Choosing a stairlift can get a little confusing with all the available makes and models. From the humble beginnings with Henry VIII and his throne lift through to the 1920s when the Pennsylvania entrepreneur Crispen created a device to help a friend get up and down the stairs called the Inclin-ator, these great mobility aides have certainly come a long way. Modern stairlift chairs have a huge number and variety of features to take into account modern homes and advances in technology. For example, youmight have adjustable seat heights, smooth and soft starts and stops, call stations (so that you can summon it even if it is on a different floor to you) as well as many other features that most people wouldn't think of like an overspeed governor which is an important safety device to control the speed of the stairlift while it is descending so that you don't have a sudden descent.
Of course the stairlift is not the only thing that you should take note of when purchasing your mobility device, and in fact even saying stairlift is sometimes something of a misnomer since what most people call the stairlift is in fact only the carriage of your stairlift. The actual stairlift is made up of various parts and there are several component parts of the stairlift that you need to consider when purchasing your device. Let's take a look at a few of these
When installing a stair lift chair in your home for domestic use, if suitable, straight rails are used, unless you have a need for curved rails to take into account multiple staircases or a turn in your stairs. Straight rails are often made from aluminium or steel that has been extruded. These are usually fairly heavy - which is a good thing because you want them sturdy and depending on how long the rails are can weigh over 35Kg. Now, I know most people picture stairlifts to be hung on a railing that sits at the same height as their bannister, but advances in modern technology mean this isn't necesary anymore and your rails can be attached to the actual stairs themselves with metal brakets or cleats. Of course sometimes you have a landing on your stairs with for example a doorway into a bathroom or some such. The rails might obstruct the door itself so sometimes the rail is hinged so that it can move out of the way of the door when it is opened. Usually straight stairlift chair rails can be bought from stock with only minor adjustments being needed.
When rails have to be curved where for example you have a landing or multiple flights of stairs, then they have to be custom built. This adds complexity of course because you want to make the rails follow the contour of the stairs which means you really need to have the curves made with as small a radius as possible. Curved rail are custom made in a factory and shipped and
then put together on site by your stairlift installer.
Some stairlift rails are made sturdily enough that they can accomodate a wheelchair as the carriage.
This is actually the part of your stairlift that most people will notice - the carriage is essentially the part that you sit on, though it is more than just a chair. There are various types and designs of stairlifts and which one you have will determine how the carriage is drawn up and down the stairs. In most domestic installations you will either have the carriage driven along the incline by a rack and pinion system or perhaps pulled by a cable or chain.
As pointed out earlier, some stairlifts allow you to actually attach your wheelchair to the railing. However many stair lifts have integrated carriages in the form af a seat. In narrower stairwells, the seat can flip up. Of course you have a footrest as well. On some models, you can opt to have a stand on platform as well if you prefer. Now, the actual height of the chair can be adjusted and various heights are available to take into account shorter and taller people. So, your stairlift is now kitted out with a comfy chair - not entirely unlike the old King on his stair lift throne :)
Your seat will often be at 90 degrees to the direction of travel, though it will most likely also swivel so that you can get on and off more easily. Safety is of course, a major priority here because you are already dealing with people who are not necessarily that mobile and often stairlifts are used by older members af the population so it's a good idea to make sure that if your chair does swivel that you have a safety cut off so that you can't actually ascend or decend if the chair is not at right angels to stairs since this is in fact the safest way to sit because it minimizes the possibility of you falling off the chair.
That's probably enough for this time - I'm rambling on a bit, but as you can see, stairlifts are more than just the chair and there are lots of factors to consider when you buy one.