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How lift hydraulics work, why it’s important to choose a quality system and, why maintenance is critical


If accessing different levels of the house has become an issue for you or a family member, you’ve probably started thinking about installing a lift system. But what sort of lift should you select?


Today we want to focus on hydraulic lifts and what to think about when selecting the best lift for your home.

Firstly let’s start with the basics.


What is a hydraulic lift and how does it work?


The two most common types of lifts are hydraulic lifts and traction lifts. Traction lifts are the ones you’ll see in action movies (when things go horribly wrong in skyscrapers!) Traction lifts operate using ropes or cables which are attached to a motor with a pulley, and, to a counterweight. Hydraulic lifts operate very differently, relying on a piston and valve system.


In a hydraulic system, a motor compels a hydraulic fluid (most commonly oil) into the piston. This action forces the elevator to ascend.  To descend, a valve releases the fluid from the piston.  Hydraulic lifts operate at slower speeds than traction lifts. For this reason you won’t see them in skyscrapers, instead their use is generally limited to buildings with eight floors or fewer.


However hydraulic lifts do have some key advantages over their traction cousins. They are cheaper to install and less expensive to maintain. Hydraulic lifts also take up less space; having said that, you don’t necessarily want to opt for the cheapest hydraulic lift on the market.


Factors to consider when choosing a hydraulic lift


The old adage ‘you get what you pay for’ applies to hydraulic lifts just like everything else. The reliability of your home lift can mean the difference between being stuck downstairs or, being able to get to your bedroom, so it’s obviously important that you choose a dependable, quality product.


Some questions you’ll want to consider before you select your lift are:

  • Does it come with a warranty on parts and labour?
  • Are the parts required for maintenance easily accessible in Australia?
  • How much time will it take to install?
  • How much power will it use and how much will it cost to run?
  • Does it have adequate safety features?

All of these factors will affect your decision, but it’s really important to be aware that no matter what hydraulic system you opt for, its performance can be severely impacted if it’s not maintained correctly.


Why is maintenance so important?


Have you ever tripped coming out of a lift because it’s not aligned with the floor level? Have you ever been in an elevator that’s started moving erratically, coming to sudden halts between floors (causing you to make last minute deals with God?) If these things happened to you in a hydraulic lift it’s probably because it was not maintained properly.  A lot of maintenance issues come down to oil. If the oil in your hydraulic lift system is allowed to degrade (or is the incorrect oil for the type of lift and the lift’s operating climate) you can experience the problems described above.  You also might notice unusual odours coming from the lift.  However, so long as your lift is well maintained, and you’ve purchased a quality product, it will last a very long time and run perfectly.

If you’re thinking about a hydraulic lift system, contact us today to discuss your options.