Although an elevator is called a “lift” in other countries, in the American elevator industry, these two are separate pieces of equipment that are built to suit different needs. For example, a patient who is relatively mobile but requires help ascending and descending stairs may only need chair lift as opposed to an entire elevator system.
The most basic difference between an elevator and a lift is scale: elevators have more capacity than a lift. Lifts are designed to transport only one person, while elevators are designed to transport a person, their wheelchair, medical supplies, or groceries within a single trip.
Chair Lift Features
A chair lift, or stair lift, is an inexpensive addition to a home that greatly increases accessibility to individuals who have trouble scaling the stairs. They follow a guided rail along your stairway, bringing you safely from one floor to the other.
• Capacity: Up to 500 pounds
• Uses: Single rider
• Benefits: Battery operated and does not require a separate machine room or additional construction beyond rail installation
• Disadvantages: Requires frequent battery changes and is not suitable for people with advanced mobility needs
Chair lifts are most ideal for homeowners who have little to no trouble with mobility, but need extra help with stairs. Stairs have the potential to be hazardous to elderly homeowners who live alone, and a stair lift can give them the confidence to move freely around their own home.
Wheelchair Lift Features
Also called “vertical lifts,” a wheelchair lift is designed to safely transport a wheelchair bound individual between the floors of their house.
• Capacity: Up to 750 pounds
• Uses: Single rider, with wheelchair
• Benefits: Takes up minimal space and is less expensive than personal elevator
• Disadvantages: Requires regular maintenance and can only carry one rider without a caregiver
Wheelchair lifts are ideal for homeowners who do not require the regular assistance of a caregiver to move around their home. These lifts are also customizable and can be designed to take a user from one floor to the other or as little as a few feet in place of a ramp.
In Home Elevator Features
In home elevators work best for individuals who needs to carry not only themselves, but also other items, such as groceries or medical equipment, from one floor to the next.
• Capacity: Up to 950 pounds
• Uses: Multiple riders, single rider with wheelchair or single rider with multiple items
• Benefits: Can extend up to 6 floors and offers more design options for the elevator car and drive system
• Disadvantages: Requires extensive planning and construction, takes up more space than lift, and requires regular maintenance service
In home elevators are the most labor intensive to install, but they are also the most versatile of the three. They offer the highest degree of mobility and capacity, but they are also the most expensive to install.
Is a Chair Lift Right For You?
Chair lifts are not recommended for every user. As discussed, an individual who is wheelchair-bound is not an ideal candidate for a chair lift.
You may benefit from a chair lift if:
1. You are able to walk around your home with little to no additional assistance.
2. Your mobility is assisted by a cane that you can keep in your lap when using the chair lift.
3. Your strength is limited, and stairs require too much energy.
4. You are having problems with balance, and you’re worried about falling.
5. You want the least expensive option for stair mobility.