A home elevator provides a person with mobility issues a safe, effective way to move between the floors of a house.
But home elevators are not just for the elderly. People recovering from serious injuries, families with young children, and those with congenital conditions that impede mobility can all benefit from a home elevator.
Home elevators also enhance both the aesthetic and bottom-line value of a home, while reducing the chance of debilitating falls and making the home safer for everyone. Below are the best home elevators of 2020.
1. PVE Pneumatic Vacuum Elevators
PVE is a leader in the development of pneumatic elevators for the home. They have been around since 2002 and have a reputation for producing dependable, eco-friendly home elevators that use state of the art air pressure propulsion.
What we like: The pneumatic elevator is quieter than other types, takes up less space, installs faster and looks better. PVE offers three different configurations with a maximum lift capacity of 525 pounds. They can also arrange financing for you.
Flaws: If you have an old Victorian, a vacuum elevator may look a bit out of place.
2. Inclinator 500
With nearly a century of experience, Inclinator is the seasoned veteran of the home elevator industry. The company is still family-owned and prides itself on producing reliable, attractive, and affordable lifts for the residential market.
What we like: The Inclinator 500 is easy on the eye, easy on the wallet, and very dependable. It is also quite spacious so you can use it to move everything except large pieces of furniture between floors. You are also able to customize the cab quite a bit.
Flaws: It will require a little more space than some other types of elevators.
3. Savaria Eclipse
Savaria produces an array of elevators for every type of home. From glass tube elevators to distinguished-looking cabs with discrete shafts and luxurious interiors. The Eclipse can travel up to 60′, has a 950 pound capacity, and installs in a week.
What we like: Savaria offers a number of attractive designs, but our favorite is the Eclipse. As is, the Eclipse is extremely handsome. But you can also customize it to dovetail with your decor. Another big plus is the capacity: 950 pounds.
Flaws: A bit noisier than some other elevators. The chain drive will likely need regular maintenance.
4. Easy Climber
Easy Climber has a simple mission: to make home elevators financially accessible to as many people as possible. You will not impress the critics at Architectural Digest with one of these. But you will get from floor to floor safely and affordably.
What we like: Easy climber features a middle of the road design that will work with a surprising variety of decors. It is also among the more affordable elevators on the market. Installation is also fast, and does not require any major construction.
Flaws: It may be shaftless, but you will need to account for that big hole in the floor on the upper floors.
5. Inclinator 100
Inclinator makes a second appearance in our rankings with their outstanding model 100. This is a scaled-back version of their 500 model but provides just as much interior space. If you are working with a limited budget, this is a good choice.
What we like: This is a great choice for those with more modest budgets. It features typical Inclinator build quality, and is just as large as their more expensive 500 model. In addition, it is ASME compliant, quiet, and comfortable.
Flaws: It is a simple box that goes up and down. So if you are looking to score style points, you may want to try something else.
6. Stiltz Duo Elevator
Stiltz has been around for a decade now, and in that time they have expanded across the UK and into the US market. Their home elevators exhibit a cool modernity, while being practical, dependable, and affordable.
What we like: This is a small but attractive and affordable home elevator that runs off a standard wall plug and installs in a couple of days. We like the sleek, modern profile and that it can easily handle two average-sized passengers.
Flaws: You have to step up into it. And there is no chance of getting a wheelchair onto it. It is also limited to two floors.
7. Domus Classic Elevator
Domus is an Italian company founded by a lone engineer back in 1966. While the company has grown into an international engineering and design firm, their products still exude elements of the Italian handicraft tradition. You will pay more, but you will get more.
What we like: If you are looking for an elevator to impress the neighbors, here it is. The Domus Classic is a home elevator with ‘luxury’ written all over it. We love the solid feel of this elevator, the smooth action, and the high degree of customization.
Flaws: It is expensive, even by home elevator standards. And dealing with an international company means giving up personalized customer service.
8. Savaria Zenith
Savaria elevators make no bones about their high-end aspirations. They feature rock-solid construction, plenty of space for wheelchairs, an impressive weight capacity, and a clean, modern look.
