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Stair Lift Malfunctions

in Malfunctions, Mobility, Stairlifts, Tips by Berkshire Stairlifts Comments are off

My Stair Lift has a life of its own!

So, hands up who remembers the movie, “Poltergeist”? Released in 1982, it may seem a little dated now that we’re living in an age of such sophisticated special effects. But in its day, it had the ability to genuinely scare many viewers and, if I’m completely honest, it still has moments in it when I’m tempted to hide behind the sofa.

A poltergeist (German for “Rumbling Ghost”) is generally thought to be a ghost or some other malevolent spirit that enjoys making objects move around the house or even fly through the air. They also can be pretty noisy when the mood takes them, apparently.

 

Poltergeist-Therese_Selles

 

Far be it from us to say whether or not poltergeists really exist (they don’t) but what happens when something as big as your stairlift appears to have developed a life of its own?

It’s not exactly common, but there have been instances where stairlifts will begin to operate entirely of their own volition without any buttons having been pressed.

Pretty creepy if your stair lift starts to move of its own accord, not to say just ever so slightly disturbing.

So does this mean that spirits from another dimension are being mischievous because your house was built on the site of an old cemetery? Are you going to have to call in your local version of Tangina Barrons to lead them back into the light?

Well, the answer’s a little more technical than that but no less interesting for us grease monkeys at Newbury Mobility.

The culprit is the humble, common-or-garden lightbulb. Not the old-fashioned incandescent type, but the more modern, low-energy CFL bulb.

 

CFL Bulb

 

To explain, let’s first take a quick look at hand-held remote controls.

The remote control for your television uses infrared waves to communicate with the TV itself. Infrared lies within the electromagnetic spectrum and is really useful for controlling electrical equipment wirelessly. The control unit can be programmed to send strings of binary code in the form of infrared pulses. Different codes will mean different things e.g. volume up or volume down and can be made specific to different brands and different items of equipment. This is why you can use your TV’s remote control without it having an effect on your DVD player, for instance.

 

TV Remote

 

Infrared is also fairly short range and can’t travel through walls the way that radio waves can. This means that when you’re bored watching Desperate Housewives and switch over to Emmerdale, you’re not doing the same thing to your next door neighbour’s tele.

The remote control for your stair lift works in exactly the same way. You point the remote at your stairlift and pulses of binary code are sent to instruct it go up or down.

Back now to low-energy bulbs. These can, occasionally, produce unwanted pulses of infrared light. You can’t see them – your pet rattlesnake can, but you can’t – but if those pulses happen to be one of the binary codes that controls your stair lift then it will, in its faithful and loyal way, respond to those controls. It thinks it’s just doing what you asked, after all.

These light-bulb pulses can also be responsible for masking or confusing the pulses from your stair lift’s hand held remote control unit so that the stair lift simply won’t function correctly or obey your commands.

Some stair lifts controls work using radio waves rather than infrared, but even these aren’t immune from interference from light bulbs. In this case, LED lights are usually the culprit.

 

LED Bulb

 

LED lights have lots of advantages, one of the greatest being that they are very cheap to run.

They’re also cheap to manufacture, particularly if you take shortcuts in the process.

There are a great number of LED bulbs on the market – some branded by major household names – that fail to meet any kind of standardised testing and indeed there is some confusion as to what this testing ought to be. The European Union is actively looking into this but I wouldn’t hold your breath for action to be taken any time soon.

LED bulbs require something called a switched-mode power-supply. In order to cut costs, some manufacturers deliberately leave out some filter components from these power-supplies, resulting in a great deal of conducted emissions and harmonics that can interfere with a number of other pieces of equipment that use radio waves.

It doesn’t make the bulbs dangerous exactly. They’re just sending out quite significant amounts of unwanted electromagnetic interference.

DAB radios are the most common victims of this and there are increasing instances where people’s DAB radios don’t work until nearby LED lights are switched off. Stair lift remote controls can similarly be affected.

So should you be worried?

The answer to that is an emphatic ‘no’. It’s not that common an issue with stair lifts but should it happen to you, you know what to do.

It’s not The Bell Witch of Tennessee or The Black Monk of Pontefract.

Just turn off any nearby lights and your stair lift should once again be a slave to your command.

Of course, as you know by now, if you have any problems or any concerns with your stairlift and you live in Berkshire, Oxford, Hampshire or Wiltshire, you only have to dial 01635 229228 and we’ll be only too happy to help.

We look forward to hearing from you soon.

 

Casper

 

All the very best

Andy and the team.

