What’s the Difference Between Home Elevators & Lifts?


Home elevators and home lifts have become much more popular as our aging population continues to grow. More seniors are actually preferring to age in place in the home they love, rather than move into a senior-care facility that can be out of the comfort zone. You may be wondering what’s the difference between the two types of devices? The short answer to this question is that it depends on where you’re from. The main difference between each is how they are used in the UK and US. The term elevator is preferred in American English, while the term lift is preferred in British English. However, Americans do make a distinction between the two.

What Is A Lift?

A lift is a machine that can carry people and objects between the floors of a building. In the UK they can call anything that uses a platform or compartment in a shaft to transport people and goods a lift. Americans typically refer to this type of machine as an elevator. In America, they can refer to a simple type of elevator installed in private homes. Chair or stair lifts are mobility improvement devices to help people up and down the stairs. These types only carry one person at a time. For this reason, in America they are considered much more basic than elevators, which must have a shaft. Future-proofing home lifts now use technology like pneumatic pressure to create a compact design.

What Is an Elevator?

An elevator is an American term for a type of transportation that moves people and goods between floors in a building. An electric motor powers most elevators and feature a shaft and cab to carry goods. In the UK they would still refer to this type of machine as a lift as well. As you can see, the difference really depends on where you lift and they can be used interchangeably to refer to devices to help people move between floors.

What Makes them Useful?

US home elevators add value to the home by providing a safer way to access the upper floors. Most fall accidents happen around the home, with stairs causing up to 50% of all falls in the home. Minimizing interactions with stairs in both seniors and children can help prevent these falls. Home lifts can be installed on or next to the stairs to accommodate those with limited mobility and their wheelchairs. These devices are typically slower than home elevators but may cost less to install in your home. Some home lifts can be manually operated with a crank, which requires another person to be present.

Deciding Between the Different Types

Four main types of home elevators can be installed in a home. The type of elevator you choose will depend on space, budget, and design factors. Pneumatic vacuums are a relatively new type of elevator design. PVE do not require chains, pistons, or counterweights to operate. Atmospheric pressure is used to lift the internal cab between floors, much like bank deposit tubes. Winding drum and counterweight home elevators are the oldest elevator design. This design relies on a revolving winch and counterweight. An electric motor winds a cable through a drum, which raises and lowers the cab. This type of elevator is popular among homeowners because the drum and motor can be installed at the top or bottom of the shaft. It helps keep the elevator’s footprint smaller since no machine room is needed for additional equipment. Counterweight elevators tend to be cheaper than PVE, but the ride is much noisier and rougher. The elevator’s exact stopping point can also cause uneven exit situations, which makes it less than ideal for people with mobility issues.


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