Stairlift To Heaven
Maybe it's understandable that people don't anticipate or relish the purchase of a stairlift - but of the people who do so, the majority find that they wish they'd bought one earlier. Reasons for this initial reluctance vary: from issues of pride to the bewildering array of products on the market and the difficulty of telling them apart. With a little product information, however, it's possible to make informed decisions and purchase an ideal stairlift.
The first thing to understand is that not all stairlift manufacturers offer the same product. You should choose a reputable company with a name you recognise, or be guided by recommendations from friends. If you have access to the Internet, do a search for 'stairlifts' and see who the major names are. As a buyer, your most important criteria are: safety, comfort, ease of installation, and aftercare. With these things in mind, here are some key things to look out for:
Your stairlift should have a number of safety features as standard. Firstly, it should use a DC battery pack rather than a trailing mains cable. This means that the stairlift will operate even during a power cut. There is little danger of a quality lift 'running out of power' because the carriage is charged constantly while at rest.
Your stairlift should also have a swivel seat. This allows you to safely board the stairlift at the top and bottom of the steps without hazardous twisting and turning. The best models feature a locking mechanism so that the seat cannot swivel unexpectedly.
British safety standards dictate that all stairlifts must have an over-speed governor (OSG) to stop any uncontrolled descent of the lifts. Essentially, this is a kind of fail-safe brake which prevents accidents from occurring. If the OSG is engaged for any reason (for example, during transport), you will also need a handle to reset the lift by hand winding.
For added security and peace of mind, some stairlift manufacturers incorporate safety sensors into their design. Situated in the footrest and carriage, they sense any obstructions on the stairway and prevent toys/clothes/pets or feet from being caught in the moving lift. If they encounter an obstruction, these sensors automatically stop the lift.
For ease of use, the best stairlifts offer fold-away seats and arms. This means that the stairs can be used as normal without obstruction. Some manufacturers also make an especially slimline lift for people who have narrow staircases.
A 'soft start / soft stop' function ensures that the lift begins and ends its journey smoothly and without sudden jerks. A direct drive rack and pinion rail (as opposed to a cable-driven lift) also contributes to the comfort of the ride, as the motor is situated on the rail itself.
Sometimes (if there are multiple users, for example) it may be necessary to 'call' or 'send' the lift from the bottom to the top. With this in mind, check that your stairlift is supplied with two remote control devices (for upstairs and downstairs).
Quality stairlifts are highly reliable and seldom break down. Should there be a problem, however, better manufacturers provide a built-in diagnostic digital display, which tells the user (or a service engineer) what has occurred. In this way, the stairlift can be quickly restored to action.
A quality stairlift company will send a surveyor to your home to measure your staircase for the suitability of a lift. This way, your quote and your potential lift will be tailored specifically to your needs. Sometimes your staircase will present an unusual feature like an awkward turn at the top of bottom, a doorway or a landing. In these circumstances, an experienced company should organise a hinged rail or a platform to make access to the lift easier. Curved staircases can be fitted with a special bespoke curved rail.