What we like: This is an outstanding choice for a contemporary home. We love the simple, clean lines, the quiet operation and the ability to extend it up to five floors. We also appreciate the 1,400 pound capacity.
Flaws: It will require quite a bit of space, so it is not for small homes.
9. Symmetry Luxury Redefined
Symmetry produces high-end home elevators for those with the homes and the budgets to accommodate them. They will cost a pretty penny, but you will see every penny expressed in the quality of the finished product.
What we like: We love the smooth, dependable hydraulic drive. The fact that it will cover up to 5 stories is a big plus. Their designers will make sure your elevator looks like it came with the house. It is also rated to an impressive 1,400 pounds.
Flaws: The cost is about the only real flaw with this elevator. There is no doubt it will be too much for a lot of homeowners.
10. Pollock Shaftless Elevator
The Pollock Shaftless Elevator slips quietly between the first and second floor in about 10 seconds. It can be installed in virtually any room and is available in three sizes, including one that will accommodate your wheelchair.
What we like: The Pollock Shaftless Elevator is easy to install in any decent-sized home. There is very little construction work involved. It is large enough to accommodate two adults. It is also affordable and has a very clean, elegant look.
Flaws: You will need to practice staying out of the way as this elevator rises and falls. Especially when it is dropping from an upper to lower floor.
Who Needs a Home Elevator?
If you are experiencing mobility issues, a home elevator can help alleviate them. You will no longer be confined to a single floor of the house, or be dependent on others to get up and down the stairs. And while mobility issues are fairly common amongst the elderly, they are not the only ones who could benefit from a home elevator.
People recovering from serious accidents or illness often have to endure lengthy recoveries. During this period, it can be exceedingly difficult for them to get around. A home elevator can help. Those with arthritic knees often have difficulty navigating stairs. A home elevator can make their life much easier and less painful.
But home elevators do not only make life more convenient, they also add both aesthetic and bottom line value to a home. When most people think of home elevators they think of luxury. So if you want to wow your guests at your next big get-together, use the occasion to unveil your home elevator. And if you are looking to sell your home, a home elevator will make it much more attractive to baby boomers looking for a retirement home.
How We Ranked
Our quest to determine the best home elevators of 2020 led to the discovery that there are far more companies than we imagined designing and installing home elevators today. There are, in fact, many dozens of US-based companies doing so. With still others based overseas but doing business in the US market. That is good news for homeowners because competition tends to drive innovation and keep prices in check.
That said, when it came to selecting the best home elevators, we considered the type of propulsion (pneumatic, hydraulic, chain-drive, cable-drive, and more), installation requirements, ease of use, safety, customer service, maintenance requirements and, of course, price. The size of a company’s service area was also important. And, it should go without saying that anything that is going to be installed prominently in the home needs to be attractive.
What we were looking for, then, were companies with an outstanding record, that responded to inquiries in a timely fashion, that offered a handsome, reliable product at a reasonable price, and that did not disappear once the elevator was installed.
Home elevators enable you to stay in your home. No one wants to leave their beloved home because they can no longer navigate the stairs. Yet that happens countless times every day right across the country. Often, the decision is made by adult children who have legitimate fears for the safety of their parents. A home elevator can alleviate those fears and allow an older person to stay in their home and retain their dignity.
Home elevators greatly reduce the chance of falls. Few things are more concerning to older individuals than the possibility of falling. And there is good reason for this fear. Every year some seven million older Americans are injured in falls (1). Nearly half a million of those are falls involving stairs. A home elevator removes this potential cause for life-altering or even life-ending injury.
Home elevators add value to your home. The aging of the population means there are more people over 60 now than ever before (2). Many of these older folks are financially comfortable and active in the real estate market (3), either as first-time buyers or because they are looking for homes to retire to. Any home with an elevator is going to generate more demand from older buyers. And greater demand equals a higher price.
Home elevators are perfect for those with arthritis. Fair or not, arthritis is predominantly a disease of older individuals (4). In most cases, it is the result of years of wear and tear on the joints. Arthritis of the knee is extremely common (5) and can make climbing the stairs an excruciating ordeal. A home elevator can solve this problem and enable an older person with arthritis to continue to live in and enjoy their home.
