Are DC Stair Lifts Superior To AC Stair Lifts?


DC Battery-Operated Stair Lifts

Both plug-in and battery-operated lifts have clearly defined benefits. The DC battery-operated model has the distinct advantage of being able to make 8 to 10 trips up and down the stairs after the power goes out. Someone unable to walk up and down stairs at all won't be limited to one level of the home during power outages. Aside from this feature, however, there are few reasons to consider the battery-operated DC stair lift models.

The battery model stair lift must be plugged into the wall to make sure the batteries are always charged. The batteries will usually last at least a year, though not much longer. How soon the batteries need replacement depends a lot on how often the lift is used. Don't be fooled by those who sell battery models into thinking that it's easy to change a battery yourself. One major manufacturer requires that you remove the seat and the housing under the seat to change the battery. When this housing finally comes off, there are a number of wire connections that easily snap apart due to the short length of the wires. Unfortunately, these are the wires that send power to the safety features in the unit. The foot rest on a stair lift has a safety pressure switch that stops the lift from moving if an occupant’s foot gets between the foot plate and the next step. Without the properly functioning connection switch, the stair lift will continue to move when obstructed instead of stopping, as it should.

And this is only one of the switches connected here. What this means is that you must ensure that the wires are connected to the right complimentary connections, and that they're still functioning when you replace the cover. The connections will seldom be right the first time you replace it, which means you'll have to remove the cover again, causing wires to disconnect a second time. There are approximately 2 inches of space between the cover and the inside, just barely enough to get your hand in. That means you have to try to make these connections in the dark, by feel. Get ready for several hours of no fun and the lingering after-thought that it may not be right.

Battery-operated DC stair chairs require the use of a converter. The cord has a voltage converter between the lift and the electrical outlet where you plug it in. The converter is essentially a transformer that regulates the amount of current coming through the cord down from 110-volts to 12-volts. This uses essentially the same principle as plug-in, low-voltage lighting and some electric toys. While this might seem perfectly fine, the problem is that transformers eventually burn out, sometimes sooner than expected. When the transformer on a DC stair lift goes bad, it's going to take a service call to get the lift working again. The wires inside the lift that allow the unit to be charged are 12-volt wires, which are notoriously thin and easily broken. When a wire is damaged, it's unlikely the unit will charge properly. The battery will go dead, and a service call will be required to track down which bad wire needs to be replaced.

We recommend battery-driven stair lifts only if you live in an area that suffers from frequent power outages, or you live in a home with some sort of special power-related limitations and problems. If you decide on purchasing a battery unit, don't try to change the battery yourself at any time. Save yourself a great deal of expense and frustration by calling the installer when the battery needs to be replaced.

AC Stair Lifts That Simply Plug Into Your Electrical Outlet

The first big advantage of AC stair lifts is that they're less expensive than battery models. They cost less to purchase initially, they require no battery replacements and they are far less prone to problems that would require a service call. The cable that supplies electricity to the lift chairs doesn't operate on a reel mechanism, like some people worry it does. The cable usually mounts to the inside edge of the track, forming a loop. This runs down about half the length of the track, then curves back to the top so it can easily extend as the lift travels down the staircase.

Since the unit is plugged in, it won't slow down or lose power as a battery slowly drains, but will run at full power all the time. The unit also doesn't have to be taken apart to replace a battery like a DC model does. The wiring in an AC stair lift is sturdier and more substantial than the thin, 12-volt wires in a DC unit, so the owner should make far fewer service calls for broken wires and other problems. Unless there's a specific power-related problem or other situation that makes a DC stair lift the best option, we always recommend the AC plug-in models.

Still not sure whether an electric or battery stair lift is the best solution for your home? Contact our stair lift experts at 1 (800) 910-0954!


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