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Riser recliner chair features explained

We explain the handy extra features you may want on your new riser recliner chair, to make sure you’re getting the best one for your needs.
Sam Morris

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Riser recliner chairs: movement options

All riser recliner chairs follow a similar movement cycle, from standing to upright (also called 'sitting') and then back to full recline with leg elevation, and back again. 

It's also possible to buy chairs that offer slightly different movement options. Here, we sum up the choices.

Single motor

Reclining chairs with a single motor provide one combined riser and recline action. On recline, the footrest automatically rises to support your legs - normally to an angle of 45 degrees, as this is considered comfortable for watching TV.

Dual-motor riser recliner chairs

Chairs with two motors (dual-motor chairs) let you operate the back and footrest independently of each other so you have greater flexibility with your positioning. For example, you can sit upright and choose not to have your legs elevated. You can also choose to recline the chair fully so it becomes flat like a bed, although the angle of recline does vary across models.

Tilt in space

This is a reclining action where, instead of the backrest separating from the seat (and so creating a gap), the whole chair simply tips backwards while maintaining a seating position. This is a popular choice because:

  • It doesn't rub or shear the skin on your back as you move
  • You can elevate your legs above your hips, so it’s useful for those with poor leg circulation or oedema (leg swelling)
  • It's suitable for anyone with back or neck problems, or those with poor trunk control, because the back and pelvis are supported throughout.

Wall hugging

If you're short on space, this is a good option. Instead of reclining backwards, the wall hugger moves forward as it reclines. This means you can position the chair in a small room about 10cm/4in away from the wall. Of course, wall-hugging riser recliners do need more space in front.

Riser recliner chair controls

You can change the position of your riser recliner chair between sitting, standing and reclining, using hand-operated electric controls.

Controls vary between models - some light up so you can use them more easily in the dark, for example, but they all tend to have a series of large buttons with symbols or pictures on them to denote their functions.

You'll find that simple operation (single motor) chairs tend to have simpler control panels, often with just two buttons for ‘rise’ or ‘recline’. Dual-motor versions typically have five buttons, because they have more functions. Most manufacturers also offer left-handed controls.

Typically, chairs have a pocket on the side to house the controls and/or a loop through so you can secure the control's lead. It's wise to check that the person using the controls can understand the features and manage to operate the buttons.

Types of riser recliner back rest

You have a number of options for back rests. The simplest is a standard or button back (standard with button pattern). You can get firm or soft backs, depending on the amount of padding used.

You can also get ‘waterfall’ backs, sometimes known as ‘pillow’ backs. These provide tiered layers of padding in three separate pillows that cascade down the back of the chair. 

Usually, each pillow is zipped so you can open and adjust the filling to suit your requirements. Generally, waterfall backs provide a softer sitting experience than a standard back.

Riser recliner chair arms

If you have problems sitting or standing, armrests are important, as they help you control your movements. Some people find that adding wooden arm ends (often called ‘knuckles’) can make standing and sitting easier, as these offer a firmer grip than an upholstered arm. You may also find chairs with angled arms more comfortable.

Reclining chair side supports

Extra padding or lateral support cushions can help you maintain a more upright position. This can be useful for people with weak posture who may tend to lean to one side when sitting.

Extra pillows

Some recliner chairs come with extra cushioning to support your head or neck, or you may be given the option to buy these as an extra feature. Head supports are usually flat, while neck supports are round. Sometimes these are adjustable so you can move them to suit your exact requirements.

Pressure relief features

Sitting in one position for extended periods can lead to discomfort or, worse, serious skin breakdown.   

You can buy pressure-relieving options to reduce this risk. For example, you can include a built-in massage system, where air or water is pumped through the cushions to relieve pressure.

Or you can include gel pads that spread the pressure of your weight more evenly. You can also get memory-foam seats and footrests that mould to your body.

Some manufacturers can even provide spaces in the seat for you to fit your own pressure relief cushion.

Riser recliner chair batteries

Most riser recliner chairs have an integrated battery back-up system. This ensures that, in the event of a power cut, back-up power will mean that you won’t be left stranded in a reclined position unable to get up.  

Once used, these back-up batteries will need replacing. They tend to be the size of a matchbox and can simply be inserted into a box that runs off the mains cable to the chairs.

Some models have rechargeable batteries, so you don’t have to worry about replacing them after use. They also tend to have a battery charge indicator so you can tell how much charge is left.

Anti-crush feature

If you have pets or young children at home, you may want to consider buying a chair with this built-in safety feature, designed to prevent serious or even fatal accidents from happening should an unexpected guest crawl under the chair before or during operation.

There are two types: the first has sensors that automatically detect someone or something under the chair, which triggers a halt mechanism and stops the chair from lowering.

The second is a barrier underneath the chair to physically prevent anything getting under the chair in the first place.