user is not present. This added feature is usually not standard and is an option which has to be requested.
All stairlifts have a rated weight capacity which should not be exceeded. Different models may have different weight specifications. When purchasing a stairlift, there should be sufficient margin between the user’s actual weight and the rated capacity of the chosen lift.
When exiting a stairlift, especially at the top of the stairs, the user should always exit onto a landing, not onto a stair step. In order to facilitate this, the chair must be able to swivel. For added safety, the seat should have pre-set lockable positions so that the seat will not move when exiting onto the top landing. Additionally, most stairlifts are now equipped with a seat belt for added safety while riding up and down the stairs.
AC vs DC Power
Stairlifts run either on AC or DC power. AC powered units usually have an AC motor to move the chair up and down. These lifts will typically use more electricity than DC powered lifts. Moreover, a lift that runs on an AC will be immobilized should a power outage occur in the area. If a power failure occurs while the lift is in motion, the rider could be stranded in the middle of the stairs.
A DC powered stairlift typically has two12 volt batteries that can be re-charged on charging stations located at both ends of the track. These battery operated systems are safe and can operate even during a power failure for two to three days. After the stairlift is used, the battery charger draws only enough AC electricity to re-charge the batteries to full capacity. Whichever type of power that is used, a normal 15 amp household outlet is usually sufficient to run the lift.
Supplier - Manufacturer
One should always check and make sure that the stairlift manufacturer has a good reputation. Another thing to consider is whether the manufacturer is located in the USA or not. Stairlifts manufactured outside of the USA may run into problems in obtaining spare parts in a timely manner. Also, higher shipping costs may be reflected in the parts cost.
Find out if the company is an accredited supplier. A supplier that is not accredited will have a hard time finding some spare parts that are not common in many shops. The supplier must offer the best product at the most affordable price.
Suppliers may vary in the services they offer. Some suppliers may only sell the equipment and then sub-contract out the installation and/or repair service. The ideal supplier is one that sells, installs, and repairs the products they sell.
Finally, does the supplier have a showroom where the products can be seen and possibly ridden? Since stairlifts can be a relatively costly investment, it makes good sense to see and try these products rather than purchasing them from a brochure. Additionally, one should ask if the supplier’s showroom is open daily or is it only open by appointment.
There is always a supplier or manufacturer of stair lifts that would be happy to send one of their experts to make an inspection and assessment of your house. The technician will be able to tell you the appropriate type of stairlift for your home. He can provide you an estimate which the supplier or manufacturer may later confirm by sending you a formal letter of quotation.
Warranty - Repair and Maintenance
Any reputable stairlift manufacturer will usually warranty their products. You should always ask your dealer or supplier to explain what is covered, the length of the warranty period, and the features of their after sale service.
To keep your stairlift unit in optimum condition, it should be inspected and serviced at least once a year. As with anything, a preventative measure that can be controlled is much better than having a failure that could occur at an inopportune time. Remember that a stairlift is mostly used by a physically challenged member of the family. It is never wise to sacrifice their safety for poor repair quality.
Professional vs. Self-Install
With the Internet offering more opportunities to purchase products at a lower cost, it is tempting to purchase a stairlift online. There are several things to consider before taking this approach:
- The purchase of a stairlift which is bought online will get little or no support from the Internet seller after the sale.
- The installation is the responsibility of the purchaser. Any problems with the installation will only get sympathy from the seller. When you install it yourself, there is no way to make sure that the installation is proper and safe. Again, the safety of a family member or loved one is at risk if the lift is self-installed. Typically, any reputable manufacturer will require their dealers or suppliers to be factory trained. Additionally, the supplier has access to the manufacturer for direct support when problems arise.
- No service or repair is available after the sale. Individuals who attempt to do repairs themselves are taking a risk, especially if they use unapproved manufacturer parts. Manufacturers may not sell parts directly to individuals; and if they do, they usually charge exorbitantly high prices.
- Many people who self-install their stairlift eventually end up going to an authorized dealer for repairs. Many suppliers who service stairlifts which were not originally purchased from them may charge higher prices than customers who did purchase originally from them.
A buyer may save a lot of money at first, but self installing a stairlift will only give unnecessary risks for possible accidents and may cost more money in the long term.
Used Stairlift a Wise Choice?
If you need to purchase a stairlift and your budget is limited, buying a used stairlift may cross your mind. Looking for a bargain stairlift is not hard. Surfing the Internet or scanning the classified ads may result in several good deals. The question is--- can you trust these with the safety of your family or loved ones? A used stairlift invariably brings on the nagging question of whether it was properly used or installed by the previous owner. In addition, no reputable supplier will install a used stairlift for which its prior history is not known. Obviously, this brings up the issue of self-installation which was previously covered.
There is an alternative that you may consider—buy a used stairlift from a reputable dealer. These dealers trade on the basis of good name and reputation by seeing to it that their used stairlift inventory had been restored to good working condition and thoroughly tested and inspected by qualified technicians and repairmen.
To Rent or Purchase a Stairlift
Renting a stairlift can save money and makes sense in certain circumstances.
Generally it is best to rent a stairlift if you know that the user is only going to require it for a short period of time. If the user needs the stairlift for 1 to 3 months, renting is a good idea. Any longer and you may end up paying more for it than if you had decided to purchase one in the first place.
Make sure that the rental company maintains and services their rental equipment on a regular basis. Additionally, find out what the costs will be for installation and removal.
After all has been said and done, you’ll realize that buying a stairlift system is much less expensive than buying a single-story house or remodeling your home to provide accessibility to elderly or handicapped loved ones.