Home elevators are easy to install. When people think of installing a home elevator, they naturally think ‘major renovation job’. This causes them to reconsider. After all, a kitchen renovation can take three months or more (6). But the fact is, many home elevators can be installed in as little as two days. Even more elaborate ones usually will not take more than a week to install.
Home elevators enhance functionality. A home should be comfortable, safe, and convenient. To achieve those qualities, it must be highly functional. Things like microwaves, garage door openers, dimmer switches, and TV remotes all add functionality that enhances comfort, safety, or convenience. Or, in some cases, all three. A home elevator adds another level of functionality that makes a home safer, more comfortable, and more convenient.
Home elevators add that ‘wow’ element to the home. Make no mistake, when your guests arrive for your next party and see your new home elevator it will become the talk of the town. Be prepared to hear ‘Wow’ and ‘OMG’ all night as people digest the fact that you have a home elevator and they do not. Is that just a little bit vain? Sure. But there is nothing wrong with basking in a bit of envy now and then.
Home elevators make the house safer for everyone. More than 1 million people in the US are injured by falling down the stairs every year (7). It is an appalling statistic and highlights the inherent danger of stairs for people of all ages. Having an elevator in the home will certainly make the home safer for elderly inhabitants. But, given that most people injured on the stairs are between 11 and 60, the elderly are not the only ones who stand to benefit.
Home elevators are a better idea than a stairlift. Many folks conclude a stairlift is the best way to address mobility issues. But there are a couple of good reasons why it may not be. First, stairlift injuries are both common and potentially fatal (8). And, if that by itself is not bad enough, they also tend to take over the stairs both physically and visually. A home elevator does not impose itself on your stairway.
Home elevators make home life simpler. There is no more need to lug heavy laundry bags up and down the stairs. No need to worry you might fall if you are tired or the house is dark. If you need to move small furnishings between floors, you can use the elevator, instead of risking the stairs or having to wait for help to arrive. If there is a newborn in the home, using an elevator is much safer than carrying them up and down the stairs.
Home elevators can be customized to fit your home design and decor. Homeowners are sometimes afraid that a home elevator will look out of place. But, in many cases, home elevators can be customized to dovetail perfectly with your home design and decor. Whether your home is a century-old Victorian, a mid-century modern, or a post-modern masterpiece, there is a home elevator that will meld with it seamlessly.
Home elevators make up for lost mobility. Lost mobility can come in many forms. An injury or accident may call for a long period of recuperation and physical therapy. Heart disease can greatly impact a person’s ability to climb stairs (9) and perform other basic functions of daily life. Stroke, congenital conditions, and advanced age also impact a person’s ability to do things like climb stairs. The home elevator can compensate for lost mobility in such cases.
Home elevators can save money. When compared to the alternative, a home elevator is a relative steal. Think about it: assisted living facilities can cost $50,000 a year (10), year after year. A home elevator is a one-time expense that costs just a fraction of that. In addition, it can enable your loved one to avoid institutional living. They are the smart choice that will save you money and allow your loved one to maintain their dignity as they age.
Home elevators are inspirational. It is a pretty safe bet that most of your friends and neighbors have not even considered a home elevator. Instead, as they fretted over their loved one’s mobility issues, their minds focused on things like round the clock homecare, or selling the house and moving their parents to an assisted living center. When they see your home elevator you are likely to hear more than a few say, “I never thought of that”.
Home elevators enhance your quality of life. Given all the benefits laid out above, it is clear that a home elevator can significantly enhance quality of life. Home safety is greatly enhanced, and the odds of a fall significantly reduced. A home elevator increases your home’s bottom line value and adds that ‘Wow’ element. It can allow an elderly person to stay in their home, whereas those without an elevator may be forced to move.
Home elevators take up less space. The common belief is that all elevators require a big, expensive elevator shaft. But while that may be true with commercial elevators, it is not the case with home elevators. Commercial elevators must adhere to strict building codes and meet the size and weight requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Home elevators do not have to meet those standards. As such, they can be much smaller.
