Stairlift :Construction tips & Concepts
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A stairlift can make climbing of stairs a breezy affair for
senior citizens or handicap who face mobility problems and those physically
Mounted on a specially fitted rail on the side of the staircase,
the chair-like device moves up the steps on commands given through a hand-held
remote control or buttons fitted on the armrest. The gliding chair, with a
comfortable and simple design, mainly targets domestic clients.
Stairlifts do not require an alternative-current (AC) supply.
With a 24-volt direct-current (DC) input, the device can carry a maximum load of
127 kg. The select few dealers in the State stock both indoor and outdoor types.
The imported stairlifts now being supplied can function on a
12-metre rail, mounted on the side of staircases. Most of the body components
are either made of aluminium or steel. The plastic parts used in some portions
for seating arrangements are heat- and UV-resistant, protecting the stairlift
from colour fade and heat damage.
At present, the stairlift trade in Kerala is dominated by a
German company named Acorn. Although full-fledged showrooms are yet to be
opened, the company has a State-wide network to meet demand from potential
Dealers say the cost, including of installation, comes to around
Rs.2.5 lakh. They offer free service for three years.
More information: A stairlift is a
mechanical device for lifting people and wheelchairs up and down stairs. For
sufficiently wide stairs, a rail is mounted to the treads of the stairs. A chair
or lifting platform is attached to the rail. A person on the chair or platform
is lifted as the chair or platform moves along the rail.
Stairlifts are known variously as stair lifts, stair-lifts, chair lifts, stair
gliders and by other names.
Some of the first stairlifts to be produced commercially were advertised and
sold in the USA in the 1930s by the Inclinator Company of America. Many users at
the time were victims of polio.
In the 1920s, C.C. Crispen, a Pennsylvania entrepreneur, created a way to enable
his ailing friend to travel from floor to floor. Crispen's idea was to design a
seat that could climb stairs. A self-taught engineer, he built the first
prototype of the inclining chair. He called it the Inclin-ator.
Modern stair lifts can be found with a wide variety of features such as
adjustable seat height, battery isolation switches, call stations, 'flip-up'
rail, key switch, folding step, speed governor, seatbelt, soft start and soft
Straight rails for use on domestic staircases are usually made from extruded
aluminium or steel and come in various cross-sectional shapes. These rails may,
typically, weigh over 30 kg, depending on the length. In most applications they
are attached to the steps with metal brackets (sometimes called “cleats”).
If a rail crosses a doorway at the bottom of the stairs or causes an obstruction
a hinge can be fitted so the end of the rail can be folded back out of the way
when not in use.
Curved rails are made from materials such as steel or aluminium and come in
various cross-sectional shapes according to the designer. Individual designs
vary a lot and probably the key criterion is to make the curves with the
smallest radius possible so they will wrap tightly around objects such as newel
The sections of curved rails usually packaged well to prevent damage in transit
and are unwrapped and assembled on site.
Rails for wheelchair platform stairlifts may be secured to walls in addition to
the step fixings.
The carriage is the component which moves along the rail and normally runs on
small diameter rollers. In most designs the carriage is pulled by a cable or
chain, or driven along the inclined rail by a rack and pinion system or other
Most domestic carriages have a seat with arms and a footrest. Some special
models have a stand-on platform also known as a "perch" seat. For users with
shorter legs a short seat can be fitted, to make the lift more comfortable to
sit on. Stairlift manufacturer such as Minivator Ltd have a number of different
seat types depending on individual needs.
The conventional layout for a typical domestic stairlift is to have the seat at
right angles to the rail so the user travels "sidesaddle". At the top of the
staircase the seat can be swivelled, commonly through around 45 degrees or 90
degrees, then locked in place to allow the user to alight from it onto a
landing. Stairlifts are available with either a manual swivel or a powered
swivel, depending on the users ability.
Most swivel seats have a safety switch so the stairlift won’t move unless the
seat is locked into its travel position. Special models with seats facing the
bottom of the staircase have been produced for users with spinal or other
conditions which prevent use of the conventional seat layout. More room is need
on the landing with these special seats.
Straight rail stairlifts
These are the most common type of stairlifts used in private dwellings with
straight stairs and have a straight rail (track) which is fixed to the steps of
the staircase. Straight stairlifts have a shorter installation and manufacturing
time because it requires fewer customizations. tions is the actual length of the
Curved rail stairlifts
These are normally much more unusual and costly than those with straight
rails because they have to be manufactured to suit the individual staircase
(curved stairs). This sometimes involves careful measurement, design and
manufacturing. The installation process usually takes longer than for a straight
Wheelchair platform stairlifts
These come under the general definition of stairlift and are usually of much
heavier construction than a domestic stairlift.
Outdoor Stairlifts come with seats, perches, footplates or platforms and are
sold worldwide. They are similar to indoor stairlifts but with improved
There is a second-user market for some types of
stairlift. This is most common with straight rail domestic types. The rails can
be cut to length if too long, or extended with a "joining kit". Most models
allow the carriage to be "re-handed" so it can be used on the left or right side
of the staircase.
Some manufacturers produce stairlifts with trays instead of seats for moving
goods between different levels, usually in commercial or industrial buildings.
AC and DC power
Early stairlifts mostly had alternating current (AC) drive motors which ran at
full mains voltage (around 100 volts in North America, 230 volts in Europe). An
"energy cable" ran alongside or through the rail to carry the power from the
supply point to the carriage.
More recently, domestic stairlifts have been powered from rechargeable batteries
and use direct current (DC). One of the selling points is that a DC stairlift
will continue to function during a power outage, provided the batteries are
sufficiently charged. Most stairlifts have a 'chargepoint' where the unit will
'park' to charge its batteries. Some straight stairlifts have the ability to
continuously charge no matter where they are left along the track.
Stairlift with remote control
Stairlifts are largely operated using a control on the arm of the lift. This
is either a switch or a toggle type lever. This larger toggle switch enables
users even with limited mobility or painful condition to use stairlifts easily
Stairlifts are used by people of all ages and child car seats can usually be
fixed a standard stairlift seat using the seat belt provided with the stairlift
Today, self-installation of stairlifts is becoming a common trend for people
interested in DIY projects. Stairlifts are available for purchase that can be
self-installed. Professionals within the home medical equipment industry that do
not recommend that people attempt to install these products themselves. They
believe that in terms of warranty, long term care, and service, it is much more
economical to have a trained professional install these products. In addition,
these professionals are also aware of all safety measures and concerns
associated with the proper installation of stairlifts, as well as the applicable
local elevator codes.
Stairlifts normally have "soft" starts so the user is not jerked as the carriage
starts to move. Typical travel speed for domestic straight rail stairlift
carriages range between 0.07 metres per second (13.78 feet per minute, 0.16
miles per hour) and 0.15 metres per second (30 feet per minute, 0.34 miles per
hour). The speed of curved rail stairlift carriages may vary on the journey if
the controls cause them to slow on inclines and bends.
( Reference: article by Mithosh Joseph, The Hindu and
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