Questions and Facts You Need to Consider Before Purchasing A Residential Stair Lift
1What is the Written Warranty on the Circuit Board?
The answer should be – “We have a Lifetime Warranty on all of our Circuit Boards” – unless there is a verifiable voltage spike or lightning strike. A voltage spike and/or a lightning strike is readily detected on the surface of the circuit board. A burned spot will be clearly visible when inspected. Most of the manufacturers place a standard one year warranty on the circuit board to minimize the liability and cost of replacement should it fail. Their company margins and profits are based on limiting the duration of coverage and this is common for ANY manufacturer and for ANY product. Many dealers depend on profits from the service work and the sale of parts if the circuit board fails. It may be a fair statement to say the manufacturer who has the worst warranty, probably has the lowest quality of product as well. Finding someone who stands behind their product is imperative. You don’t want to buy a stair lift twice.
2What is the written warranty on the stair lift motor?
Again, the best answer would be “We have a Lifetime Warranty on the Stair Lift Motor” – unless there is a voltage spike, lightning strike, or motor brush replacement. (Motor brushes need to be replaced every 6-10 years based on the usage, the weight of the passenger(s), and the total length of travel. Motor brushes are very easy to replace when needed. If a manufacturer or vendor offers a 1 Year, 3 Year, 5 Year, or even a “Limited” Warranty – it would be best to keep looking. Any voltage spikes or lighting strikes usually are absorbed by the circuit board or batteries before hitting the motor. *Be aware - a “Limited” Warranty quite often translates to – If you can “prove it was a defective part” - we’ll replace it. That is NOT a warranty worth having.
3What are your standard fees for service calls and repair?
If the dealer can’t provide you with their service rates without hesitation … why? In today’s market, a fair rate for service or repair in most locations is in the range of $115-165 for the first hour and then $85-135 for any hour thereafter. *Rates are generally found to be higher in areas like New York City or Los Angeles where heavy traffic and toll roads are a big factor. The best response is – “If you simply be our eyes and hands, we can fix most problems over the phone”. The most common service call received is – “The stair lift is beeping when I park it at the bottom or top.” The beeping indicates the unit is not getting charged when parked. Most often, the housekeeper has unplugged the unit while vacuuming the staircase or the grandkids came over for a visit and flipped the switch which turned the power off to the wall socket. This issue should be resolved over the telephone, yet many companies are eager to set a service call appointment bill you the “minimum fee” for a simple one-minute fix. In the worm driven models, a unit beeping while traveling up and down the track indicates the batteries are failing and need to be replaced. In most cases, the lift will still make several dozen round trips – but don’t delay in getting the batteries replaces. A reputable dealer or manufacturer will share how to videos replacing batteries yourself. Stair lift batteries are sold at all battery & bulb stores and are available on-line. Be aware that batteries cannot ship by air and must go by ground shipment only. These are identical to the batteries used in computer back-up systems. Duracell batteries last much longer than the imported batteries.
4Does the wheels or rail require any lubricants or grease?
The Harmar (SL350) winch drive stair lift will require greasing of the wheels and eventually cleaning of the track. This is a dirty, nasty job. The grease that comes out is embedded with aluminum oxide and it will stain anything the grease gets on. Put down a plastic barrier with several sheets of newspaper on top and wear gloves! Every Rack-and-Pinion model on the market will REQUIRE lubrication of some kind. If any rack-and-pinion manufacturer or distributor tells you anything different be leary about their response. The ONLY stair lift that is GREASE FREE is the worm drive system. These examples of track lubrication and cleaning instructions from various rack-and pinion models were found posted on the internet. “Keeping your stairlift clean is a simple yet effective way to maintain its life span. Get a duster or damp cloth and wipe over the track and seat at least once a week to prevent a buildup of dust and dirt. Avoid the use of solvents and detergents, as these can be abrasive. Instead, choose a damp soapy cloth for best results. Over time your stairlift can become stiff, so occasional lubrication can prevent deterioration in its movement. Apply a small amount of Vaseline or other lubricant to the track and any moving parts to keep them well oiled. It's important that you do this after the cleaning process, so remove any dirt beforehand.” “Periodic lubrication of the stairlift rack and teeth will make for a smooth, comfortable ride every time. Spray a thin coat of white lithium grease on the gear rack teeth of the stairlift, located on the wall side of the rail. The lithium grease includes a nozzle which enables pinpoint spraying of the lubricant. Aim the nozzle at the gear rack teeth and spray some lubricant out. Careful to apply only a light coating to the gear rack teeth. If any of the stairlift’s belts appear dry, apply a light coating of the same lithium grease across the belt’s surface.”This doesn’t sound like an easy task and most likely the grease will end up on your carpet, walls, and grandkid’s hands. Who would want to clean their track and re-lubricate it every 2or 3 weeks? Additionally, if you think it is possible to take a can of spray grease and apply the grease with pinpoint precision to 14 feet of gear rack , you are mistaken. It’s just not going to happen. With a worm driven lift, you simply swish the track with your feather duster or dusting mop and you have a clean track … and not be left with a duster full of nasty grease!
5What country is this stair lift manufactured in?
