What is a Lift Chair

What is a Lift Chair? 2021 Guide to Lift Recliner Types & How They Work

By Maurice

What is a Lift Chair

If you’re wondering “what is a lift chair?”, don’t worry, you’ve probably seen one before and not even realized it!

That’s because lift chairs are simply modified recliners that are packed with electronic components to fit a certain need. You could have passed by a dozen lift chairs and thought they were simply La-Z-Boys.

This concise guide will go over what a lift chair is, all the different kinds of lift chairs, how they work, and the pros and cons of owning such a chair.

What is a Lift Chair?

A lift chair is a specific kind of chair that helps a person get back to their feet after sitting down.

Many times, these chairs simply look like any other standard recliner and if you are not looking closely you will not notice the extra features that a lift chair offers.

Lift chairs were built primarily to incline forwards to gently lift someone back to their feet, but as technology has gotten better they also come with additional features. The result is now there are many different kinds of lift chairs available today from different brands, and the choices can be confusing or daunting to the uninformed.

Some people associate lift chairs with elderly people, and they are a large part of the market for these items, but there are many reasons that one might need to get a lift chair. Recovering from certain kinds of injuries, such as back injuries, can necessitate the use of a lift chair. Some people have swollen joints or nerve pain that could be eased by the help a lift chair provides.

What is a Power Lift Chair?

Today, lift chairs and power lift chairs are synonymous. Nearly all lift chairs available on the market right now require a power source to function properly.

The mechanisms in a lift chair are powered from a standard wall electrical outlet, which is where the name “power” lift chair comes from. There is a very limited number of non-powered lift chairs on the market but they are extremely uncommon. For all intents and purposes, all lift chairs are power lift chairs.

What is a 2 Position Lift Chair?

Two-Position Chair Lift - Courtesy of 1800 Wheelchair

A two-position lift chair is the most basic kind of lift chair. They do not recline or have any special features other than the lifting capability.

A two-position chair sits upright like a standard living room chair, which is position one, and also pushes the user forward and lifts them onto their feet. That is the second position. Those are the only two positions these basic chairs can accommodate. Despite their barebones functionality, two-position chairs serve a purpose and are often the simplest and most inexpensive lift chairs available.

What is a 3 Position Lift Chair?

A step up from a basic two-position lift chair is the three-position lift chair. Three position lift chairs add an extra function and that is the ability to recline. Two-position chairs do not recline and if they do, it is only by a couple of inches. A three-position chair is a full recliner that also gives you full lifting capability. Three-position lift chairs are still fairly simple, give you the sweet comfort of a great recliner and manage to remain inexpensive compared to some other more advanced lift chairs on the market.

What is a zero gravity lift chair?

Zero gravity is all the rage right now, and you have probably seen this term used over and over again.

So how can a lift chair also be a zero gravity chair? Simple. Zero gravity means that a chair has the ability to raise your feet and lower legs above your heart. That’s it.

These lift chairs offer the ability to enter the very popular, and comfortable, zero gravity position with the touch of a button. A second press of the same button will return you to normal and then press it again to be deposited back on your feet ready for the day.

What is an Infinite Position Lift Chair?

An infinite position lift chair is a chair that can recline fully into a completely flat position.

The name comes from the fact that from upright to flat, the chair should be able to be put in any one of those nearly infinite positions. Infinite position chairs allow you to sleep in the chair. This is perfect for people who simply enjoy sleeping in their chair or for people who do not have the mobility freedom to comfortably go from the chair to bed at a moment’s notice. For those people, having the ability to deeply recline and even go completely flat, is a lifesaver.

What is the Difference Between Zero Gravity and Infinite Position Lift Chair?

Some people confuse zero gravity capable chairs and infinite position chairs. They are not the same thing.

Infinite position and zero gravity are two very different positions. Zero gravity raises a person’s feet above their heart in a seated position while the infinite position is a completely flat position made for massage, stretching, or sleeping. You could find a chair that has both a zero gravity mode as well as an infinite position setting but they refer to two different modes completely.

What is a Petite Lift Chair?

A petite lift chair is a lift chair designed to be average size or smaller. Some lift chairs, due to the powerful mechanisms inside, can get quite big and very heavy. For smaller people or people who do not have cavernous living spaces, a petite chair might be more suited for them.

Petite lift chairs are probably not very well suited for bariatric users. Petite chairs have a much lower weight rating than some of the heavy duty lift chairs on the market. For example, this model only has a weight capacity of 375lbs.

Other types of equipment might be able to push the weight capacity past its limits but lift chairs are different because they have a motor that can only handle a specific amount of force and weight.

What is the Lift Chair Mechanism?

The central mechanism of a lift chair is a motor that resides in the center of the chair.

Using a specially reinforced frame that exists inside of lift chairs, this motor pushes upwards on this frame and lifts the entire outer part of the chair, and then gently tips it forwards. The whole thing is powered by electricity from a wall outlet and, depending on the model, can have a large amount of power.

You can see exactly how the lift mechanism works in a lift chair in this video:

Everything in a lift chair will be powered by this large central motor. Even upgraded lift chairs with features like infinite position and massage will be powered by this motor. The more advanced the chair, or the higher the capacity, the bigger and more advanced the motor will become.

Pros & Cons of Lift Chairs

Like everything in life, lift chairs are not a complete slam dunk. They are beneficial and necessary for many people but they are not free from drawbacks.

Pros

  • One of the biggest pros to lift chairs is that they are extremely helpful in improving quality of life, freedom, and mobility to people who struggle to regain their feet after sitting down.
  • Lift chairs are also often very comfortable and can be used as a standard recliner in addition to being a lift chair. That means they will fit into most people’s lives easily, unlike some other kinds of medical equipment.
  • They are also not intrusive and stealthy, meaning they can be put into common spaces without worrying about how they look.

Cons

  • The downside of lift chairs is that they can be expensive. They are also often very heavy compared to similar, standard, upholstered chairs. They need to be situated close to an outlet to function properly. The motor inside can suffer from maintenance issues that require attention and possible repairs, especially if the motor is put under heavy load time and again.

Tips for Finding the Best Lift Chair for Your Needs

The first step to finding a lift chair that is right for you is to identify four key components of your life:

  1. 1
    How much lifting power do you need?
  2. 2
    Will you be using the lifting capabilities frequently or not that often?
  3. 3
    How much weight does the chair need to lift (in other words, are you a big or small person)?

The answers to these questions will guide you to chairs of specific sizes and capacities that will fit your life.

  1. 4
    How much time are you going to be spending in the chair (and do you want to sleep in it)? If you'll be spending a lot of time in the chair, you might want to look at fancier options like leather upholstery.

Some people spend hours and hours a day in their chairs. Those people might want to invest in an advanced chair with special upgrades such as massage or zero-gravity mode. Others only sit in their chairs after dinner to watch the game and only need the lifting capacity when their arthritis is flaring up. Those people might not want to drop hundreds of dollars on a lifting chair and should go for a budget option. It all depends.

By answering those simple questions you will narrow down your choice for a great lift chair in one fell swoop. From there it is simply about comparing prices and optional add-ons before deciding on the perfect chair for you.


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