Thursday, 5 February 2009

Ameriglide vs. Acorn Stair Lift

Ameriglide stair lifts - also known as Summit stair lifts (they are the same company) - are cheaper than Acorn stair lifts. Ameriglide claim that, although it offers a cheap machine its product is as good as that of the Acorn. But does a comparison between the Ameriglide and Acorn stair lift prove this claim?

First off, the Ameriglide is cheaper than that of the Acorn Superglide machine. If the customer's sole consideration is a low cost stair lift then the Ameriglide is the first choice. But the price of a chair lift is determined by the quality and features that come with it.

What follows is a review and comparison of the Ameriglide and the Acorn on a component by component basis.

DC Battery or AC Power?

When chair lifts were first manufactured they were mains powered but today Acorn, and most other leading brands, are powered by a 24 volt battery pack. However, Ameriglide/Summit chair lifts are still mains powered. So, what's the issue with using mains power? Well, batteries present no risk of electric shock. Also, many stair lift can be self-installed but many states will only allow a qualified electrician to install a main powered appliance.

A mains powered unit like Ameriglide has a trailing cable. The cable is constantly reeled in and out as the chair travels up and down the stairs. This will produce wear and tear - over a relatively short period - and will require maintenance and/or replacement of the cable. In some situations the cable can fail when the lift is in use leaving the user stranded mid way up or down the stairs.

DC batteries have proved so popular because of the smoother ride, especially when starting or stopping. The Acorn machine gives a very smooth ride. DC battery operated units like the Acorn are also quieter than those that are mains powered.

Power outages also make batteries a clear winner. You can continue to use the Acorn stair lift during these outages. Ameriglide, do suggest a solution to this problem - go out and buy a universal power supply - which contains a stair lift battery.

A final note about batteries; all batteries used in new stair lifts like the Acorn can be easily purchased from a local hardware store. The cost of replacing them is very cheap too – the company charge around only $15.00 for each battery.

The drive systems.

Ameriglide use a cable system. This is considered old technology by just about every other manufacturer. Acorn, like nearly all modern designs, use a rack and pinion system. The problem with cable systems is that the track is very wide and trough shaped - which creates a problematic dirt-trap. It's claimed that rack and pinion tracks need regular cleaning and lubrication to prevent damage. However, with Acorn machines this is not so; the system is maintenance free.

Safety controls and devices.

The easiest type of control for anybody to use is the joystick, which is why the Acorn chair is fitted with one on the arm rest. The control used on the Ameriglide is a rocker switch, which is not as easy to use, especially by those with severe arthritis. The remote controls supplied with the Acorn are modern, wireless infra-red devices, rather than old-fashioned, hard-wired controls that must be fixed to the wall as is the case with Ameriglide.

The Acorn has an electro-magnetic braking system with a self-locking gearbox. The self-locking gearbox alone, as installed in Ameriglide is not really a braking system.

The Acorn has sensors mounted on each side of the footrest and on the carriage itself to stop it immediately if any obstacle gets in the way. The Ameriglide is fitted with a sensor only on the footrest, so an obstacle found on the track will not stop the stair lift.

There are other items found on the Acorn machine that are superior or not even present on the Ameriglide version.

In conclusion, there's nothing wrong with the Ameriglide. It's cheap and does its job and there are many satisfied customers who use it everyday. In fact, many consumer reviews like its no-frills functionality and cheap price. But there's no doubt that the Acorn stair lift is a superior product. The price of the Acorn machine may be higher than the Ameriglide, but you get what you pay for.

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