What are stairlifts?
Stairlifts are lifting devices powered by electricity which enable people with limited mobility to travel up and down staircases with ease. They are equipped with a chair or a platform, the selection dependent upon the specific user’s needs.
A range of stairlifts can be viewed here.
How does a stairlift work?
A stairlift moves along a rail which is fitted to the stairs and a motor is used to move the stairlift along a track. This motor is powered by a battery which charges automatically on a continual basis. It runs very smoothly and quietly on DC current and the battery will always be sufficiently charged so that it will never cut out halfway along the stairs, nor will the stairlift’s operation be affected by a power cut.
The battery is charged by an electronic charger which operates in a similar fashion to a mobile phone charger, except that it is always plugged in to ensure that it will invariably work any time that the stairlift is needed. An electrical socket can be installed close to the stairs if there isn’t one nearby, while the battery can be charged at either the top or the bottom of the stairs. Some stairlift models even have a continuous charging strip along the track so that the lift doesn’t need to be at the very top or bottom of the stairs in order to charge.
Stairlifts are very straightforward to operate. They are controlled by a small toggle or joystick, which you will find on the armrest, and you simply direct this up or down to move the stairlift. If you have two or more people using the one stairlift, it comes as standard with two remote controls that will enable a user to summon the stairlift – for instance, if they are downstairs and the stairlift is parked upstairs from its previous user, all they need to do is use the remote control to bring it downstairs.
Who is likely to need a stairlift?
A stairlift is most likely to be needed by a person with limited mobility who finds it difficult to move up and down staircases on their own. This could include people with multiple sclerosis, arthritis, those who have undergone hip replacements, those whose mobility is affected following an operation or elderly people with notable frailty.
How much do stairlifts cost?
The cost of a stairlift will depend largely upon its structure. A standard straight stairlift costs in the region of €1,800 (supply and maintenance) and can be fitted within 2-3 days of being ordered.
Curved stairlifts will cost more and take longer, as they are made to measure. You can expect to pay between €5,000 and €6,000 for a curved stairlift, while manufacture and fitting could take 5-6 weeks from the initial order date. The cost can also vary depending on how many specific features you need for your stairlift, e.g. power swivel seats.
Note: These prices are indicative and do not include VAT, although this can usually be claimed back from Revenue. Stairlifts are also covered under the Housing Adaptation Grant scheme and these grants can be sought from your local authority. You can view our Grants page for further information.
Benefits of stairlifts
- Provide a safe, comfortable method of moving freely around your home.
- Eliminate the hassle of having to walk up and down stairs to be able to go to an upstairs bathroom or bedroom.
- Promote a substantial degree of independence.
- Allow you to continue living in your current home without the need to relocate to alternative accommodation.
- Are extremely easy to use – all you need to do to operate a stairlift is move a control pad.
- Can easily be folded and unfolded, so as to be unobtrusive when not in use.
- Are very affordable (running costs are similar to what you’d use in boiling a kettle) and are a great investment considering the trade-off with the comfort they provide.
Types of stairlifts
- Straight stairlifts are the simplest of all stairlift types and can fit the majority of staircases that have a straight flight from bottom to top. They are quick, easy and inexpensive to install (usually within 2-3 days of being ordered) and the range of choice for straight stairlifts is quite broad. They can usually be fitted in just 2-3 hours.
- Curved stairlifts are used when the staircase for which it is being fitted has one or more turns. They will take longer to install (3-4 weeks after being ordered), as they will need to be fitted to custom measurements for a particular staircase. Fitting could take up to one full day, depending on the complexity of the staircase to which it is being fitted.
- Perch (also known as standing) stairlifts are an ideal choice for those who find it difficult to bend their knees and sit. The seat is smaller and positioned higher than with a standard stairlift, allowing the user to perch rather than sit. If you have arthritis in your knees or hips and/or you find it uncomfortable to sit down fully, a perch stairlift is the best option for you.
- Outdoor lifts have similar features to indoor stairlifts, in addition to being waterproof and able to withstand extreme weather conditions. Metal components are coated in zinc, oil annealed or made from aluminium, while seats and plastic components can stand up to extreme heat and exposure to UV rays. They come with protective covers when not in use and can be used for steps leading to the entrance of your home.
Stairlift safety features
- Sensors to detect potential obstructions
- Lockable on/off switch to deactivate the stairlift when not in use
- Mechanical and electrical braking systems to bring the stairlift to a smooth, safe stop
- Safety belts on the seat/perch to prevent users from falling off the stairlift
- Swivelling footplates to bridge the gap between the stairlift and the top of the stairs
All stairlifts are required to meet EU safety standards as set out by the Machinery Directive 2006/42/EC.
Home Health Care Adaptations’ Guide to Stairlifts 3 Minute Video: Video Credit