Harmar, Staying Home, and Bruno are registered manufacturers with the FDA and the Elevator Commission. NO other USA based manufacturers exist (to our knowledge). If another company or vendor “claims” to be a manufacturer, they are simply contracting with one of these manufacturers to produce a “Private Label” product. This is most often nothing more than a change in the product name or a substantial change in warranty/service level. *You can find instances where only the product name is altered and the overall price is increased. That’s dirty. Some product name changes are made when the consumer price stays the same – but the standard 3 or 5 year factory warranty provided by the manufacturer may be upgraded to a longer or full Lifetime Warranty. These are called “White Labels” and are manufacturer approved. These “White Labels” are ONLY given to their most Trustworthy and Larger dealers. Some companies state their products are made in England (United Kingdom) when the products are allegedly made in China. At the present, it appears ALL stairlifts marketed within the United States are either made domestically or are imported from the UK, Canada, Germany, or Ukraine. Also, don’t be taken in by the numerous comparison internet sites that only compare the British made lifts. (Stannah, Acorn, Brooks, Meditek, and Handicare). It is obvious they don’t want the consumer to look at the stair lifts made in the good ole USA. This is a joint marketing effort put together by the British manufacturers. Brilliant marketing plan … just don’t be taken in or fooled.
6What is the standard weight capacity of the unit?
Rule of thumb - if the stair lift does not support a minimum of 350 lbs. – do not purchase. If the unit only holds a maximum of 265 -300 pounds it is probably made with lesser quality parts. Either the seat frame construction is inferior, or the motor or drive mechanism is weaker. It makes no sense to try and justify why saving manufacturing costs of (at most) $15 per motor or $10 per seat would benefit the industry or consumer. Don’t waste your money on these manufacturing / marketing short cuts. You will not want to buy your stair lift twice … and you surely will not want to be responsible for any potential repair bills due to an inferior product. A European company was accused of charging their US customers a costly premium for an upgrade from a 290 lb. to a 350 lb. model. Allegedly, this was nothing more than a sticker change. NEVER pay (or even accept) for an upgrade in the weight capacity. An upgraded motor makes no sense. You simply cannot install a Ferrari engine into a Ford Taurus and expect the transmission and drive train to handle the upgrade.
7What hours is the service department and technicians available?
Attending to the needs of healthcare has never been a 9 to 5 gig. Don’t purchase a product as critical as a stair lift or patient mobility item from a company that does not provide U.S. based service techs 24/7/365. It’s really that simple. If the vendors web page states hours of operation are from 8AM to 10PM – do the math. They won’t be there for you when needed. There is nothing worse than experiencing a failure of some sort on Friday night and not having access to your stair lift for the rest of the weekend (while at a potential risk for falling) only to discover on Monday morning all that was needed was to hit the “reset” button. Here is another example of service over the phone vs. the onsite “service call”.
8Have you ever experienced a product re-call … and what did it involve?
All U.S product re-calls are posted on several on-line Consumer Safety sites. Before purchasing your stair lift, vehicle lift, vertical platform lift, or ANY type of medical device – take a few moments and do a simple internet search. Google (“AnyBrandName” Recall and “Stair Lift Recall”). Additionally, Google “stair lift complaints” and find out what other consumers may have experienced before and after the sale. Sorry to say, but manufacturers and dealers are not going to share any negative information about their products. It is up to you to discover this information.. Consumer Safety sites are updated regularly. These sites provide the most current information available. There have been recalls recently that are worth investigating. Circuit board issues and manufacturing/design flaws have been reported. Reports of consumer deaths prompted a recent recall.
9What procedure is involved in cleaning the rail? … What maintenance will be required?
Although most of this was discussed in the “greasing” portion of this document, the best answer to be found is – “Maintenance Free”. Worm drive systems are the only systems that offer this … and this is provided in writing by the manufacturer. Other than changing out the batteries every 5-10 years, you won’t be required to do ANY maintenance other than a quick cleaning of the track. The common issue (which is universal to ALL stair lift manufacturers) is the use of cheap import batteries in the manufacturing process. These batteries won’t last half as long as a quality battery like Duracell or EverReady will. When it comes time to replace the batteries – insist on Duracell (or another quality brand). A quality battery will cost twice as much as the cheap imports, but in the end it is well worth it. We hope you have gotten plenty of information, so you can make the correct decision concerning the choice and purchase of your new stair lift. There are two basic rules when making your final decision. Do not buy an ugly stair lift because you will have to look at it several times a day; and don’t buy a model you will have to re-grease and clean all the time! Good luck to you in your search, and we hope your new stair lift provides you a lifetime or good service and reliability. We also wish you and yours, the best of health and safety in the upcoming years.
10How do I measure?
ADDITIONAL MEASUREMENTS NEEDED
11How Much Will It Cost?
Quoting an accurate price for a stair lift in your home requires calculating several costs that vary from home to home. These include the type of lift, the number of steps you have and the length of your stairs, and the installation cost. No two installations are exactly alike, but some costs are at a fixed rate such as installations. Some of our models offer FREE installations..So in order to give an accurate cost quote to you we need to first understand your specific needs, see and measure your stairs, check for proper electrical wiring and understand any other issues.