Home elevators will not leave you stranded. If you have the misfortune of being in an elevator in an office building when the power goes out, you are stuck (11). That elevator is not going to move until power is restored. By contrast, most home elevators come with backup battery systems that take over in the event of a power outage and ensure you can complete your trip and exit safely.
Home elevators are cheap to operate. Most of the time, a home elevator is not in use. When they are sitting idle, they use virtually no electricity. Only enough to power basic lights and the control panel. The only time they will consume a noticeable amount of electricity is during the 20 or 30 seconds it takes to move from floor to floor. So there is no need to worry about your electricity bill going through the roof.
Q: Who should consider getting a home elevator?
A: If you are dealing with mobility issues that make climbing the stairs difficult, consider a home elevator. If you are contemplating leaving the home you love because you can no longer get up and down the stairs safely, consider a home elevator. If you want to enhance the value of your home, consider a home elevator. And if you want to reduce the odds of experiencing a devastating fall, consider a home elevator.
Q: Do home elevators accommodate wheelchairs?
A: Numerous home elevator models will easily accommodate a wheelchair. Even pneumatic elevators that use air pressure to create motion and which are notable for their sleek, space-saving design, offer wheelchair-friendly models. A home elevator is a much safer and faster means of moving floor to floor than a stairlift (12) and will significantly enhance the value of your home in the process.
Q: What are the different types of home elevators?
A: Home elevators use five different ways to get you from floor to floor. Cable-drive systems use a cable attached to a counterweight. Chain drives replace the cable with a chain but retain the counterweight. A traction, or MCL elevator, pulls itself up and down a track and does not need a counterweight. Hydraulic elevators use a piston under the cab and require very little space. While pneumatic elevators use a vacuum system inside a tube that creates movement by altering air pressure. They, too, require very little space.
Q: Will Medicare pay for a home elevator?
A: Medicare views home elevators as luxuries, rather than necessities. Which is strange when you consider how many elderly people suffer from debilitating falls every year. That said, home elevators exist outside Medicare’s definition of Durable Medical Equipment (13). So no reimbursement. However, if you are a veteran, it may be possible to obtain at least partial reimbursement through the VA’s HISA program (14). Although it will likely take some convincing.
Q: How much space do I need for a home elevator?
A: Home elevators are not required to adhere to as many rules and regulations as commercial elevators. As such, they do not typically require nearly as much physical space to install. (You can certainly have a deluxe home elevator installed if you wish that will take up quite a bit of space. But that is your call.) In most cases, a home elevator will only need an area of about 5′ x 5′, with pneumatic elevators using even less space.
Q: How much do home elevators cost?
A: The cost of a home elevator is dependent on a number of factors. Those factors include the type of elevator you want, the particulars of the installation (old, cramped homes are more difficult than new, spacious homes), the propulsion method, and where you live. As a general rule, you can expect to spend a minimum of $20,000. That might seem like a lot, but consider that an assisted living facility can easily cost $50,000 or more per year.
Q: Are home elevators safe?
A: Home elevators are not required to be ADA-compliant. But you will still need to obtain a building permit to install one. Once the installation is complete, it will need to be inspected before you can use it. This ensures the elevator is safe before you ever get into it and try to use it. Also, if your elevator has official sanction from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (15) – and most do – you can rest assured it is safe.
Q: How long does it take to design and install a custom home elevator?
A: The consensus among the companies we talked to was that it would take about a month, give or take a week or so. It all comes down to what you want in your custom elevator. Remember, any non-standard materials need to be ordered. And any non-standard shapes have to be determined, and the parts fabricated from scratch. Some companies will not do custom designs. So if that is what you want, you should ask about it right up front.
Q: Is a wheelchair lift the same as a home elevator?
A: The words ‘lift’ and ‘elevator’ are often used interchangeably. This can cause some confusion when it comes to things like wheelchair lifts. But wheelchair lifts are not elevators. They are devices affixed to an existing stairway that have a platform that moves up and down the stairs on a track. Wheelchair lifts, while popular, are responsible for scores of accidents every year, with more than 15% of those accidents resulting in fatality (16).
