Types of Stairlifts? AC Electric DC Battery
Until 5 years ago stairlifts were promently AC Electric stairlifts! All required some type of electric trailing cable to supply the power (electric) to drive the machine up and down the stairs. Each stairlift company devised their own elaborate moving mechanism to deal with the high voltage trailing cable (flex)
AC Electric Stairlifts
I must admit to being old school and until very recently i was not a keen fan of DC Battery powered stairlifts. Electric Ac stairlifts are slowly being replaced! All stairlift manufactures are now producing and installing battery powered stairlifts. If you need require a curved stairlift then the only option will be a DC Battery powered stairlift! No matter which stairlift manufacturer you choose all of them now only produce and supply DC curved stairlifts. The only electrical AC curved stairlift was made by Stannah (Model 229) which is now obsolete. To be honest i don't think AC electrical stairlifts need to be discussed in great length due to the fact many stairlift manufactures will now only supply and install straight and curved DC stairlifts
Advantages of DC Battery Stairlifts
Battery stairlifts have come a long way in the technology department over the last 5 years! As explained above to the extent that all stairlift manufactures now produce and install them. Main advantage of the DC stairlift! Very easy to install and maintain
Basically Plug-n-Play some stairlifts don't even need their own dedicated power supply (Fused spur) You just plug the charger unit into a spare convenient socket outlet. The charger unit transforms the 240V supply down to 24-38V and converts it to DC to feed the stairlift when the unit is on charge etc.
All DC battery stairlifts will continue to operate even in the event of a power-cut. This alone is a god send and is reassuring to know that you will not get stuck in the middle of the stairs should such a thing happen. Battery stairlifts can make around 24 full runs Up/Down before the batteries are exhausted and require a full recharge, Allowing ample time for the power supply company to reinstate the power to your area
Stairlift Battery Charger Units
Once again each stairlift manufacturer has devised their own elaborate way of charging the stairlift batteries the most common approach is to have a fixed copper charging strip located at the top and bottom of the stairlift track. When the stairlift is driven to the top or bottom of the track the moving charger pick-up points located under the stairlift carriage make contact with the fixed copper charging strip and automatically charge the batteries
Fixed Charger contact strip ( Curved Acorn 80 stairlift )
If the stairlift is not driven fully onto the charger contact strip the stairlift normally emits a siren or bleeping noise to make the stairlift user aware of the fact that the stairlift is not on charge or the Charger unit has been accidentally switched off? (Home-Help and Grandchildren are the biggest cause of the charger unit being switched off) If the stairlift is fully at the bottom or top and the charger unit is switched on and the stairlift still emits an audible sound you need to contact your stairlift installer straight away so they can come out and inspect your stairlift for faults etc.
Some stairlift manufacturers have kept the AC electrical trailing flex cable design, though the cable is now only carrying low voltage DC 24-38V so the stairlift will constantly be charged and no need for charger contact strips or pick-up points. The obvious advantage is that it doesn't matter where you leave / park the stairlift! its permanently being charged at all times
Both systems have there advantages and disadvantages. The system using the copper strip charging contacts requires more parts in the making of the stairlift, and periodic adjustment cleaning of the charger pick-up assembly unit. It also rely's on the stairlift user to ensure the stairlift is correctly parked in the charging position
The stairlift using the constantly charged trailing cable system has more moving parts so more chance of something going wrong? Common faults are trailing cable getting jammed or broken wires in the cable itself. To be fair both do the job equally well and both systems will require adjustment or repair at sometime in the life of the stairlift
Remote landing call push buttons
Stairlift landing push units are now Infra Red battery operated. Calling the stairlift from a landing is as easy as switching the TV over. The old system used hard wiring where each landing push unit was screwed to the wall and white plastic trunking was used to hide and protect the hard wiring cable connections. See photos below
Landing Push's / Remotes are not a gimmick! If the household contains more than one stairlift user, once the first stairlift user has got to the top or bottom of the stairs the other user then can call the stairlift back down or up whichever the case may be to allow him / her access to the stairlift
A lot of stairlift owners tend to switch off their stairlift when they go on holiday? There really is no need and chances are on your return you will find that the stairlift will not operate due to flat batteries. Even switching the charger unit back on and leaving the batteries to charge for a few hours still fails to get the stairlift to operate
Once rechargeable batteries sink to a certain low level they fail to pick-up and charge. If this is the case then you will need to contact your stairlift dealer / installer so they can come and fit / replace your stairlift batteries. If you had left your stairlift switched on? Chances are all would have been fine and dandy on your return
Most stairlift manufactures use the standard 12V 7Ah rechargeable batteries that can be source from many local UK electrical suppliers. The average life span for this type of battery is 2-3 years? Obviously the life span depends on the amount of stairlift usage etc.
Stairlift batteries should only be replaced by qualified stairlift engineers!
Some stairlifts require the removal of the carriage cover and safety edges. Should these items not be replaced correctly and checked for correct operation there is a high risk that the safety features incorporated into the stairlift will fail to operate when needed. Most stairlifts require 3 X batteries should you get the battery polarity wrong you will damage the main circuit board for sure, expect a repair bill of £400.00+ (Nuff said)
Main Advantages of DC Stairlifts
• Very easy to install! Normally less than 2 hours for a straight stairlift
• No messy wiring or high voltage trailing cables
• Stairlift will still operate in the event of a power-cut
• Batteries are easy to source and reasonably priced
• Stairlift has a smoother ride
• DC Stairlifts have a much smoother soft start and stop action
• Stairlifts have infra red / wireless remote call send units (No unsightly wiring)
• Easy to service and maintain