For many people a stairlift is a lifeline, providing mobility and independence for those that struggle to climb the stairs. If you are considering having a stairlift installed at your property or the property of a loved one there are a few things to look out for. At The Chiltern Lift Company we have been installing, repairing and servicing stairlifts for several decades, so thought we’d collate some of the things we’ve learned over the years into some helpful hints to help you or your loved ones prepare.
Before you make any decisions on which stairlift to have, it is worth assessing the overall feasibility of having a stairlift at your home or property. There are many practical factors that need to be taken into consideration that will affect the final choice; starting with the stairs themselves (are the stairs straight or curved? How wide are the stairs? Are there any radiators or windowsills that could be obstructions?), but also other factors relating to the capabilities of the stairlift user (is the user able to bend their knees and hips? What is the users dominant side, their left hand or right hand?). In addition to these practical factors, there are other considerations that you may need to take into account, such as whether or not the stairlift has been recommended by an occupational therapist, or if the user qualifies for a council grant and VAT exemption.
Getting Started with your Stairlift
Once you have identified the right stairlift for you and have had it installed by a professional there are a few things you should make yourself familiar with before you start using it:
1. Operational Procedure/Demonstration
Once your lift installation engineer has finalized the installation they should run you through the operating procedure to make sure you know how to safely operate the stairlift. This will cover things like how to start and stop the stairlift right through to what to do if any faults develop, and possibly even emergency procedures.
2. Battery & Charging
If you have a stairlift that requires a battery, it is imperative that you are shown how to charge the battery, and what can affect the battery charging; the installation engineer will be able to show you this. All stairlifts are different, and can make audible sounds (such as beeping) or flashing lights to show any charging problems that might be occurring.
3. User Manual
Also make sure your installer leaves you with a copy of the manual. Not only will this act as a handy reference guide in case you need reminding of how the stairlift works, but it should also provide troubleshooting advice in case you encounter any problems. For any major problems you should always contact a professional, and under no circumstances should you attempt to repair a stairlift yourself.
Servicing your Stairlift
Most electrical appliances need regular servicing or repairs to keep them in good working order, and lifting equipment is no different. This is especially true for stairlifts where your independence depends on the continued operation of the stairlift. In order to keep things moving and keep you mobile we recommend that you have your stairlift serviced at least once per year. A service should include a general inspection of the stairlift, cleaning and lubrication of moving parts, and safety device checks. This should all be conducted by a competent and qualified engineer, in compliance with the stairlift manufacturer’s guidelines.
Most manufacturers provide a one year warranty on their stairlift – however some do give two year warranties. We advise that you check what is included in a warranty from each manufacturer or the installer before making a decision about which stairlift to purchase. If it is a refurbished stairlift, it will likely only be a three month to one year warranty CHECK THIS. Warranties will usually cover mechanical or electronic failures; they will not cover accidental damage. If you have any problems with your stairlift whilst under warranty, and it is a mechanical or electrical failure, you will not have to pay for an engineer to come and fix it. If the engineer finds that the problem has occurred due to misuse, be aware that you may then be liable to pay for any repairs made to the lift.
Quite often, stairlift problems and breakdowns can be put down to users not knowing how to operate their stairlift correctly, highlighting the need for a proper run-through of the operating procedure by the installation engineer. To make sure you are not one of those people be sure to check the following before you call out an engineer:
• Are the batteries charged? Most stairlifts are battery operated, and have a battery that is charged by mains electricity when not in use. A prolonged interruption in your mains supply, or the accidental removal of the mains power cord could result in the battery becoming flat.
• Are the remote control batteries flat? Some models of stairlift can be operated by remote control. If yours is one of them and you are experiencing problems we strongly recommend that you check the remote control batteries before calling an engineer out.
• Is there anything getting in the way of your stairlift? It is important to ensure that the top and bottom of the stairs and the staircase are kept free from clutter. A misplaced bag or dropped item of clothing can prevent the stairlift from being able to move along its guiderail and getting you from A to B.
• Is it in the right position? Many stairlifts have safety mechanisms to stop them being used incorrectly and causing damage or injury. While these are hugely beneficial and often necessary safeguards, it’s worth being aware of these features and checking that everything has been returned to the correct operating position prior to use.
It almost goes without saying, but keeping your stairlift clean and tidy will help it to last longer and should prevent unnecessary repair bills. The user manual will normally detail the correct care and maintenance procedures, but common sense should also apply. For instance, take extra care when cleaning close to any electrical components or moving parts, and always ensure you are using the cleaning products specified in the user manual.