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How to buy the best stairlift

Using and maintaining your stairlift

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Using and maintaining your stairlift

Get to grips with some common stairlift features, and find out how and when to get your stairlift serviced by an engineer. 

Most types of domestic stairlifts are easy to use and maintain. They're reliable on the whole, so it is unusual for problems to occur, but there are some basic points you will need to know to keep yours functioning properly.

Stairlifts consist of a seat (or standing platform), a footrest, the operating controls and the tracking rail that the lift moves along.

You may need to ‘call’ your stairlift from its call station if it is parked at the opposite end of the staircase to where you are, by pushing a button on the wall (or on a remote control). You then sit yourself on the seat, put on your safety belt, and rest your feet on the footrest. Then, push the button or lever/joystick to send the stairlift in the direction you want to go, and it will slowly and quietly start to move.

Stairlifts have built-in safety sensors designed to detect obstructions on the staircase – such as objects that have been dropped by pets. The stairlift will automatically stop in such instances, so you can remove the object. This is the only time stairlifts are likely to stop halfway – any other instances are very rare.

Discover which companies offer the most reliable stairlift brands, according to our independent customer survey.

Stairlift seats

Most seated stairlifts come with height-adjustable, padded swivel seats, so that you can easily get on and off them without having to turn or twist your body. Some swivel seats are motorised; all lock in place when required. Most also have armrests that you can use to gently push yourself off the seat.

Seats also fold up when not in use, so that the stairs are still accessible to non-stairlift users.

Stairlift controls

Stairlift controls are very simple, normally consisting of a key that is inserted into the machine (and which remains there while the stairlift is in regular use) and either push buttons or a lever/joystick that moves left and right. Most controls can be set up on the armrest on either side of the lift, depending on whether you are right or left-handed.

If you want to immobilise your stairlift for a short time – for instance, if you have children visiting – you can do this by taking the key out.

Stairlift batteries

Most stairlifts run on rechargeable batteries, with a small number running on mains electricity. However, neither are at risk of failure during a power cut, because stairlifts that are mains-powered have back-up batteries.

Stairlifts that run on rechargeable batteries are designed so that the batteries automatically recharge each time you use the stairlift. The charger is located at the designated ‘parking spot’, either at the top or bottom of the staircase. You need to return the stairlift to its parking spot (using a remote control or button on the wall) after you have used it so that the batteries can recharge; a warning sound should alert you if you forget to do this.

To read about more products to help you move around your home, visit our guide to walking frames and wheeled walkers.

Stairlift running costs

Stairlifts are economical items to run, with many manufacturers claiming that they cost a lot less in electricity charges than using a kettle.

Servicing your stairlift

As stairlifts are mechanical devices, they need to be inspected by a qualified stairlift engineer every six months, and serviced annually – especially as most people with stairlifts are dependent on them to give them access to the whole house.

Your stairlift should come with a minimum one-year warranty. Most stairlift companies also offer a 24-hour no-fees call-out service for the first year, which covers any spare parts that might be needed.

After the first year, you will need to either renew your warranty, or pay an engineer by the hour for any required servicing.

Most stairlift companies offer extended warranties or maintenance contracts when you purchase a stairlift. Not all of these cover the battery, however.