 

 

 

Stair Lift User Manuals

in Mobility, Stairlifts, Tips, User Manuals by Berkshire Stairlifts Comments are off

Stair Lift User Manuals – What They Don’t Tell You

The other day, a client asked me a specific question about the remote control on his newly-fitted straight stair lift. So I opened up the User Manual at the relevant page and explained to him what each button is for and how best to use them.

It struck me as I was doing so that I haven’t actually read a user manual – not properly anyway – in a fair while.

Now, while that might seem a little strange, the thing is, when you’ve been in the business for as long as all of us here at Newbury Mobility have, you come to know the equipment inside out. So you carry most of the knowledge around inside your head and to be honest, it’s much, much more extensive than the information given in a User Manual.

That being said, I thought it might be quite interesting to give myself a refresher so when I got home, I sat down and read a manual from cover to cover to see what I might be missing.

User Manual

I’ve never written a User Manual and I have to say, I don’t envy those whose job it is to produce them. The challenge appears to be to provide all of the essential information without overwhelming the user with stuff they don’t need to know and will never use. But woe betide you if you miss out something vital.

The first thing that struck me was that some of the Warnings and Precautions seemed a little…er…how do I put this nicely?

Obvious?

A bit like the warning on a Swedish chain-saw that read, “Do not stop chain by hand.”

Or the caution on an American-made PVC water bed that said, “This item is not to be eaten.”

But then again, you’d be amazed at some of things that people manage to do. (We might share some of those with you in future posts!).

And let’s face it, we all have our “D’oh!” moments.

homer-simpson-doh

So, when you see a warning in a user manual not to pour hot tea into the electronic controls of your stair lift, that’s because there are people out there who will happily say. “But you never told me I shouldn’t pour hot tea into the electronic controls of my stairlift, so it’s all your fault.”

And of course, in this litigious age, with TV adverts encouraging us to sue for compensation, manufacturers and suppliers have to be very careful that they don’t make themselves vulnerable to being taken to court.

Don’t get me wrong – if a manufacturer or supplier does something wrong or is careless or negligent, then they should get everything they deserve. But sometimes it would be nice if common sense were to prevail. Or is that me just getting old?

Anyway –

While there’s nothing we like more than visiting our lovely customers throughout Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Wiltshire and Hampshire, I thought it might be helpful if I were to share some little fault-finding and problem-solving tips with you. So that if a pesky problem does occur, you might just be able to fix it yourself.

 

Seat 2

 

Number 1 – Stair lift won’t go

Without wishing to insult your intelligence, is the key under the arm rest switched to “on”? (This is a classic D’oh! moment which we’ve seen happen a squillion times – so if it happens to you, don’t worry. You are not alone!)

 

Number 2 – Stairlift going slow

If your stair lift is moving slower than continental drift and error code “n” is flashing on your diagnostic display, the most likely reason is that your batteries are coming to the end of their useful life. Which means that you’re going to have to give us a call on 01635 229228 so that we can supply new ones. Sorry – can’t do this one yourself, so get the kettle on. We’ll be with you shortly.

 

Number 3 – Bleeping Stairlift and Error Code 2

That bleeping stair lift! Well…this just means the poor thing is hungry. If you’ve got Error Code 2 with a bleeping sound, then it’s not charging – even though it’s been parked on the charging point. In this case, check that the power is switched on/plugged in and that there is a green light on the charger. If not, and there are no other obvious reasons like power cuts or a fuse tripped, then it’s time to call us on 01635 229228 and get that kettle on again. Because we’re really not very far away.

 

Number 4 – Stair lift won’t go again

Check that the large black power switch on the base of the unit is switched to “on”. Also, if there is a large red button to the side of your seat, check that it is not pushed in.

 

Number 5 – Error Codes 4 and 6

Both of these codes mean that the footplate safety edge function has activated. Check that there are no obvious obstructions and then place your hands either side of the foot plate and push to the left and right. (Or get someone else to do this for you.) That should reset the function and allow the stairlift to move again. If not…well, you know the drill by now.

 

So, I hope that some of these might be of some use to you.

Unlike the warning on a set of Chinese Christmas lights that said, “For indoor and outdoor use only.”

Or the rather baffling instructions on a Japanese-made food processor that read, “Not to be used for the other use.”

We’ll share some more useful tips with you in future posts but meanwhile I will leave you with this – once, when fitting a stair lift in a client’s home, I noticed a hand-written warning stuck onto a wall above a power socket which simply said, “Don’t.”

So I didn’t.

 

All the very best,

Andy and the Team