The most common way to power stairlifts is to use AC house current, which can be an inexpensive way to operate the lift under normal circumstances. Sometimes, however, a battery-powered stairlift can be preferable. These lifts run off of an installed DC battery pack, which doesn’t need to be plugged in during the lift’s operation. This is close to ideal for outdoor stairlifts, and it can bring peace of mind for seniors who live in areas that are prone to power outages. With a battery-powered stairlift, the unit can operate as normal even when power is lost in a storm or other outage, so the senior who owns it is never confined to one part of the house in an emergency.
This guide looks at four of the best battery-powered stairlifts currently available to help readers make an informed choice when buying one. It goes over the options available, explains the differences between various models and provides valuable information to use in the search for the best battery-powered stairlift on the market.
Harmar’s economy stairlift model, the SL350-AC, is unusual among straight stairlifts for not having any battery option at all. Instead, it operates exclusively off of AC power from the wall. The next model up in Harmar’s line, the Pinnacle, is somewhat more expensive, at $2,995, but it carries a powerful DC battery pack and can operate independent of the house current. The top-of-the-line version of this model, the Pinnacle Premium, comes with a brightly lit LED control panel and several high-end features such as automatic obstacle sensing. The Pinnacle and Pinnacle Premium can be run on a maximum track length of 70 feet, which is far in excess of what most stairlifts can reach. The Pinnacle Heavy Duty is a sturdier version of the Pinnacle that can carry a maximum weight of up to 600 pounds.
The Savaria K2 is one of the most affordable battery-powered stairlifts to make the recommendation list. At a starting price of just $2,750, the K2 is tied for the lowest cost of a base model with the Handicare 950. Despite its economy pricing, the K2 has a suite of features that make it easy and safe to use, such as light-up indicators that signal low battery power and other issues, an intuitive manual control system, and emergency quick-release from the seat and belt.
K2 base models have a relatively small footprint when stowed. Properly folded away, their maximum extension into the stairwell is less than 11 inches. The rails are made from extruded aluminum and flattened to further save space in a narrow stairwell. This model of stairlift can be upgraded with a sturdy outdoor kit, which is ideal for porch and deck stairs. Savaria straight stairlifts can be installed by the buyer in a few hours, without uncommon tools or professional assistance. The curved battery-operated stairlift in Savaria’s line, however, does have to be professionally installed, which can add a few hundred or a thousand dollars to the final cost.
AmeriGlide offers one of the largest product lines of battery-powered stairlifts. The AmeriGlide Horizon Plus is a battery-powered straight lift with a maximum weight capacity of 308 pounds, and a stowed footprint of under 15 inches. This model is mounted to an aluminum single-rail support and runs off of a powerful rack-and-pinion drivetrain that comes with a 5-year warranty. This base model can be purchased new for as little as $1,689, and installation can be done by the homeowner.
The AmeriGlide Rave model is the next model up from the Horizon, and it has a parked unit footprint of 11 inches with a maximum weight capacity of 350 pounds. The flattened aluminum rail secures to the wall of the stairway, and the entire assembly can be put up in a few hours without professional assistance.
The AmeriGlide Platinum is a line of curved battery-powered stairlifts that use powerful 350W rack-and-pinion drivetrains to lift up to 264 pounds along a curved track. The main assembly of the Platinum line is covered by AmeriGlide’s 2-year basic warranty, while the drivetrain is protected by a 5-year plan. Platinum models are mounted to a twin-tube steel rail that saves space and carries a heavier load per unit length than most straight stairlift models can manage. This model of curved stairlift has a list price of $8,614, which includes the cost of professional installation since the curved lift cannot be installed without assistance.
The Handicare 950 is a budget-friendly entry-level stairlift that dispenses with most of the premium features of more expensive lifts to keep the price down. The 950 base model retails for $2,580, and it can be installed without professional help, although licensed Handicare installers can be found throughout the country. This model of battery-powered stairlift features a manual swivel seat, folding footrest and ergonomic toggle control that was designed in collaboration with occupational therapists to be as easy on seniors with arthritis as possible. The entire assembly folds down to just 11.25 inches when stowed, leaving plenty of space in the stairwell for foot traffic.
Battery-powered stairlifts use an onboard battery to run up and down the installed rail system in the stairway. As a rule, this battery charges from house current, although most units come with a large DC adapter to convert the AC house current to a charge the electric motor on the lift can use. While most units continuously charge when not in use, their operation is not very power-intensive, so most models only add $20 or so to the annual power cost in most homes.
One of the key advantages to having a battery pack in a stairlift is its reliability. In places where power is frequently lost or unreliable, having a stairlift that still works can allow seniors with limited mobility to continue accessing the different parts of their home, rather than being suddenly cut off from either the upstairs or downstairs until electricity is restored. The battery in a stairlift is technically replaceable by the user, but the tight confines and number of wires inside the casing makes professional help a good idea when the time comes to change out an old battery.
Finding the best battery-powered stair lift depends on the specific features needed and how well the model performs in the home environment where it’s to be used. Ideally, the stairlift chosen should have a long battery life and low power demands, along with a rugged build and adequate weight capacity for the job it does. Clear indicator lights for battery charge and use time are helpful, as are a low price point and easy installation. Curved lifts definitely cost more than straight systems, if only because of the cost of necessary professional installation. Fortunately, many stairlift manufacturers offer some kind of financing to bring even their premium models into most seniors’ price ranges. Those that don’t finance directly often have approved vendors who can offer a payment plan.
For more information about choosing the best battery-powered stairlift, or for information about paying for a stairlift, read our article about the Most Affordable Stairlift Brands of 2019.