Q: Do home elevators move fast?
A: The average speed of a home elevator varies depending on model. But manufacturers are aware that most of their customers are older folks with mobility issues. Therefore, speed is not a priority. Safety is. You can expect that it will take anywhere from about 20 to 30 seconds from the time you enter the elevator on one floor to the time you exit on the next floor. Some are a bit faster. Some are a bit slower.
Q: How does a vacuum elevator work?
A: A vacuum elevator – also called a ‘pneumatic elevator’ – creates movement by manipulating the air pressure above and below the passenger compartment. This type of elevator uses a tube with an air pump at each end. If you want to go up, air is pumped out of the upper portion of the tube and pumped into the lower portion. As you approach your desired floor, air pressure is gradually equalized at both ends, bringing the compartment to a stop.
Q: Can you put an elevator in any multi-level house?
A: An elevator can be installed in most multi-level homes. There will be some that are simply too small to comfortably accept an elevator installation, but most will. If one type of elevator does not work with your house, do not get discouraged. There may well be another type that will work just fine. In a pinch, you can always have an elevator custom-designed for your home. It will cost more, but it can be done.
Q: Is a home elevator different than a commercial elevator?
A: Home elevators are not subject to the same number of local and state building codes as commercial elevators. Also, commercial elevators must be compliant with the ADA, or Americans with Disabilities Act (17), which imposes absolute rules regarding every aspect of elevator accessibility (18). Because home elevators are not publicly accessible, they are not required to be ADA-compliant. As such, they are much smaller and easier to install.
Q: Will a home elevator affect my homeowner’s insurance?
A: It is possible that you will experience a bit of a bump in your homeowner’s insurance as a result of installing a home elevator. In most cases, it should not be much. But insurance is necessary to protect you in the unlikely event someone is hurt. How much the actual insurance charge will be will vary from state to state, so you will need to discuss it with your insurance company.
Q: What type of elevator uses the least space?
A: The pneumatic, or vacuum tube, elevator usually takes up the least space of any home elevator type. They have very few mechanical parts and run up and down inside a compact tube. Vacuum tube elevators can be installed in the center portion of a spiral staircase. This is a very efficient use of space and does not infringe on any other functions of the house.
Q: What is meant by a hydraulic lift?
A: Hydraulics (19) are an invaluable part of our daily life. Without hydraulics, we could not stop our cars, passenger jets could not get off the ground, and office chairs would not go up and down. Hydraulics are also used to propel elevators. With a hydraulic elevator, a hydraulic piston is installed under the passenger compartment. As it is filled or emptied of hydraulic fluid, the elevator moves up or down.
Q: Do home elevators require a lot of maintenance?
A: Most home elevators require very little actual maintenance. You should, however, arrange for regular safety checks. Having someone from the company that installed the elevator come around regularly to inspect it will ensure small problems do not become major issues. Also, depending on the laws of the state where you live, it may be necessary to have the elevator inspected by a local building inspector on an annual basis.
Q: Would I be better off with a stairlift?
A: The primary upside of a stairlift is that it is more affordable than a home elevator. But while cost is certainly an important consideration, and stairlifts provide a valuable service for lots of people, they also tend to be accident-prone. All too often, people will fall off a stairlift while it is in motion. These accidents often end in fatalities. By contrast, home elevator accidents are extremely rare.
A home elevator can vastly improve the quality of life for those with mobility issues. They decrease the likelihood of falls, increase the functionality and value of the home, enable elderly people to stay in their homes longer, and add a ‘Wow’ factor that is hard to beat.
When compared to the cost of assisted living facilities, a home elevator is a common sense, affordable alternative. They can be installed in days, use relatively little power, do not devour space, and are safer than a stairlift.
Deciding to install a home elevator is a big decision. So use the information provided above to help you choose the right elevator for your home.
For cpoe.org’s #1 recommended home elevator, click here.