How does a Stairlift work? A guide to help you

If you’re thinking of buying a stairlift for either yourself or a member of your family, one of the important questions you may want to know is how does it work.

In this informative guide we have put together some detailed information which we hope will be of help to you to make that decision quickly and easily.

The fundamentals

A Stairlift is simply a chair attached to a rail (track) that can transport you up and down stairs easily and, more importantly, safely. These days, many people like yourself are struggling to use their stairs due to medical conditions or simply old age and a Stairlift transforms their lives, giving them back their independence and ability to stay in the home they love, rather than having to consider moving into a bungalow or flat.

In essence a Stairlift is made up of four essential components:

  • The Seat – this is what the users sit on when using the stairlift. Made from strong materials with a choice of seat covers, with an arm at each side, it comes with a seat belt to ensure you are completely safe whilst it is moving and is one of the many robust safety features incorporated in modern stairlifts. In some models there is an  added feature of a Swivel Seat which at the top of the stairs, will automatically swivel away from the stairs whilst the footrest stays in place to help you get on and off more safely.
  • The Motor – this is what ‘drives’ the Stairlift up and down the track and is normally found underneath the seat.
  • Power supply – all stairlifts are powered by long lasting lithium batteries which get continually re-charged by a mains trickle feed power supply when the seat is at the top or the bottom of the rail. This means that you can still use your Stairlift in the event of a power cut. Whilst you can use the track’s plug socket for other things, it is not advisable to leave your Stairlift unplugged for more than an hour or two, as this can drain your batteries and you may need to replace them. There are both audible and visual signals to warn you if the Stairlift has been left unplugged and is not charging.
  • Rail or Track – this is what the stairlift uses to move up and down stairs. Made usually from strong aluminium and similar in principle to a railway track, this provides a seamless, quiet, and comfortable ride whether you have a straight or curved staircase.

Whatever model of Stairlift you choose to buy, they will all come with the following added safety features

  • A Footrest – this keeps your feet away from the steps as it moves up and down your stairs. Complete with an added safety switch that causes the Stairlift to stop if the footrest hits anything. This can be automated in some Stairlifts for added ease of use.
  • Controls – most quality stairlifts come with both remote controls and toggle switches on each of the arms for ease of operation. These can move your Stairlift up and down or come to a stop if needed. When pressed or pressed and held, the Stairlift will beep once and stop automatically when it comes to the end of the track. If the toggle switch is released at any point, the Stairlift will beep and stop immediately

Installation of your Stairlift

Naturally, before you can use your Stairlift it has to be professionally installed and this is something we specialise in. It’s worth pointing out that unlike some people think, your Stairlift is fitted to your stairs and not the wall, so there’ll be no damage to your home or the need to re-decorate when it’s removed.

The rail or track is supported on ‘legs’ that fit to your stairs by special screws that will be drilled into your whatever material your staircase is made from, including stone or concrete.

If you’re having a straight Stairlift, this should take our expert engineers around 2 hours to complete and in the case of a curved Stairlift, around 4 hours.

Professional installation will involve you a comprehensive demonstration of how the Stairlift works and the important do’s and don’ts. Only when you are completely satisfied with its installation, will our engineer ask you to pay and then leave you alone. However, we are on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year should you ever need us.

Are stairlifts noisy?

No, not at all. Thanks to their sleek design and the fact they are powered by batteries Stairlifts are surprisingly quiet. If they ever do start to become noisy or make any unusual sounds, please call us to seek advice immediately

How much electricity does a stairlift use?

Because they run on powerful batteries which get continually re-charged when docked, you’d be forgiven for thinking that they are expensive to run, but far from it. Our stairlifts are extremely energy efficient and use less than most other domestic appliances in your home. To put a figure on it, the manufacturers say the annual cost would be in the region of £10

How long does a stairlift last?

One of the questions we regularly get asked is how long do they last. Well this naturally depends on how much they are used, the weight of the person using them and whether they get regularly serviced (we recommend once a year) and kept in good condition.

Assuming the model of your Stairlift is still in production and therefore spare parts are easy to obtain, on average a stairlift should last up to ten years, though we have some customers who have had theirs much longer.

Having said that, like all technology as new models are launched, the newer models often have more features which makes them easier to operate. If you’d like a free no obligation quote for a new Stairlift, please give us a call on 0800 542 6045

Can I get a grant for my Stairlift?

Under certain circumstances and if you are eligible, local councils can provide a grant towards the cost of your Stairlift. However, it is means tested and will only be awarded when they believe the Stairlift will make a considerable improvement to your life and living environment.

Visit the Direct.Gov website to find out more information about eligibility and the types of adaptations available to you or try contacting your local authority. For advice about the cost of a Stairlift, please ask for a free no obligation quote by calling us on 0800 542 6045

Finally, one piece of good news is that most people are exempt from having to pay VAT on a Stairlift in their home, but not a commercial premises, especially so if you are over 60, chronically ill or disabled.

If you would like to check the conditions for VAT relief, please look at ‘Notice 701/7 VAT Relief for Disabled People’ on the HM Revenue & Customs website. Or you can call the National Advice Service on 0845 010 9000.

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