Types Of Stair Lifts

Types Of Stair Lifts

Stair lifts are broadly classed according to their drive systems. There are three major types of drive systems commonly used, and the differences between them are important. To pick the one that’s right for you, you need to have at least a basic understanding of the choices.

Winding Drum

If you order a DIY stair lift online, this is the drive system you’re most likely to get. It works very much as it sounds. A motor at the top of the stairs turns a wire spool, which either pulls up or lets down the passenger chair. Simplicity of design, however, doesn’t necessarily equate to simplicity of maintenance.

Winding Drum Issues

  • Cables stretch, and must be pulled to reset frequently.
  • During operation the cable can come off the spool, rendering the unit inoperable until a repairman fixes it.
  • If you plan to self-install (which we don’t recommend) you’ll find that the winding drum unit is very heavy and requires two strong individuals just to put it in place.
  • Winding drum units are normally A/C powered, leaving you with no backup in the event of an electrical outage. You may find a unit with a D/C option, but this increases the weight of the system even further, and thus decreases the power available for lifting.

Winding drum is the oldest type of stair lift drive system, but it’s easy to see why few good manufacturers even offer it as an option anymore. The installation difficulty and ongoing maintenance headaches simply make winding drum more trouble than it’s worth.

Winding Drum

Most newer stair lifts use the rack and pinion drive system. Instead of being pulled up a smooth track by a cable, the rack and pinion system runs on a track with gear teeth. The ride remains completely smooth.

Rack And Pinion Benefits

  • No cables to stretch, fray, or come off the spool.
  • Increased energy efficiency allows battery operation even in power outages.

Rack And Pinion Issues

  • Some poor quality rack and pinion drive systems don’t ride smoothly. (Make sure you’re buying a quality unit from a reliable source.)
  • Standard rack and pinion drive requires a limited amount of lubrication on a regular basis, as the moving parts are metal.

Worm Gear Drive

Worm gear is a different version of rack and pinion, the principal distinction being the material of the drive system. Where rack and pinion drives use metal parts, worm gear systems typically use a type of plastic for the gears and track.

Rack And Pinion Benefits

  • Most of the benefits of rack and pinion, plus no lubrication required on the system, ever.

Worm Gear Drive Issues

  • More expensive than rack and pinion.
  • If not properly installed, track segments can easily come loose and cause bumpiness or intermittent operation.

Stair Lift Noise Levels

How noisy is a stair lift? The answer depends in part on how good quality a lift you purchase. Mostly, however, it depends on the nature of your installation. Installed on a nicely carpeted staircase with soft wall coverings, a stair lift is very quiet indeed. However, if you took the same lift and installed it on hard stairs in an unfurnished area with cement walls, you’d find it much louder. So if a super-quiet stair lift installation is your goal, you may need the services of an interior decorator as well as a stair lift contractor.